What he doesnt seem to understand is that he wont get much better than he is now, and thats because a 72-year-old cant do anything a 30-year-old can except snore and read good books. I say Arnold doesnt understand, because last week when he answered the medias questions during a teleconference, he was still talking about improving the scorecard. Its as if he could just get about five or 10 more yards out of the ol buggy-whip swing, it would be 1960 all over again and he would be winning eight tournaments.
People dont care that Arnold wont win again. They know he is the best 72-year-old golfer there is alive, but that isnt why they come. They come because they still want to see him, watch that wind-up and that one-of-kind whack at the ball. But they come most of all just because they want to see HIM. Who cares if he shoots 85, 95 or 120? Hes still Arnie.
He only plans to play in the Senior Skins this weekend, the Bob Hope which just finished, and the Masters. Why? Well, because he is afraid of embarrassing himself if the game doesnt improve.
Everything else depends on how my game comes together, he said. If the things I am working here at the Tradition - if I get my game in shape - I will play more.
Unfortunately, thats not the point. Where else can people go to see Palmer in person for four hours? Hell hit a few good shots, make one or two long putts, and the people will just swoon. They honestly believe that watching Palmer swing a golf club is the essence of golf. No, thats not right ' people feel its the essence of life. Nothing on the planet can make a person feel more like living than a few hours spent with Arnie.
Why is Arnold practicing? Well, somewhere theres a shootout going on that just might need another player. I want to play more, he says, and there isnt any joint in his body that aches too much for him to bump it around a little.
It wouldnt be Arnie, however, if he wasnt tinkering with some facet of his swing. One of the things is that I hit too far away from the ball, he said. One of the things we are working on is standing up straighter.
That, he is sure, will cause the distance to come back. He will be hitting shorter irons into the greens. And ' oh yes ' lately hes been collapsing into the ball on my irons and not hitting them as crisply as I would like. I dont need to hit my irons longer ' just better.
The same can be said of every recreational golfer who ever played the game. They dont need to hit the ball longer ' just better. But golfers can learn something by watching Palmer play golf. Most people are thrilled just to be watching HIM.
Hes a professional, and if you are really a pro, you want to play like one when youre in competition. People understand that. Regardless of how much they adore him, Arnie wants to play decent golf. And he wants to do it on a professionals standards, on golf courses set up for todays tournaments. He probably wont win ' I say probably because I understand nothing is impossible when you believe as strongly as Arnold does.
I hope, however, that Arnold wont fold em up and go play in just the Wednesday Bay Hill Shootouts. His psyche has been taking some body blows since he last won a tournament in 1988. The scores of last year really hurt. Slowly, ever so slowly, the man has been slowing down, step by step be step.
My positive attitude has taken a hit from the shots Ive had, Palmer said. But Ive been working out consistently over the years. And Im intensifying it this year.
Dare we whisper that most men have settled down long before their 72nd birthdays? But Arnie hasnt ' he still working out. The calendar may say 72, but he still thinks hes that guy whos 30.