Players recollect memories of meeting the King

By Rex HoggardSeptember 10, 2009, 2:16 am
BMW Championship 2007 LogoLEMONT, Ill. – It was Jack Nicklaus’ 18 majors, to say nothing of those 19 Grand Slam also-rans, that Tiger Woods famously had pinned to the wall of his boyhood home, and the duo create the perfect combination of clinical efficiency and competitive zeal.

Yet as the golf world prepares to celebrate its most endearing octogenarian the thought is unshakable, there would be no Jack Nicklaus, at least not the Jack we remember today, and perhaps no Tiger Woods without the original version – Arnold Palmer.

Tiger Woods and Arnold Palmer
Tiger Woods and Arnold Palmer share a smile. (Getty Images)
On Thursday Palmer turns 80 – which begs the question, what do you buy the legend that has his own plane, his own drink and enough bullet points on the resume to fill a phone book? Even some six decades after his first Tour victory, the King’s shadow may be a tad slump-shouldered but his influence on the modern professional is unmistakable.

Although the vast majority of today’s Tour pros don’t slash at the golf ball with the ferocity of a lumberjack, they don’t hitch up their paints and charge down fairways and, sadly, many don’t engage the public like Palmer did, but nearly all of the modern versions appreciate what he did for the game at the perfect crossroads of television and mass appeal. It’s in their eyes, like the birth of a child or first Tour victory, when you ask them to remember the first time they crossed paths with the legend.

“They were playing in Napa Valley (Calif.) and he invited me to dinner,” Woods recalled recently. “Well, the tab comes, I’m not going to say, hey, Arnold, it’s on me. He goes and picks up the tab like it’s no big deal. My (college) coach had to report me (to the NCAA) because that was a violation.”

Luckily, Palmer’s generosity didn’t cost Woods any eligibility, only $25 and some change. His endearing nature, however, is a common theme among those who have attempted to fill the King’s shoes both on and off the course.

Before he turned into the Tour’s post-season version of Derek Jeter, Steve Stricker was a little-known player with his wife on his bag. During the duo’s first stop at Palmer’s Bay Hill Invitational in the early 1990s they stopped Palmer to thank him for inviting them to his event.

“It was like going to see your grandfather and listening to him tell stories about his past. It's a time my wife and I have never forgotten, just the two of us and Arnold Palmer and his personal assistant Doc Giffin in his office,” Stricker said. “We didn't know him, but he treated us like we were old friends. That's the way he's always been when I've seen him. He makes you feel very comfortable around him even though he's this golf icon.”

Nearly a decade later, Tour rookie Mark Wilson and his wife had a similar Palmer moment.

“She was walking up in the Bay Hill clubhouse trying to find a bathroom. She sees this gentleman from behind, and says, ‘Excuse me, sir, do you know where the bathrooms are?’ The man turns around, and it’s Arnold Palmer,” Wilson said. “She was just speechless. He was a true gentleman. He walked her over and showed her where to go and was as nice as could be.”

Although the swing has slowed over the years, his passion for the game has never diminished. While some modern Tour pros marvel at how the legend engaged the golf fan with his everyman appeal, others see a timeless passion that is unrivaled.

“I remember about eight years ago, he's digging through the trunk of his car, where he's got some different drivers and he's taking a look at them and feeling them out before the round to see what he wanted to use,” recalls Brett Quigley. “I know he's done that his whole career. I love that. He was about 73 years old then, and I loved that he was still into golf that much. I loved that he has that much passion about the game.”

Palmer has set the standard for how a professional should act, both on and off the golf course, since Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, and he’s passed along his knowledge in that subtle type of way that only a seven-time major champion can.

During his first Masters in 1991 Phil Mickelson arranged a practice round with Palmer at Augusta National. After the round the two were walking toward the clubhouse when Palmer seized on the opportunity to teach a future major champion a lesson.

“Right here in 1961 I had a one-shot lead,” Mickelson remembers Palmer telling him. “I came over and shook somebody’s hand and he said, ‘congratulations.’ I never should have said thank you. I should have said it’s not over.”

Palmer lost the ’61 Masters to Gary Player, but the lesson seems apropos on his 80th birthday. With his journey far from over, those who followed Palmer’s trail-blazed path to the PGA Tour owe the man from Latrobe, Pa., a collective thank you.

Related Links:
  • Arnold Palmer: Celebrating his 80th birthday
Getty Images

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.

Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia

By Associated PressDecember 14, 2017, 3:06 pm

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.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

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.