Palmer Prepares for Final Event Near Home

By Associated PressMay 25, 2005, 4:00 pm
LIGONIER, Pa. -- Perhaps this best explains Arnold Palmer's game at age 75: He plays golf these days mostly for the exercise.
 
'I like to get out in the air and I like to walk,' said Palmer, golf's acknowledged king for multiple generations. Now, his tournaments and his years both winding down, Palmer plays mostly to lend his enormous prestige to a few selected events.
 
Kenny Perry and Arnold Palmer
One of Arnold Palmer's continuing endeavors is hosting his Bay Hill Invitational each year.
For Palmer, who is widely credited with singularly transforming American golf into a spectator sport as well as a participatory one, the Senior PGA championship that begins Thursday is his last elite-level tournament in his native Western Pennsylvania.
 
That raises this question of the golfer who still counts millions as members of the devoted legion of fans known as Arnie's Army: Is this the last significant tournament for one of the most recognized and successful athletes of all time?
 
Unlike Jack Nicklaus, who says this summer's British Open will be his last big tournament, Palmer isn't into definitives. He says only, 'I'm not going to make any rash statements about quitting or when I'm going to quit or what I'm going to do. I'll play ... as long as my old body will allow me to play, and I do enjoy it.'
 
But Palmer realizes nothing is forever - even if golfers now nearing retirement age have barely known the day when they couldn't flip on the TV and see Palmer play a competitive round. It's been 21 years since Palmer last won the Senior PGA, 17 years since he last won any PGA-level tournament, 12 years since his last Top 10 finish, 11 years since he last played in the U.S. Open, also in the Pittsburgh area.
 
Now, improbable as it might seem for the golfer who still makes more money away from the course than anybody except Tiger Woods, just making the cut is a near-impossible goal. He's shot 80 or above in five of his six Champion Tour rounds this year and, in a three-hole Senior PGA media day appearance last month, was outdriven on two holes by TV anchormen.
 
'My game is unsatisfactory at the moment ... I played a practice round (this week) with Jay Haas and, very frankly, he is swinging so well and playing so well it made me feel kind of inadequate out there,' Palmer said. 'I'm not sure that I have the physical ability to make that desire (to make the cut) fulfill itself. But I'm going to try.'
 
This wouldn't seem to be the way Palmer would want to see his remarkable career wind down, just a few miles from the Latrobe Country Club course where father Deke was the superintendent and, 60 years ago, he began to grow and polish his game.
 
But, and this is what may differentiate him most from Nicklaus, golf to Palmer has not always been about winning or merely competing - as his first-round 86 at last year's Senior PGA at Valhalla shows.
 
Just four months from his 76th birthday, Palmer still plays before spectators because this is what he loves to do. And he still loves it, even if his game is but a glimmer of what it was when he won 62 PGA tournaments from 1955-73 and 10 more on the Champions/Seniors tour.
 
'I don't really need to (play),' said Palmer, who sat out the Masters this year for the first time in a half-century. 'I can tell you this, that I still enjoy it. The difference between Jack and I, Jack has a lot of interests that are not necessarily golf.'
 
That's why, when it would seem there would be no earthly reason why he would want to see his score posted alongside those 15-20 strokes lower, Palmer still plays in selected charity tournaments and Champions Tour events.
 
'His body is not letting him play the kind of game he would love to play ... he was at that crossroads a number of years ago, but he has chosen to continue on, simply because I think that the fans still want to see him,' Champions Tour money leader Hale Irwin said.
 
Could it be Palmer is holding out to play a for-real round with his 17-year-old grandson, Sam Saunders, who caddied for him during his last Masters in 2004 and is attempting to qualify for this year's U.S. Open?
 
'I'm not one to hang around,' Palmer said, all but ruling that out. 'When I'm not playing, I'm gone.'
 
While Palmer isn't a threat to win on the 7,107-yard Laurel Valley Golf Club course he himself redesigned, plenty of others are. Among the top names are Haas, who has three top-3 finishes in as many Champion Tours events this year; Craig Stadler, who won five Champions tournaments last year and has two PGA Tour Top 10 finishes this year; Jim Thorpe, who has won two of his last three tournaments and Irwin, the defending champion.
 
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    Schauffele just fine being the underdog

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

    Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

    Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

    Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

    “All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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    Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

    Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

    So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

    Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

    Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Jordan Spieth: 7/4

    Xander Schauffele: 5/1

    Kevin Kisner: 11/2

    Tiger Woods: 14/1

    Francesco Molinari: 14/1

    Rory McIlroy: 14/1

    Kevin Chappell: 20/1

    Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

    Alex Noren: 25/1

    Zach Johnson: 30/1

    Justin Rose: 30/1

    Matt Kuchar: 40/1

    Webb Simpson: 50/1

    Adam Scott: 80/1

    Tony Finau: 80/1

    Charley Hoffman: 100/1

    Austin Cook: 100/1

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    Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

    For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

    By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

    But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

    As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

    “This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

    Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

    As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

    After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

    “I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

    But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

    Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

    “I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

    There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

    Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

    And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

    As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

    “We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

    Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

    Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

    The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

    Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

    It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

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    Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

    One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

    McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

    McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

    “I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”