Arnies Army Gather One More Time

By Associated PressApril 8, 2004, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The golf was merely an excuse to celebrate the man.
 
Arnold Palmer began what will be his final go-round at the Masters on Thursday with his army mustered behind him once more. They lined every fairway, tee to green. Grizzled veterans who joined decades ago stood shoulder-to-shoulder with new recruits eager for what might be their only glimpse of the King.
 
'I started coming here when I was 3 with my dad. He always told me, `Root for Arnold Palmer. You follow Arnold Palmer,'' said Blanton Phillips, who this year brought his own 3-year-old, Sam.
 
'I'd like him to see Arnie here on his last trip around,'
 
Phillips said, nodding at his son. 'When he's my age, he'll be able to look at his pairing sheet and say he was here when Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus were all playing in the Masters at the same time.'
 
That Palmer was never in contention at his 50th consecutive Masters hardly mattered. The four-time Masters champion is 74 now and hasn't made the cut since 1983, and that streak is sure to continue Friday after his opening 12-over 84.
 
But for five hours Thursday, Palmer's fans got a chance to return all the love and respect they've gotten from him all these years. They lined up in the rain just for the chance to watch him tee off, and they were rewarded with a smile so bright it lightened the gray skies.
 
'Go get 'em, Arnie!' one fan yelled, and Palmer responded with a smile and a thumbs up.
 
'It was fun today,' Palmer said, 'feeling that adrenaline flowing like so many years.'
 
And for a few holes, at least, there were flashes of the old master. After a disappointing double bogey on the par-3 No. 4, he seemed to be in more trouble on the fifth when his 40-foot birdie putt reached the crest of a hill and rolled all the way back down to the edge of the green.
 
But Palmer knocked it in for par, and the crowd roared as if he'd hit the tournament winner.
 
On the par-3 No. 6, his tee shot went into the gallery on the left side of the green, well below the pin. This time Palmer chipped within inches of the hole, prompting one fan to yell, 'Pick it up!'
 
'I felt pretty good,' said Palmer, whose grandson, Sam Saunders, caddied for him. 'I thought maybe I might put something together.'
 
But he closed the front nine with bogeys on two of the last three holes and then opened the back with a double bogey and two bogeys.
 
'I was a little embarrassed by my score,' Palmer said. 'But I won't have to worry about it much longer. That's disappointing, because I enjoy playing.'
 
And golf is better because he did. Palmer was the dominant player of the 1960s, winning seven major championships. But it was his personality that altered the game forever.
 
He visited with fans in the gallery as he played, and they felt he was truly glad they were there. When fans applauded, he looked them in the eye and waved.
 
He was their friend.
 
'It's kind of like family,' said Charles Cooley of Stone Mountain, Ga., who has been coming to the Masters since 1956. 'You just feel like you know him.'
 
Ellen DeBois was 8 years old when she came with her father to her first Masters. While the other golfers were too busy to acknowledge her, Palmer took the time to talk to her. Just like that, a lifelong adoration was born.
 
DeBois, now 56, has been to 38 Masters and about 200 tournaments overall, all to see Palmer. She has a shrine to him at her house, and almost 400 of his autographs. On Thursday, she wore an Arnold Palmer T-shirt and a hat with buttons that read, 'I'll Really Miss You Arnie,' and 'I (Love) Arnie.'
 
'To me, he is golf,' said DeBois, who said she won't come back to the Masters again. 'There's nobody like him.'
 
No, there's not. And there probably never will be again. While Tiger Woods has fans the world over, and Phil Mickelson and John Daly draw big crowds, no one is revered like Arnie.
 
There was an uproar two years ago when Augusta National sent letters to some aging champions who had a tendency to withdraw after the first round, if not sooner. The message was for them to stop playing.
 
Palmer announced that the 2002 Masters would be his last, saying, 'I don't want to get a letter.' But the Masters softened its stance and Palmer changed his mind, deciding his 50th anniversary at Augusta was the perfect time to leave.
 
'I look forward to it,' Palmer said after his round Thursday. 'It'll be done tomorrow. But I'll never say it wasn't fun.'
 
Related links:
  • Full Coverage - The Masters Tournament
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  • Arnold Palmers 50th Masters
     
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    McCarthy wins Web.com Tour Championship by 4

    By Associated PressSeptember 24, 2018, 2:14 am

    ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Denny McCarthy won the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship on Sunday to earn fully exempt PGA Tour status and a spot in the Players Championship.

    McCarthy closed with a 6-under 65 for a four-stroke victory over Lucas Glover at Atlantic Beach Country Club. The 25-year-old former Virginia player earned $180,000 to top the 25 PGA Tour card-earners with $255,793 in the four-event Web.com Tour Finals.

    ''It's been quite a journey this year,'' McCarthy said. ''The PGA Tour was tough to start out the year. I stuck through it and got my game. I raised my level and have been playing some really good golf. Just feels incredible to finish off these Finals. So much work behind the scenes that nobody really sees.''

    McCarthy finished at 23-under 261.


    Full-field scores from the Web.com Tour Championship


    Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, closed with a 69. He made $108,000 to finish seventh with $125,212 in the series for the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200.

    Jim Knous earned the 25th and final card from the four-event money list with $41,931, edging Justin Lower by $500. Knous made a 5-foot par save on the final hole for a 71 that left him tied for 57th. Lower missed an 8-footer for birdie, settling for a 69 and a tie for 21st.

    ''It was a brutal day emotionally,'' Knous said. ''I wasn't quite sure how much my performance would affect the overall outcome. It kind of just depended on what everybody else did. That's pretty terrifying. So I really just kind of did my best to stay calm and inside I was really freaking out and just super psyched that at the end of the day finished right there on No. 25.''

    The top-25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list competed against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. Sungjae Im topped the list to earn the No. 1 priority spot of the 50 total cards.

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    LaCava pushed Woods to work on bunker game

    By Rex HoggardSeptember 24, 2018, 1:52 am

    ATLANTA – Last week as Tiger Woods prepared to play the season finale at East Lake he sent a text message to his caddie Joey LaCava that simply asked, what do I need to do to get better?

    Although when it comes to Woods his proficiency is always relative, but LaCava didn’t pull any punches, and as the duo completed the final round on Sunday at the Tour Championship with a bunker shot to 7 feet at the last the two traded knowing smiles.

    “We had a talk last week about his bunker game and I said, ‘I’m glad you kept that bunker game stuff in mind,’” LaCava said. “I told him he was an average bunker player and he worked at it last week. There were only two bunker shots he didn’t get up-and-down, I don’t count the last one on 18. He recognized that after two days. He was like, ‘What do you know, I’m 100 percent from the bunkers and I’m in the lead after two days.”


    Final FedExCup standings

    Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

    Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    For the week, Woods got up-and-down from East Lake’s bunkers seven out of nine times and cruised to a two-stroke victory for his first PGA Tour title since 2013. That’s a dramatic improvement over his season average of 49 percent (100th on Tour).

    “His bunker game was very average coming into this week,” LaCava said. “I said you’ve got to work on your bunker game. If you had a decent bunker game like the Tiger of old you would have won [the BMW Championship].”

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    For Woods, is this only the beginning?

    By Damon HackSeptember 24, 2018, 1:42 am

    If this is Tiger Woods nine months into a comeback, wait until he actually shakes the rust off.

    This was supposed to be the year he kicked the tires, to see how his body held up after all those knives digging into his back.

    To see if a short game could truly be rescued from chunks and skulls.

    To see if a 42-year-old living legend could outfox the kids.

    On the final breath of the PGA Tour season, it was Tiger Woods who took ours away.

    Playing alongside Rory McIlroy on Sunday at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club – and one group behind the current World No. 1 and eventual FedEx Cup champion Justin Rose – Woods bludgeoned the field and kneecapped Father Time. 

    It was Dean Smith and the Four Corners offense.  Emmitt Smith moving the chains. Nolan Ryan mowing them down.

    And all of a sudden you wonder if Phil Mickelson wishes he’d made alternate Thanksgiving plans.

    Even if everybody saw a win coming, it was something else to actually see it happen, to see the man in the red shirt reach another gear just one more time.

    Win No. 80 reminded us, as Roger Maltbie once said of Woods when he came back from knee surgery in 2009: “A lot of people can play the fiddle. Only one guy is Itzhak Perlman.”

    It wasn’t long ago that Tiger Woods seemed headed toward a disheartening final chapter as a broken man with a broken body.


    Final FedExCup standings

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    Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    He would host a couple of tournaments, do some great charity work, shout instructions into a walkie talkie at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, and call it a career.

    There would be no Nicklaus 1986 Masters moment, no Hogan Mystique at Merion.

    He would leave competitive golf as perhaps both the greatest to ever play the game and its greatest cautionary tale.

    Willie Mays with the New York Mets. Muhammad Ali taking punishment from Larry Holmes.

    But then Brad Faxon and Rickie Fowler started whispering at the end of 2017 that Tiger was healthy and hitting the ball hard. 

    There was that hold-your-breath opening tee shot at the Hero World Challenge, a bullet that flew the left bunker and bounded into the fairway.

    Rollercoaster rides at Tampa and Bay Hill, backward steps at Augusta and Shinnecock, forward leaps at The Open and the PGA.

    He switched putters and driver shafts (and shirts, oh my!) and seemed at times tantalizingly close and maddeningly far.

    That he even decided to try to put his body and game back together was one of the all-time Hail Marys in golf.

    Why go through all of that rehab again?

    Why go through the scrutiny of having your current game measured against your untouchable prime?

    Because you’re Tiger Woods, is why, because you’ve had way more wonderful days on the golf course than poor ones, despite five winless years on the PGA Tour.

    Suddenly, Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour wins is in jeopardy and Jack Nicklaus, holder of a record of 18 major championships, is at the very least paying attention.

    Woods has put the golf world on notice.

    It won’t be long until everyone starts thinking about the 2019 major schedule (and you’d better believe that Tiger already is).

    The Masters, where he has four green jackets and seven other Top 5 finishes. The PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, where he won in 2002 by 3. The United States Open at Pebble Beach, where he won in 2000 by 15.

    The Open at Royal Portrush, where his savvy and guile will be a strong 15th club.

    But that’s a talk for a later date.

    Tiger is clearly still getting his sea legs back.

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    Nonfactor McIlroy mum after lackluster 74

    By Mercer BaggsSeptember 24, 2018, 1:04 am

    ATLANTA – Rory McIlroy didn’t have anything to say to the media after the final round of the Tour Championship, and that’s understandable.

    McIlroy began the final round at East Lake three shots behind Tiger Woods. He finished six back.

    McIlroy closed in 4-over 74 to tie for seventh place.

    In their matchup, Woods birdied the first hole to go four in front, and when McIlroy bogeyed the par-4 fourth, he was five in arrears. McIlroy went on to make three more bogeys, one double bogey and just two birdies.


    Final FedExCup standings

    Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

    Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    McIlroy was never a factor on Sunday and ultimately finished tied for 13th in the FedExCup standings.

    The two rivals, Woods and McIlroy, shared plenty of conversations while walking down the fairways. On the 18th hole, Woods said McIlroy told him the scene was like the 1980 U.S. Open when people were shouting, “Jack’s back!”

    “I said, ‘Yeah, I just don’t have the tight pants and the hair,’” Woods joked. “But it was all good.”

    It’s now off to Paris for the upcoming Ryder Cup, where Woods and McIlroy will again be foes. It will be McIlroy’s fifth consecutive appearance in the biennial matches, while Woods is making his first since 2012.