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.

Getty Images

Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

Her confidence is high.

“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.

Getty Images

Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 2:09 am

PHOENIX – In the long shadows falling across Wildfire Golf Club late Saturday afternoon, Inbee Park conceded she was tempted to walk away from the game last year.

While healing a bad back, she was tempted to put her clubs away for good and look for a second chapter for her life.

But then . . .

“Looking at the girls playing on TV, you think you want to be out there” Park said. “Really, I couldn't make my mind up when I was taking that break, but as soon as I'm back here, I just feel like this is where I belong.”

In just her second start after seven months away from the LPGA, Park is playing like she never left.

She’s atop a leaderboard at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, looking like that’s exactly where she belongs.

With a 9-under-par 63 Saturday, Park seized the lead going into the final round.

At 14 under overall, she’s one shot ahead of Mariajo Uribe (67), two ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and three ahead of 54-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies (63) and Chella Choi (66).

Park’s back with a hot putter.

That’s not good news for the rest of the tour. Nobody can demoralize a field with a flat stick like Park. She’s one of the best putters the women’s game has ever seen, and on the front nine Saturday she looked as good as she ever has.

“The front nine was scary,” said her caddie, Brad Beecher, who was on Park’s bag for her long run at world No. 1, her run of three consecutive major championship victories in 2013 and her gold medal victory at the Olympics two years ago.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“The front nine was great . . . like 2013,” Park said.

Park started her round on fire, going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. She was 6 under through five holes. She holed a wedge from 98 yards at the third hole, making the turn having taken just 10 putts. Yeah, she said, she was thinking about shooting 59.

“But I'm still really happy with my round today,” she said.

Park isn’t getting ahead of herself, even with this lead. She said her game isn’t quite where she wants it with the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship, just two weeks away, but a victory Sunday should go a long way toward getting her there.

Park is only 29. LPGA pros haven’t forgotten what it was like when she was dominating, when she won 14 times between 2013 and ’15.

They haven’t forgotten how she can come back from long layoffs with an uncanny ability to pick up right where she left off.

Park won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year in just her second start. She left the tour again in the summer with an aching back.

“I feel like Inbee could take off a whole year or two years and come back and win every week,” said Brittany Lincicome, who is four shots behind Park. “Her game is just so consistent. She doesn't do anything flashy, but her putting is flashy.

“She literally walks them in. It's incredible, like you know it's going in when she hits it. It's not the most orthodox looking stroke, but she can repeat it.”

Park may not play as full a schedule as she has in the past, Beecher said, but he believes she can thrive with limited starts.

“I think it helps her get that fight back, to get that hunger back,” Beecher said. “She knows she can play 15 events a year and still compete. There aren’t a lot of players who can do that.”

Park enjoyed her time away last year, and how it re-energized her.

“When I was taking the long break, I was just thinking, `I can do this life as well,’” Park said. “But I'm glad I came back out here. Obviously, days like today, that's the reason I'm playing golf.”

Getty Images

Joh on St. Patrick's ace: Go broke buying green beers

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:57 am

PHOENIX – Tiffany Joh was thrilled making a run into contention to win her first LPGA title Saturday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she comically cracked that her hole-in-one might have been ill-timed.

It came on St. Patrick’s Day.

“This is like the worst holiday to be making a hole-in-one on,” Joh said. “You'll go broke buying everyone green beers.”

Joh aced the fifth hole with a 5-iron from 166 yards on her way to an 8-under-par 64. It left her four shots behind the leader, Inbee Park (63).

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

One of the more colorful players on tour, Joh said she made the most of her hole-in-one celebration with playing partner Jane Park.

“First I ran and tackled Jane, then I high-fived like every single person walking to the green,” Joh said.

Joh may be the LPGA’s resident comedian, but she faced a serious challenge on tour last year.  Fourteen months ago, she had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma. She won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award for the way she handled her comeback.

Getty Images

Davies, 54, still thinks she can win, dreams of HOF

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:22 am

PHOENIX – Laura Davies limped around Wildfire Golf Club Saturday with an ache radiating from her left Achilles up into her calf muscle at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Every step is just misery,” Davies said after. “It’s just getting older. Don’t get old.”

She’s 54, but she played the third round as if she were 32 again.

That’s how old she was when she was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year and won two major championships.

With every sweet swing Saturday, Davies peeled back the years, turning back the clock.

Rolling in a 6-foot birdie at the 17th, Davies moved into a tie for the lead with Inbee Park, a lead that wouldn’t last long with so many players still on the course when she finished. Still, with a 9-under-par 63, Davies moved into contention to try to become the oldest winner in LPGA history.

Davies has won 20 LPGA titles, 45 Ladies European Tour titles, but she hasn’t won an LPGA event in 17 years, since taking the Wegmans Rochester International.

Can she can surpass the mark Beth Daniel set winning at 46?

“I still think I can win,” Davies said. “This just backs that up for me. Other people, I don’t know, they’re always asking me now when I’m going to retire. I always say I’m still playing good golf, and now here’s the proof of it.”

Davies knows it will take a special day with the kind of final-round pressure building that she hasn’t experienced in awhile.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“The pressure will be a lot more tomorrow,” she said. “We'll see, won’t sleep that well tonight. The good news is that I’ll probably be four or five behind by the end of the day, so the pressure won’t be there as much.”

Davies acknowledged confidence is harder to garner, as disappointments and missed cuts pile up, but she’s holding on to her belief she can still win.

“I said to my caddie, `Jeez, I haven't been on top of the leaderboard for a long time,’” Davies said. “That's nice, obviously, but you’ve got to stay there. That's the biggest challenge.”

About that aching left leg, Davies was asked if it could prevent her from challenging on Sunday.

“I’ll crawl around if I have to,” she said.

Saturday’s 63 was Davies’ lowest round in an LPGA event since she shot 63 at the Wendy’s Championship a dozen years ago.

While Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in ’01. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

Davies said she still dreams about qualifying.

“You never know,” she said.