Stories of the Palmer Legend
A story I once heard occurred at the 1965 Ryder Cup. Arnold was the first off on the first day, leading the American team with his limitless style. His foursomes partner was a Ryder Cup rookie and on the verge of bewilderment about the enormity of playing for his country in a far-flung arena. Arnold crushed his drive, as Arnold tended to do in those days, and his partner was left with a short iron to the green at the long par 4. Their opponents had hit a decent approach, but were out of birdie range, so the hole could be all but won with a solid second shot. Arnolds partner calmed his nerves as he stood over the ball, then swung. He hit so far behind the ball that for a moment he thought he had missed completely. Arnold asked Did I give you a bad lie? His partner replied, No, Im just so nervous I almost laid the divot on top of my ball. Arnold laughed and told the rookie Welcome to the Ryder Cup.
At lunch that day, U.S. team Captain Byron Nelson came upon the two eating lunch. Arnold, I think Ill put you with Johnny Pott this afternoon. Arnold looked up and said, Ive got my partner, well do fine this afternoon. That afternoon Arnold and my father never trailed in their match and ended up winning 6-and-5. Dad went on to win three of his next four matches and never forgot the show of support and confidence he received that day from his friend, and idol, Arnold Palmer.
We all have our favorite Arnold Palmer stories, some famous, some personal. A high-ranking Tour official told me of the time Arnold was Captain of the Presidents Cup and took command of the team bus on the way to the hotel from the course one day. He felt the team needed a little bonding and ordered an unscheduled stop at a sports bar. The team filed off the bus and headed inside for some pool, darts, refreshments, whatever they wanted. I for one would have loved to have seen the face of the owner when 13 of the most famous golfers in the world just popped in, unannounced.
At one point a golf fan asked Arnold for his autograph and Arnold declined. Arnold rarely refuses to sign autographs, but on this night he didnt want to burden the team with the inevitable memorabilia frenzy that accompanies those situations. It would have impacted the feeling of team unity he was building. The players continued to laugh and talk and play, growing closer to one another. When it was time to leave the players boarded the bus. Just before he got on, Arnold excused himself, saying he needed to use the restroom. He went back inside, found the autograph seeker, signed his name then headed back to the bus. Pure Arnold.
I remember going to the Bob Hope Desert Classic, when I was the executive director of the Tradition. I wanted to talk with Arnold and other players about playing in the Tradition. He was playing with the three Atlanta Braves pitchers, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine.
On one hole Arnold teed off then waited at the Amateur tee for the Braves to hit theirs. As he was watching them hit, one by one, I noticed a kid, no more than ten years old, ignoring the golf and looking up at Arnold from inside the ropes. He was in a regulation-sized Shaquille ONeal jersey and had spiked blond hair. He was the exact opposite of Arnold, but the look on his face was one of pure idolatry, being an arms length from the King. After the last pitcher hit, Arnold turned toward the crowd and started to move toward the fairway when he noticed mini-shaq at his hip. He smiled that Arnold Palmer smile, messed up that spiked hair-do with his hand then went about his business. The gallery in the immediate vicinity giggled, the boy was absolutely stunned, he turned and looked up at the man standing behind him. The man, obviously his father, had tears of joy streaming down his face. The man bent at the knees and hugged his son as I turned away to follow Arnold.
Very few people have the ability to touch others in a way that they will remember for decades. Fewer still take advantage of that ability. Arnold has always shared himself with his fans more completely than any superstar with whom Ive had a chance to be around. Its as if he knows the joy he can bring to others and makes it a priority to do so. Such selflessness is rare in the modern sports world, and its why Arnold Palmer is the most beloved, and I believe the most important golfer in history.
'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.
Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.
“The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”
Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.
The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.
“That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”
Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.
“They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”
Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.
“The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”
Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship
Tiger Woods is competing in his first Open Championship since 2015. We're tracking him this week at Carnoustie.
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Ball headed O.B., Stone (68) gets huge break
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brandon Stone knew it when he hit it.
“I knew I hit it out of bounds,” the South African said following his opening round in the 147th Open Championship.
Stone’s second shot on the par-4 18th, from the left fescue, was pulled into the grandstands, which are marked as O.B. But instead of settling in with the crowd, the ball ricocheted back towards the green and nearly onto the putting surface.
Stone made his par and walked away with a 3-under 68, two shots off the early lead.
“I really didn’t put a good swing on it, bad contact and it just came out way left,” Stone said. “I feel so sorry for the person I managed to catch on the forehead there, but got a lucky break.
“When you get breaks like that you know you’re going to have good weeks.”
It’s been more than just good luck recently for Stone. He shot 60 in the final round – missing a 9-foot birdie putt for the first 59 in European Tour history – to win last week’s Scottish Open. It was his third career win on the circuit and first since 2016. It was also just his first top-10 of the season.
“A testament to a different mental approach and probably the change in putter,” said Stone, who added that he switched to a new Ping Anser blade model last week.
“I’ve been putting, probably, the best I have in my entire life.”
This marks Stone’s sixth start in a major championship, with his best finish a tie for 35th in last year’s U.S. Open. He has a missed cut and a T-70 in two prior Open Championships.