Even in reduced role, Palmer still King of golf world

By Rex HoggardMarch 15, 2016, 8:30 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – We watched Arnold Palmer’s last full shot at the tournament that now bears his name in 2004, a driver from 221 yards away that looked much cooler than it sounds.

We watched the King’s final turn on the Champions Tour at the 2006 Father-Son Challenge, and it turns out we have watched his last ceremonial tee shot at the Masters.

It was cold last April, and Palmer’s 85-year-old body wasn’t working the way it once did when the four-time Masters champion sent his tee shot trundling down Augusta National’s first fairway.

There was no indication that last year’s opening tee shot would be Palmer’s last. During the post-tee shot press conference, Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player were asked if they took any pride in how the Masters had grown, in no small part thanks to their contributions to the tournament.

“Let Arnold say something about that because he was ...,” Player insisted, with Nicklaus’ urging, “(Palmer) was here a long time before we were.”

“Yes, and I hope I'm here a long time after you,” Palmer winked with his signature smile.

Palmer will be at Augusta National next month to attend the Champions Dinner and watch Player and Nicklaus get the week started on the first tee Thursday; but just like that last approach shot in ’04 at Bay Hill, it was time.

“Time moves on,” Palmer said on Tuesday at Bay Hill. “I stopped playing in the Masters in 2004, I stopped playing in the Par-3 [Contest] last year, and now it’s time to end this part of my Masters career. I would love to go on doing it forever, but I don't have the physical capability to hit the shot the way I would want to hit it. So I’ll have to be content to watch.”

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

But just as another chapter closes on Palmer’s legendary career, you’re reminded of his enduring status. On Tuesday afternoon Palmer was perched behind grandson Sam Saunders on Bay Hill’s practice tee.

Saunders is in this week’s field and Palmer was doing what he’s always done, cracking jokes, telling stories, enjoying the company of other players.

News surfaced last week that Palmer wouldn’t be holding his annual State-of-the-King press conference on Wednesday at Bay Hill, instead answering questions from a pool reporter.

Coupled with the news that he was resigning his duties on the first tee at Augusta National, it was a sobering sign.

But on Tuesday as he mixed with players and caddies, there was no sense of sentimentality. That’s not Arnie’s style.

Instead, Palmer greeted all, from the third-ranked player in the world (Jason Day) to No. 163 (defending Bay Hill champion Matt Every), with equal zeal.

Palmer loves the game and those who play it, regardless of pedigree.

“I was the only one out on the course. I was out there by myself and I got to talk to him for 10 minutes, which was nice,” said Day when asked of his first meeting with Palmer years ago. “I mean obviously he enjoys seeing the players and he's one of those guys that I think loves going out and seeing every player regardless of who they are. Could be 125th on the FedEx Cup but he loves seeing the players and hopefully passing a little advice here and there.”

Nor was there any regret, not over his decision to step down at Augusta National or his reduced role this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

That’s not the way Palmer has lived his life.

“I think the people I have met have meant a great deal to me, more than any shot I ever hit,” Palmer said. “I will always remember some golf shots, but others I would like to forget. But I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from people who have supported me, golfers who have helped me. If it wasn’t for the game of golf I’d probably be mowing the greens back in Latrobe.”

It was at Latrobe (Pa.) Country Club late last year during an interview with Palmer that we fully began to understand that connection Palmer has with those in his path.

Framed on the wall of his sprawling office, which is just down the hill from Latrobe’s first tee, was a letter and a $10 bill.

It was payment for a bet made with Palmer that he would win the 1965 PGA Championship at Laurel Valley in Ligonier, Pa. He didn’t win that PGA, or any PGA – the only blemish on an otherwise flawless resume.

“Dear Arnie:

Enclosed is payment for my bet – and never was there one more reluctantly paid.

Also attached is a picture cut from the Philadelphia Inquirer. It indicates dejection; please remember that a couple of accidents will not be important a year from now. You’ll win a lot more tournaments and forget all the woe caused by bridges, rocks and complaints about a tree.

All the best,

As ever, D.D.E. [Dwight D. Eisenhower]”

Some 50 years later, it’s not Palmer’s 62 PGA Tour victories or any of the millions of shots he’s hit we remember, it’s what the King continues to mean to the game in whatever role he choses to play.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

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. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.

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Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 12:30 pm