Sincerity Part of Palmers Magic

By Mercer BaggsMarch 19, 2006, 5:00 pm
ORLANDO, Fla. -- At first I thought it was a bit of magic. But it wasnt. It was sincerity. That was what twinkled in the eyes of Arnold Palmer and emerged from his mouth as his lips turned upwards.
Arnold Palmer is a lot of things. And most of all, he is sincere.
You can see it in his eyes and hear it in his words.
Arnold Palmer
Arnold Palmer won 62 PGA TOUR events, including seven major championships.
As he stood before the media on the brink of his annual pre-tournament press conference at the Bay Hill Invitational, Palmer looked over the gathering, smiled and said Hello.
He then sat down and his first official words were: Well, first of all, welcome and nice to see all of you. I can recall about 27-and-a-half years ago when this room at a press conference had about two people in it. Its nice to see what has happened over those 28 years of this golf tournament.
Over the last 28 years, this golf tournament has become one of the premiere events on the PGA TOUR. Its become a must-play for Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh and Ernie Els. And next season, in its 29th year of existence, it will become the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Not a person associated with game deserves to have a tournament named after him or her more so than does Palmer. Tournaments are largely for the fans, the people. Theyre an opportunity for common folks to watch others do uncommon things with a golf club.
But even more so, its a chance for John Q. Golfing Public to experience an up-close encounter with the best players in the world.
Of course, this doesnt always happen. Not every player stops to pen his name. And even among those who do, actual interaction rarely compliments the signature.
Not so with Palmer. Palmer always signed. He always chatted. He always made the strange fan feel like a friend. And he was always sincere.
Palmer didnt just walk with kings and keep the common touch. He was the King with the common touch.
And he still is.
To this day, the 76-year-old can disarm you with a smile, pull you in with a few simple words, and make you feel like youve known him forever. Even more so, he can make you feel like hes known you forever.
It took some doing, some prodding by his daughter, Amy, but Palmer finally gave in to lending his name to this event, the tournament that he has hosted since it was first contested at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in 1979.
I suppose over the years Ive been invited to put my name on other tournaments around the country and I have resisted, he said. And I resisted here as long as I was playing or participating on the TOUR full-time. I just didnt think it would be appropriate to have my name on a golf tournament.
Palmer seemed to dismiss the idea in years past because, so long as he was still playing golf competitively, he didnt want to be perceived as bigger than the game. Regardless of whether or not he was in fact just that, thats never who he wanted to be ' or how he wanted to be viewed; he just always wanted to be a player in the game, a professional ' one whose job it was to compete, to win, to entertain.
Hes no longer that competitor, and he seems to finally have come to terms with that.
One press member asked him how he could resist the urge to compete next year in the first-ever Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Palmers response: I wont have any problem at all. I can promise you that.
He then laughed a little, and then got a little serious.
For the first time in my life I have no desire to go out and play the way Ive been playing, he said.
Arnold Palmer
Arnie's Army still follows whenever he competes.
Palmer added that he still loves to play; he just does so now mostly at home, which is Bay Hill, in the company of a regular foursome. He hasnt even competed in a Champions Tour event this year.
Tournament golf is now something that I dream about, he said. Of course theres nothing Id rather do than tee it up and know that I could be a factor; that isnt likely to happen.
There wasnt a hint of sadness in Palmers tone as he said these words. It was just matter-of-fact. It was sincere.
Arnold Palmer is 46 years my senior. He won his last TOUR event two years prior to my birth. Hes not only a Hall of Fame player; hes a legend ' and even a hero to some.
And yet, I feel much more comfortable asking him a question than I do, say, Charles Howell III.
I think that says a lot about who Palmer is, how he can make you feel, how he can put you ' anyone and everyone ' at ease. Hes Arnold Palmer. Youre you. And yet, it doesnt matter.
As I sat in Palmers press conference Wednesday I didnt ask any questions. I just listened. I listed to him talk about the future opening of the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, named after his late wife. I listened to him talk about the importance of rough at PGA TOUR events. I listened to him talk about how he wanted to make sure that any changes in the professional game didnt adversely affect the amateur player.
And, what I most enjoyed, I listened to him talk about how Augusta National played in the 50s and 60s, and how todays Masters Tournament is different from the one he won four times.
People said that I couldnt win at Augusta. That was the popular opinion. And why was that? Well, it was because I hit the ball low ' in fact, everybody knew when I played a practice round because there were burn marks on the tee where my ball took off. And I was aware of that, he told.
Augusta was a golf course that really wasnt suited necessarily to my game. But the desire to win at Augusta was as great as the lack of ... maybe game to do it.
He went on to talk about how he learned to win at Augusta; how he should have won a lot more than just four green jackets; why todays greens at Augusta hold approach shots better than they used to; why those greens are so much faster nowadays.
He talked about how he used to play the seventh hole, a par-4 that has been stretched to more than 450 yards and narrowed at the point of attack off the tee.
I used to hit a driver off the tee and I did it on purpose. Even though the fairway was narrow, I wanted to get down where I could get to the upslope and hit the ball into a green that was unacceptable ' it wouldn't accept the shot if you were hitting from the same level. So the upslope helped make it easier and that was my goal, when I played that hole, he recounted.
Today, with the hole the way it is, you'll see them hitting irons off the tee to a 460-yard hole to stay back on the level so that they can get that high shot into that seventh green.
And I could go over every hole on the golf course almost the same way, the different approach that you have to make today to get it there.
I wish he had. His 10-minute-or-so press conference was more entertaining, more engaging than a months worth of golf programming.
He talked. He was sincere. I listened. I was charmed.
Maybe it was a bit of magic after all.
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
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    Lesson with Woods fetches $210K for Harvey relief

    By Will GrayDecember 13, 2017, 2:51 pm

    A charity event featuring more than two dozen pro golfers raised more than $1 million for Hurricane Harvey relief, thanks in large part to a hefty price paid for a private lesson with Tiger Woods.

    The pro-am fundraiser was organized by Chris Stroud, winner of the Barracuda Championship this summer, and fellow pro and Houston resident Bobby Gates. It was held at Bluejack National in Montgomery, Texas, about an hour outside Houston and the first Woods-designed course to open in the U.S.

    The big-ticket item on the auction block was a private, two-person lesson with Woods at Bluejack National that sold for a whopping $210,000.

    Other participants included local residents like Stacy Lewis, Patrick Reed and Steve Elkington as well as local celebrities like NBA All-Star Clyde Drexler, Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates and Houston Astros owner Jim Crane.

    Stroud was vocal in his efforts to help Houston rebuild in the immediate aftermath of the storm that ravaged the city in August, and he told the Houston Chronicle that he plans to continue fundraising efforts even after eclipsing the event's $1 million goal.

    "This is the best event I have ever been a part of, and this is just a start," Stroud said. "We have a long way to go for recovery to this city, and we want to keep going with this and raise as much as we can and help as many victims as we can."

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    LPGA schedule features 34 events, record purse

    By Randall MellDecember 13, 2017, 2:02 pm

    The LPGA schedule will once again feature 34 events next year with a record $68.75 million in total purses, the tour announced on Wednesday.

    While three events are gone from the 2018 schedule, three new events have been added, with two of those on the West Coast and one in mainland China.

    The season will again start with the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic on Paradise Island (Jan. 25-28) and end with the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla., (Nov. 15-18).

    The LPGA played for $65 million in total prize money in 2017.

    An expanded West Coast swing in the front half of the schedule will now include the HUGEL-JTBC Championship in the Los Angeles area April 19-22. The site will be announced at a later date.

    The tour will then make a return to San Francisco’s Lake Merced Golf Club the following week, in a new event sponsored by L&P Cosmetics, a Korean skincare company. Both new West Coast tournaments will be full-field events.

    The tour’s third new event will be played in Shanghai Oct. 18-21 as part of the fall Asian swing. The title sponsor and golf course will be announced at a later date.

    “Perhaps the most important aspect of our schedule is the consistency — continuing to deliver strong playing opportunities both in North America and around the world, while growing overall purse levels every year,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said in a statement. “There is simply no better [women’s] tour opportunity in the world, when it comes to purses, global TV coverage or strength of field. It’s an exciting time in women’s golf, with the best players from every corner of the globe competing against each other in virtually every event.”

    While the Evian Championship will again be played in September next year, the tour confirmed its plans to move its fifth major to the summer in 2019, to be part of a European swing, with the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open and the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

    The Manulife LPGA Classic and the Lorena Ochoa Invitational are not returning to the schedule next year. Also, the McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open will not be played next year as it prepares to move to the front of the 2019 schedule, to be paired with the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.

    The U.S. Women’s Open will make its new place earlier in the summer, a permanent move in the tour’s scheduling. It will be played May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek Golf Club outside Birmingham, Ala. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship (June 28-July 1) will be played at Kemper Lakes Golf Club on the north side of Chicago and the Ricoh Women’s British Open (Aug. 2-5) will be played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England.

    For the first time since its inception in 2014, the UL International Crown team event is going overseas, with the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea, scheduled to host the event Oct. 4-7. The KEB Hana Bank Championship will be played in South Korean the following week.

    Here is the LPGA's schedule for 2018:

    Jan. 25-28: Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic; Paradise Island, Bahamas; Purse: $1.4 million

    Feb. 15-18: ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open; Adelaide, Australia; Purse: $1.3 million

    Feb. 21-24: Honda LPGA Thailand; Chonburi, Thailand; Purse: $1.6 million

    March 1-4: HSBC Women's World Championship; Singapore; Purse: $1.5 million

    March 15-18: Bank of Hope Founders Cup; Phoenix, Arizona; Purse: $1.5 million

    March 22-25: Kia Classic; Carlsbad, California; Purse: $1.8 million

    March 29 - April 1: ANA Inspiration; Rancho Mirage, California; Purse: $2.8 million

    April 11-14: LOTTE Championship; Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii; Purse: $2 million

    April 19-22: HUGEL-JTBC Championship; Greater Los Angeles, California; Purse: $1.5 million

    April 26-29: Name to be Announced; San Francisco, California; Purse: $1.5 million

    May 3-6: Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic; The Colony, Texas; Purse: $1.3 million

    May 17-20: Kingsmill Championship; Williamsburg, Virginia; Purse: $1.3 million

    May 24-27: LPGA Volvik Championship; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Purse: $1.3 million

    May 31 - June 3: U.S. Women's Open Championship; Shoal Creek, Alabama; Purse: $5 million

    June 8-10: ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer; Galloway, New Jersey; Purse: $1.75 million

    June 14-17: Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Purse: $2 million

    June 22-24: Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G; Rogers, Arkansas; Purse: $2 million

    June 28 - July 1: KPMG Women's PGA Championship; Kildeer, Illinois; Purse: $3.65 million

    July 5-8: Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic; Oneida, Wisconsin; Purse: $2 million

    July 12-15: Marathon Classic presented by Owens-Corning and O-I; Sylvania, Ohio; Purse: $1.6 million

    July 26-29: Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open; East Lothian, Scotland; Purse: $1.5 million

    Aug. 2-5: Ricoh Women's British Open; Lancashire, England; Purse: $3.25 million

    Aug. 16-19: Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim; Indianapolis, Indiana; Purse: $2 million

    Aug. 23-26: CP Women's Open; Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; Purse: $2.25 million

    Aug. 30 - Sept. 2: Cambia Portland Classic; Portland, Oregon; Purse: $1.3 million

    Sept. 13-16: The Evian Championship; Evian-les-Bains, France; Purse: $3.85 million

    Sept. 27-30: Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Purse: $1.8 million

    Oct. 4-7: UL International Crown; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $1.6 million

    Oct. 11-14: LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $2 million

    Oct. 18-21: Name to be Announced; Shanghai, China; Purse: $2.1 million

    Oct. 25-28: Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship; New Taipei City, Chinese Taipei; Purse: $2.2 million

    Nov. 2-4: TOTO Japan Classic; Shiga, Japan; Purse: $1.5 million

    Nov. 7-10: Blue Bay LPGA; Hainan Island, China; Purse: $2.1 million

    Nov. 15-18: CME Group Tour Championship; Naples, Florida; Purse: $2.5 million

    Newsmaker of the Year: No. 4, Jordan Spieth

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 13, 2017, 1:00 pm

    Dismissed because he’s supposedly too short off the tee, or not accurate enough with his irons, or just a streaky putter, Jordan Spieth is almost never the answer to the question of which top player, when he’s at his best, would win in a head-to-head match.

    And yet here he is, at the age of 24, with 11 career wins and three majors, on a pace that compares favorably with the giants of the game. He might not possess the firepower of Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, but since he burst onto the PGA Tour in 2013 he has all that matters – a better résumé.

    Spieth took the next step in his development this year by becoming the Tour’s best iron player – and its most mentally tough.

    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

    Just a great putter? Oh, puhleeze: He won three times despite putting statistics (42nd) that were his worst since his rookie year. Instead, he led the Tour in strokes gained-approach the green and this summer showed the discipline, golf IQ and bounce-back ability that makes him such a unique talent. 

    Even with his putter misbehaving, Spieth closed out the Travelers Championship by holing a bunker shot in the playoff, then, in perhaps an even bigger surprise, perfectly executed the player-caddie celebration, chest-bumping caddie Michael Greller. A few weeks later, sublime iron play carried him into the lead at Royal Birkdale, his first in a major since his epic collapse at the 2016 Masters.

    Once again his trusty putter betrayed him, and by the time he arrived on the 13th tee, he was tied with Matt Kuchar. What happened next was the stuff of legend – a lengthy ruling, gutsy up-and-down, stuffed tee shot and go-get-that putt – that lifted Spieth to his third major title.

    Though he couldn’t complete the career Grand Slam at the PGA, he’ll likely have, oh, another two decades to join golf’s most exclusive club.

    In the barroom debate of best vs. best, you can take the guys with the flair, with the booming tee shots and the sky-high irons. Spieth will just take the trophies.


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    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 13, 2017, 12:30 pm