The King Holds Court
The King held court at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge, site of this weeks Bay Hill Invitational, where he is tournament host.
Palmer spoke on a myriad of topics, ranging from the recent course changes at the Masters to the prospects of new tours to his future in the game.
Augusta National Alterations
Palmer won the Masters Tournament four times, the last coming in 1964. And with those victories, the 72-year-old earned more than a quartet of green jackets; he earned a lifetime exemption into the seasons first major.
But times have changed, and, so too, has the course. Nearly 300 yards has been added to the overall length, stretching it to 7,270 yards. Palmer has played from the championship tees on two occasions since the renovation, and liked what he saw ' even if it didnt benefit him.
I think its appropriate, he said. I hear some remarks about they were doing something to keep Tiger from winning; hell, if anything, (the changes) favor him. The long hitter is the guy thats going to be rewarded.
Palmer wouldnt disclose what he shot in those two practice rounds, only saying, with a dry laugh, Were not talking about that.
He added the most significant changes were at the opening and closing holes.
At 1, with a fair drive, Im hitting a 5-wood or a 3-wood into the green. At 18, unless I really catch a good drive, its a 3-wood. And I have to hit the hell out of both of them to get them on the green.
But really, thats not very significant, because the comparison is not a good one. These young people are just hitting the ball a really long way.
Bay Hill Changes
Augusta National wasnt the only subject of change. Like the aforementioned major venue, this weeks Bay Hill course has undergone a facelift, though slight in comparison.
We changed all the greens, said Palmer, who noted there was a new type of Bermuda grass called Tifeagle on the surface.
The rough is not any higher than its ever been, but it is thicker. And, of course, the obstacle there will be to get it out of the rough and hold it on the much harder greens.
The greens have been the primary focus this week. Publicly, players have been praising the tough terrain. Privately, there have been grumblings that the surface will not hold accurate approach shots.
Even Wednesday mornings heavy rain shouldnt have much of an effect on the firmness of the greens when play starts Thursday.
The most obvious change can be seen at the par-5 16th.
We changed the entire green, moved it more to the right, and we reduced the size to approximately 5,000 square feet and put some, I would call, modestly severe to severe undulation on the green.
The left side of the green will be a dangerous target if you hit the left side and the ball is pulling left, it is very likely to go into the water.
Overall, the golf course is in the best shape in my 33 years here, without question.
Every year, Palmer sits down and says hes contemplating a full exit from competitive golf. This year was no different.
I wont say the Masters particularly or Bay Hill particularly, but its getting to the point where I probably will be very careful about where I play.
Ive decided not to play the Hope anymore, and thats going to be the general trend.
Palmer has played in the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic 32 times.
In reference to the changes to Augusta National, Palmers friend and long-time rival Jack Nicklaus said they might embarrass the older player, forcing them to quit making the annual trip.
Said Palmer, I think hes given a pretty good evaluation, really. The fact that we dont hit the ball anywhere near like we once did - that is going to be a factor for us.
As I get older and try to play golf courses like Augusta or Bay Hill, I realize its time for me to give way.
On the prospect of a tour such as the proposed Majors Tour, where major winners from the ages of 37-55 would compete, Palmer said, Could you imagine a player winning a major championship and giving up his PGA (Tour) membership? I couldnt.
In my thinking, I suppose someone could come along with deep pockets, and form another tour. But right now, at the moment, I dont think thats a factor.
On Augusta National introducing their own specs for equipment: That is a conversation that has been going on around the world, not just at Augusta, but everywhere.
Jack Nicklaus and I have been, for a number of years, suggesting that they take a look at the golf ball and slow it down. Now, they can do that one of two ways. They can slow the golf ball down generally by making different specs on all golf balls. Or, they can do a two-game situation, one for the professionals and one for the amateurs.
On speaking out on non-related golf issues, which Tiger Woods has been criticized for not doing: I really dont think theres much to gain by getting involved in social issues and other things hes handled it very well.
And how did he handle such situations in his prime: The same way Im handling them now, he said with an evasive laugh. My father taught me a few things, and that was one of them.
Snedeker starts slow in effort to snag Masters invite
Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.
Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.
Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.
World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.
Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.
Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain
The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.
Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.
"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."
Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.
Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.
Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.
Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia
JAKARTA, Indonesia – Justin Rose shot a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Indonesian Masters.
Rose, starting on the back nine at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, had five birdies to go out in 31, then birdied four of five holes midway through his final nine and another birdie on his last hole in the $750,000 tournament.
Gunn Charoenkul (64) was in second place and Kim Giwhan and Phachara Khongwatmai (both 65) were tied for third.
Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Ranked 51st in the world, the American is aiming for a strong finish in Jakarta to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.
LaCava: Woods wouldn't talk after H.O.R.S.E. match
The competitive streak within Tiger Woods knows no bounds - even on the basketball court, according to caddie Joe LaCava.
LaCava has been on Woods' bag since 2011, and he recently shared a story on "Inside the Ropes" on Sirius/XM PGA Tour Radio about a clash between the two men over a seemingly friendly game of H.O.R.S.E. Actually, it turned into nine straight games (and nine straight wins) for LaCava, who exploited a weakness in Woods' on-court strategy while leaning on a mid-length jumper of his own:
Who ya got in H.O.R.S.E. between @TigerWoods & his caddy Joe LaCava??? We've got some inside info from LaCava himself and we're taking Joey @CarlPaulsonGolf @dennispaulson62 pic.twitter.com/9l6NSoxQre— Inside the Ropes (@SiriusXMITR) December 14, 2017
"The thing with him was if I missed a shot, which I missed plenty of shots, but if I missed the shot he'd go back down to the 3 (point line) because he liked to make the 3," LaCava said. "But it's harder obviously to make a 3, and I'd go right back to the baseline 12-footer, and he couldn't make it."
It's a short list of people who have beaten Woods nine times in any athletic pursuit, let alone in a row. But for LaCava, the fallout from his afternoon of on-court dominance was less than subtle.
"He did not talk to me the rest of the day," LaCava explained. "I didn't even get the old text, 'Dinner is ready,' because I stay across at the beach house. I didn't even get that text that night. I had to get take-out. He didn't announce he wasn't (talking), he just did it. I'm telling you, nine games in a row. Like I said, he's so competitive, even at something like that."