Arnold Palmer ushers in golf on television

By Randall MellSeptember 9, 2009, 10:56 pm

Like most of us, Frank Chirkinian’s first impression of Arnold Palmer came through the television set.

The long-time CBS producer, who brought so many innovations to televised golf, could not invent what he saw in the TV truck in his first Masters’ telecast 50 years ago.

“It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” says Chirkinian, who’s retired today and part owner of a South Florida golf course. “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, `Wow, who is this guy?’” 

Arnold Palmer
The TV camera still loves Arnold Palmer. (Getty Images)

Chirkinian instantly recognized what made Palmer a star.

“Charisma,” Chirkinian said.

With Palmer celebrating his 80th birthday Thursday, Chirkinian is proud to call Palmer a friend. He’s also grateful for what Palmer brought to Chirkinian’s job. It was in following Palmer in the early development of televised golf that Chirkinian was able to elevate the medium to something beyond sport.

Chirkinian’s important innovations directing coverage included a new way of scoring, the notion of scoring in relation to par. He added microphones to tee boxes, and he added blimp shots, but his real legacy was in transforming competition into unscripted drama. It was in his storytelling ability.

In Palmer, he had a real star for his stories.

“The camera is all knowing,” Chirkinian said. “It either loves you, or it doesn’t. It loved Arnold Palmer, and it still loves him.

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, is it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where fans will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

Chirkinian learned that Cinderella isn’t a popular story to tell in golf.

“Jack Fleck was reviled for beating Ben Hogan,” Chirkinian said.

In Palmer, TV had a star for the masses.

Palmer was James Dean in golf spikes. His personality might not have compared with Dean’s, but he had the look. Leaning on a club, cigarette dangling from his mouth, Palmer had a rebel’s heart over the ball. He had a go-for-broke style that made viewers lean into their TV sets.

Though his swing wasn’t the prettiest, a blacksmith’s lash into a corkscrew finish, Palmer’s style connected with the average fan.

“Arnold dispelled the notion golf was elitist,” Chirkinian said. “He was a blue-collar kid, and the average player could relate to his swing. I think Ken Venturi once said, 'I think I saw a swing in that lunge.’ Arnold developed a new corps of viewers. He created Arnie’s Army.”

Palmer’s style helped create drama, because he was always escaping some sort of trouble, carving shots out of the woods to make birdie or save a par.

“The manner in which Arnold won, the way he attacked and made birdies, it was very spectacular,” said Dow Finsterwald, an 11-time PGA Tour winner and friend to Palmer.

It didn’t hurt TV that Palmer cut such a dashing figure.

Bob Toski, the Hall of Fame teacher who won the PGA Tour money title in 1954, knew how Palmer expanded the game’s fan base.

“My wife, Lynn, is a big Arnold fan,” Toski said. “When he came around, she would swoon.”

So would grown men.

“They related to the way Arnold played,” Toski said. “He would be over in the woods, but he was so strong, he had such strong arms and hands, he could play shots out of deep grass and bad lies and still make a 3. He could do that from places where high handicappers made 6.”

All of that helped make Palmer compelling TV.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

For that, golf will always be grateful.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

Getty Images

Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.