Getty Images

Arnie: Man above myth and legend

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 10, 2014, 10:00 am

(Editor’s note: Sept. 10, 2014 was Arnold Palmer’s 85th birthday. Today, Sept. 10, 2017, would have been the King's 88th. We celebrated Golf Channel’s co-founder over multiple articles, which are linked to throughout this story, focusing on all aspects of his remarkable life and career. Click here for the complete list.)

LATROBE, Pa. – As soon as he pauses … you know the question has him.

This response, if offered honestly, requires a level of introspection, and introspection at 85 years old can dig deep and touch all kinds of nerves.

Four, five, six seconds pass …

He can’t speak with his mouth so he lets his hands to the talking – a thumbs-up. There’s no mistaking what that means: The words are there; they just can’t come out at the moment. But they will, and everything is fine.

As Arnold Palmer makes his second attempt to answer, this unexpectedly emotional response takes hold again.

And there, there in the right corner of his right eye sets a tear, welled up and shimmering in the camera lights. You just can’t look away at this moment. Golf’s most masculine of men is trying – fighting – to not cry.

This isn’t weakness we are witnessing; this is nostalgia, a heart-felt appreciation for a prodigious life lived.

What does it do to you, to walk into this office every day?

That’s the question. That’s the one that got him.

Mr. Palmer’s office is magnificent, in part because it is so understated. Neither the exterior design nor the interior space seems fit for a king. But Mr. Palmer never clung much to that moniker, anyway.

Tucked away a short, uphill cart ride from Latrobe CC, his signature umbrella logo decorates the entrance.

Then you walk in and see stuff everywhere. You just hope it’s the good stuff. And it is.

Turn right and look straight ahead: a Masters Tournament trophy, the silver replica of the Augusta National clubhouse. It’s just sitting there, unconfined.

On the back wall, trophies. Let’s see: '60 U.S. Open; Ryder Cup replica from the '95 dinner; '80 U.S. Senior Open; '62 British Open claret jug; '54 Havemeyer for winning the U.S. Am.

All exposed and just begging to be touched. It’s OK. It would be criminal not to run your fingers along the base or let your hands grip the neck. You think this opportunity is going to happen again?

Everywhere you look there is something that needs to be seen: keys to various cities; major badges; Ryder Cup patches and bags; wall collections of magazine appearances; more crystal than Swarovski.

And the pièce de résistance: an 8-foot vertical case containing Mr. Palmer’s Congressional Gold Medal; Medal of Freedom; awards presented by presidents and foreign dignitaries; and resting above them all, the Hickok Belt, which from 1950-76 was awarded annually to the top professional athlete in all of sport. Arnold Palmer reigned in 1960.


Arnold Palmer discusses his father and lessons learned

Click here for the full collection of 'Arnie' stories


Little wonder he gets teary-eyed thinking about this place. He wakes up in the morning, gives wife Kit a kiss and off he goes to his office.

“And I do go,” he says with emphasis.

His life is in this building. His accomplishments are there to be absorbed. Photographs of his family adorn the walls of his office proper. Across a short walkway are hundreds upon hundreds of golf clubs (mostly Callaway), combined with other golf artifacts and Pittsburgh team sports memorabilia.

If that’s not enough, this is home. This is where he was born and raised, the oldest of four kids to Milfred “Deacon” and Doris Palmer. Born on this day – Sept. 10 – 85 years ago.

The Palmers, by Arnold’s admission, were poor but lived modestly. If you don’t have much, you make do with what you have. Deacon taught that to his first-born boy.

This is how you eat your food. This is how you behave. Better act like somebody. Yes, sir. No, ma’am.

Those are the basics. You let them be your foundation. Oh, you might not like it now, but you will, boy. It’ll mean something when you get older.

Pap was right.

“Put your hands here and here,” he commanded as he molded his son’s grip on a cut-down golf club. “Now look at that and remember it. Don’t ever change.”

That’s one of Arnold’s first memories. Even then, at 3 years old, he knew Pap was not one to be disobeyed.

Remember running around in those western Pennsylvania woods, guns a-blazin’? Sometimes you’d play cowboys, sometimes you’d take that makeshift club and hit anything resembling a golf ball.

Those are the memories. The ones that cause pause.

And those hands. Those mighty hands, hardened and strengthened by farm work and fist fights, chin-ups and rope climbing.

Jack Nicklaus said those hands were born to hold a golf club. Gotta figure he’d know. Have two athletes been more intrinsically linked than the both of you?

Those hands. Lord, the thrills. Taking that visor and whipping it off your head after winning the ’60 U.S. Open. Could be the most indelible image in golf history. Certainly in the top five.

The pain they caused, as well.

Congratulations!

DON’T DO IT, ARNOLD! Remember what Pap said: Don’t get ahead of yourself; finish the job.

But you can’t resist the siren call from a friend in the gallery. You’ve gotta shake that hand and thank him. And so a one-shot lead on the final hole in the ’61 Masters turns into a one-stroke defeat.

It wasn’t all about wins and losses, though. Mark McCormack knew that.

When the two of you shook hands and agreed to work together he didn’t market you as Arnold Palmer the Great Champion. You were Arnold Palmer, All-American.

You weren’t just a golfer; more than a Hall of Fame golfer. You were a business man, a family man, a leader of men, an aviator, an architect and a philanthropist. You were a TV pioneer, Brando in steel spikes. And when cigarettes were deemed dangerous, you knew what you had to do, because you were a role model, too.

Age and opportunity haven’t changed things. You are still all of those things to all of the people you’ve touched.

Along those lines, has anyone ever shaken more hands than you? Those big catcher’s mitt hands of yours. To shake them means something – to you and others. They swallow the average man’s hands, but don’t overwhelm them. There is a comfort in your handshake. Maybe it’s because you look a person in the eye when you shake their hand. That matters. It’s a basic manner, something Pap taught you.

You built your life on the foundation your father set: treat others the way you want to be treated; sign your name so people can read it; take your hat off when you enter a building.

So simple, but these things matter.

And people matter. You played for them as much as for yourself, maybe more so. And be it peasant or president, you give each person the same thing: your attention. Do you know how much that is worth to an individual? To meet someone so admired, so worldly famous and for them to care … about you?

You’ve passed down so much over the years. Lee Trevino says today’s players should say a prayer of thanks for you every night. If only your manners could cross generational lines.

Remember that time when you were about to hit a tee shot and a woman came running up, asking for your autograph in the middle of your swing? You came to a screeching halt … looked that woman dead in her eyes … and said, of course. And when she said thank you, you responded, thank you for asking.

You probably don’t remember that, since it wasn’t a one-time thing. But those who witness such things do.

And now here you are, in your office, in a chair, under the lights. Those big, strong hands, once resting comfortably on your lap, now clenched. And after a second, and a third attempt you are able to answer.

What does it do to you, to walk into this office every day?

“Very important,” you say. “I come into this office and it starts my day. It makes me think of all the things I enjoy in my life.”

When the interview concludes, you finally relent and wipe away those tears with those distinguished hands of yours.

Outside of the office it’s a very bright day at Latrobe CC. Very blue. A steady breeze sweeps away the falling elm leaves.

And here you come, later in the afternoon, driving up to the back porch in your golf cart. Two bags strapped in, but no golf to be played today. You stop and look to your right.

“Mr. Palmer,” a youngish man acknowledges.

“How are you?” you reply.

“Just fine, thank you. Yourself?”

“Oh, I’m doing just fine as well.”

This time, there is no hesitation.

Getty Images

Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

Getty Images

The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

Getty Images

Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

Getty Images

Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.