Fifty-five years ago, Palmer began Grand Slam craze

By Mercer BaggsJuly 14, 2015, 3:20 pm

'Cause if you’re telling a story, at some point you stop. But stories don’t end.

There’s a beauty in words. You hear something. You read something. And those words – particularly when you are unable to articulate them – are impactful. They make you pause. And then you understand: There really is no end to a story; chapters close but the universal narrative remains.

When Arnold Palmer finished runner-up in the 1960 Open Championship, it was the end to his Grand Slam bid. But the story? It endured. Through Jack Nicklaus, in 1972. Through Tiger Woods, in 2002. Through Jordan Spieth, in the present.

Stories don’t end. And sometimes, you’re not sure where they begin.

The concept of the modern-day, single-season Grand Slam is said to have been born from Palmer’s mind. And since no one can definitely say otherwise, most accept it as fact.

In his autobiography, Palmer recounts a trip to the United Kingdom in 1960. He had just won the U.S. Open, to go along with his Masters triumph, and he and Pittsburgh Press writer Bob Drum started chatting about Bobby Jones winning the four biggest events of his time in the same season – the U.S. and British Opens and Amateurs in 1930.

From Palmer’s “A Golfer’s Life”:

“Somewhere on my first flight over there, during our extended cocktail hour, Bob Drum and I got to talking about Jones’ great Grand Slam. Drum remarked to me that it was a shame that the growth of the professional game, among other things, effectively ended the Grand Slam concept as it had been known in Jones’ day.

"'Well,’ I said casually over my drink, ‘why don’t we create a new Grand Slam?’”

“Drum gave me one of his famous contrarian glares that made him look like a cross between an annoyed college dean and a sleeping bear someone had foolishly kicked awake.”

“’What the hell are you talking about?’ he muttered, though probably a little more colorfully than that.”

“I explained what I was thinking. ‘What would be wrong with a professional Grand Slam involving the Masters, both Open championships, and the PGA Championship?’”

“He chewed on that for a few seconds, then sipped his drink and snorted. Usually, a Drum snort meant he thought your idea was so utterly ridiculous he sometimes wondered why he wasted his time sharing oxygen space with you. This time his snort meant he thought, ‘Well, kid, maybe you’ve got something there.’”

Palmer goes on to say that Drum spread this new Grand Slam concept to his British peers, stoking those amateur ashes that are aflame today.


Every great athlete has his or her season, the one that transcends all others. And when you’re a legend, those seasons are historic.

Jones had ’30. Ben Hogan had ’53. Nicklaus had ’72. Woods had 2000.

Palmer owned 1960.

“I don’t think,” said Thomas Hauser, author of “Arnold Palmer: A Personal Journey,” “any year meant as much to a sport as 1960 meant to golf. And the catalyst to that was Arnold Palmer.”

Palmer was 30 at the time of his crossing the Atlantic, already a 19-time Tour winner and three-time major champion. He had won six times that season, including those aforementioned majors, birdieing his final two holes to win by one shot at Augusta and coming from seven back in the final round to prevail at Cherry Hills.

Popularity was already Palmer’s. Arnie’s Army was well established by this time, formed during his march to his maiden major victory at the ’58 Masters.

Men admired him and women adored him, to be trite. He had those eyes that could narrow with purpose, and then open with affection. He had those John Henry forearms and that Everyman background. And he had an unparalleled, and least in his sport, bravado.

He was a model of Kipling’s “If,” except he was the king who had a common touch.

As Henry Longhurst would say of Palmer, “He has no fancy airs and graces; he wears no fancy clothes; he makes no fancy speeches. He simply says and does exactly the right thing at the right time, and that is enough.”

And he won. He won often and he won big events and won dramatically. The packaging and the substance were magnified because he was golf’s great champion, never more so than in 1960.

On his own, Palmer would have been just fine. We’d still be talking about his exploits today. But two sources conspired to make him an international icon: TV and Mark McCormack.

While numbers vary in slight, about eight percent of American households had televisions in 1950. That number was nearly 90 percent a decade later.

Palmer was, as good friend Dow Finsterwald said, “the right guy at the right time.” He was the perfect man for the expanding medium.

And then there was McCormack. He and Palmer famously shook hands in 1960 and became business partners. McCormack knew: You sell the man, not his game. And, to do it right, when you have the right person, you do it on a global scale.

Three Americans played the Open Championship in 1959: Bob Sweeny, Jr., Robert Watson and Willie Goggin. None made the cut at Muirfield. In fact, the numbers had been steady dwindling since Hogan won at Canoustie in ’53. Six Americans in ’54; five in ’55; four in ’56; three in ’57; one in ’58.

McCormack, in part, convinced Palmer he needed to play the Open in order to brand himself internationally. It didn’t really take much persuading.

“One of the things that my father taught me when I was a young boy and talking about playing professional golf, he said, ‘Just remember one thing: You’ll never be a great player unless you play well internationally.’ So he says, ‘Put that in your mind and think about it through the years,’” Palmer said.

“And I did. The first opportunity I had to really go play internationally was the Open at St. Andrews in 1960. I looked forward to that very much.”

Nearly everything fell into place for Palmer in ’60. The Masters win, the U.S. Open victory, the McCormack alliance, the TV explosion, a first trip to compete in the British Open – at the Home of Golf, nonetheless.

Nearly everything.


Palmer didn’t win at St. Andrews. He finished one shot back of Australian Kel Nagle.

It was the centennial anniversary of the Open Championship. Back then, the event started on Wednesday and concluded with 36 holes on Friday. Palmer – who said in his biography of the Old Course, “I wasn’t impressed at first sight … I thought it was probably as easy a golf course as I’d ever seen.” – opened in 70-71 and shot 70 in the first 18 holes on Friday. He was only four back and, after coming from seven in arrears just a few weeks prior, he fancied (sorry, Henry) his chances.

But then it rained. “I mean it rained. It rained like I’d never seen it rain before, coming in wild gusts and torrents,” Palmer said.

For the first time in Open history, the event was pushed to Saturday. They didn’t like to do that over there, as officials liked to conclude an event on Friday to allow competing pros to work in their shops over the weekend. Golf, after all, didn’t make one rich or famous.

Until Palmer came along.

Palmer shot 68 in that delayed final round, birdieing the 72nd hole. But it wasn’t enough. “For what it’s worth,” he wrote, “I always thought, and still feel, that the postponement hurt my chances of winning that first British Open I’d played in.”

Ever gracious in defeat, Palmer praised Nagle. He then won the event in 1961. And again in ’62.

When Palmer debuted at St. Andrews, he was joined by three other Americans. Six showed up in ’61. Eight in ’62. By 1970, just as television boomed with a decade to grow, there were 24 U.S.-born players in the field.

From 1934-60, two Americans (Sam Snead in ’46; Hogan in ’53) won the claret jug. Beginning with Palmer in 1961, five won it over the next 10 years. Eight times an American won in the ‘70s.

“Hardly any Americans played [prior to Palmer],” Sir Michael Bonallack, former secretary of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, which runs the Open, said. “He changed the whole concept of the Open. He gave it a fresh impetuous.”

There was reason for the lack of Yankee integration. There was the financial aspect. The 1960 U.S. Open had a purse of $60,720, with $14,400 going to the winner. The British Open paid out around $19,600 with the winner raking in $3,500. You can see why European players had to work proper jobs on weekends. Not exactly motivation to travel overseas.

Travel … that was another issue.

“It was much more difficult than it is now,” Peter Dawson, outgoing chief executive of the R&A, said. “I think those post-war years were much more difficult [than we realized] and it got to be into the ‘60s before it all began to get back to normal.”

Added Hall of Fame BBC broadcaster Peter Alliss: “It was a long way to come. The rewards weren’t very big. Airplanes weren’t going so fast. The accommodations were, by American standards, very poor.”

There was also the qualifying aspect. Not even the defending champion was exempt into the following year’s Open Championship. Palmer traveled to Scotland in ’60 knowing he had to play two qualifying rounds just to get into the British– and he was the Masters and U.S. Open champion. After winning in ’61, he still had to qualify in ’62.

“Even in ’62, when Palmer won for a second time, he still had to qualify,” Bonallack said. “After ’62, they changed it.”

Palmer began an American revolution, one that revitalized the Open Championship. And, the revolution was televised.

But Palmer didn’t just inspire his peers. His most profound effect, as it has always been, was on the public.

Those who bore witness can testify.

“It was great excitement when Arnold Palmer first appeared,” Alliss said. “He was a new man in America; he was taking the States by storm. He was colorful, he was swashbuckling, and the people over here couldn’t wait to see him. And he didn’t disappoint.

“He looked muscular. He smoked cigarettes. He didn’t really smoke them, he just sort of inhaled once and the ash appeared. There was something sort of romantic and wonderful about it all. He played this sort of incredibly bold game, went for everything, and was an immediate success. The crowd liked him, he appreciated them and it was a great beginning. Thank goodness he came back many times.”

“They were used to seeing the pros more conservative in their approach to the game, knocking it down the middle and putting it on the green and two-putting,” Bonallack said. “But Palmer, in winds and bushes and rough and still attacking everything and getting away with it …”

Even with reporters, those who Drum is said to have worked with to create the concept of the modern, professional Grand Slam, were taken by Palmer.

“Well he was a dream come true to the sports writers. They hadn’t seen anything like this on a golf course – his approach to the game, his ferocious swing. And [he was] tremendously strong and nothing was impossible,” Bonallack said.

“They praised his vigor and his inspiration, and this is the British press we’re talking about,” said Angela Howe, director of the British Golf Museum. “Praise, indeed.”


There are 710 accredited media members, not including those working for television, at the 2015 Open Championship. It’s the 144th edition of the event and the fifth time in modern history that a player enters having won both the Masters and U.S. Open.

Arnold Palmer is there.

He attended Monday's World Golf Hall of Fame induction ceremony. He will also participate in past champion activities, according to longtime publicist Doc Giffin. And then he will head to north to Inverness “for work in connection with the new course he and his Arnold Palmer Design Company are doing at Castle Stuart,” Giffin said.

By Saturday, he’ll be home in Latrobe, Pa. Will he watch the Open? Maybe. Palmer likes to get up early and read through mail, signing photos for adoring fans from Chambers Bay to China. During that time, yeah, he might turn on the television.

“It will be an extremely-difficult thing for Jordan to achieve,” Palmer said of Spieth’s Grand Slam bid.

There really wasn’t much more for Palmer to add.

Perhaps Spieth will do what Palmer could not. Perhaps he won’t.

Either way, the story doesn’t end.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

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''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

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The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.