Missing Arnie just a little more on Wednesday of API

By Rex HoggardMarch 15, 2017, 3:50 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – For more than four decades, this has been the best Wednesday in golf. There were no competitions, faux or otherwise, no ceremonies or announcements, just a few minutes and the undivided attention of a legend.

Wednesdays at Bay Hill meant Arnold Palmer was coming to the media center for his annual “State of the King” news conference. These were always free-flowing affairs defined by the host’s unfiltered honesty and his ability to address any topic – from Tiger Woods’ most-recent accomplishments to the distance modern professionals hit the golf ball.

Whatever the subject, Palmer would answer, sometimes with an anecdote or a joke, sometimes with a wink and his signature thumbs up.

But this Wednesday at Bay Hill, there was no media meet-and-greet with Palmer, who passed away in September. Tour commissioner Jay Monahan spoke, so did Palmer’s grandson Sam Saunders, who was so eloquent last year at the King’s funeral, but it wasn’t the same.

This week is being billed as a celebration of Palmer’s incredible life, so it only makes sense that today should be a celebration of those incredible Wednesdays with the King by revisiting some of his best stuff.

Although Palmer’s association with the tournament dates back to the 1970s, his first brush with Central Florida began well before that, as he explained in 2008:

I came here the first time I think in ’48. I was a sophomore at Wake Forest and we played the men's golf team at Rollins [College].

“Our coach said, ‘What do you guys want to do? You can practice here or we can go on to the next match.’ We all voted to stay at Rollins because we were playing the girl's golf team and for the next two days we played the girl's golf team. That was a hell of a lot more fun than playing the men's golf team.”

There were always questions about Tiger Woods. So many Tiger questions, like in 2010:

“For me to tell Tiger what he should do, there's only one thing I can say and that's practice and confidence. Regain the confidence he had when he was starting out.”

Or in 2014 when Woods missed Bay Hill with a back injury, although the same answer could have applied to this year’s event:

“He didn't tell me how bad his back is. . . . I think he wanted to play golf this week. He just feels that he needs to take, whether it's this week, next week or the following week, to get ready for Augusta.”

There was a patented story he’d tell whenever a young player would ask him for advice:

“My father said when I left for the Tour, he wasn't too anxious for me to go on Tour. He said, ‘I'll tell you what, you go out there and listen to all those guys [swing coaches] out there and that tractor [at Latrobe Country Club] is still sitting down there and you can drive it when you come back. Well, I never went back because I did what he told me. Basic fundamentals.”

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

He would regularly be asked the state of his game, and he regularly dismissed those questions like he did in 2011:

“I hit it so far these days that I hear it land.”

Or in 2009:

“I play here in the ‘shootout’ [at Bay Hill] and most of these guys are accountants or stockbrokers or engineers or home builders, and they all beat me. And that tells you something about my golf. And I hate it, but I still love golf.”

One year he was asked what it’s like to be Arnold Palmer when someone orders an Arnold Palmer:

“I'm a little embarrassed. The guy says, ‘I'll have a Palmer,’ I don't think about it in first person. I think about, hey, thank you, have a couple.”

And, of course, he always told the best stories, like when he was asked the loudest cheer he ever heard on the golf course:

It was probably on the 16th hole at Augusta in ’62 when [announcer] Jimmy Demaret was talking about the shot that I had. Demaret said, ‘He's got an impossible shot here, and to get it up‑and‑down will be a small miracle.’ I'm listening to him saying all of this and then I chipped it in [and won the Masters], and that was a loud cheer.”

Or the first time he played a practice round match against Ben Hogan at Augusta National in 1958:

“We got in the locker room and Dow [Finsterwald] and I had collected $35 [for winning the match], Hogan sat at another table and said, ‘How in the hell did he get in the Masters?’ Meaning me. Then I won the tournament.

“Hogan never called me by my first name. Never. I was ‘fella,’ or ‘hey,’ or something in that order. That didn't mean anything except that he probably didn't give a shit who I was.”

There would always be questions about the Arnold Palmer Invitational and his role as host:

“Last night, I entertained. You didn't know that, did you? I played a piano concert for them, very proud of it, too. And I will not elaborate.”

In 2004, Palmer played the event for the final time, an emotional week that included a magical par at his final hole:

“I suppose that I can't deny that I was thinking about this is probably the last time I'll do that. That's tough to think you're finished playing on the PGA Tour as a competitor.”

But most of all he relished the chance to talk about what the Arnold Palmer Invitational, his tournament, was really about:

“About 45 years ago I was asked if I'd put my name on the tournament for the hospital. I thought about it and I gave my rules for my name being on the hospital and the tournament.

“The Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies has come just thousands of miles over what we had anticipated.”

They were always the best Wednesdays and they will be missed. Arnie will be missed.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

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.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

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.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

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.