Arnie The Ambassador of Golf

By George WhiteMarch 18, 2004, 5:00 pm
The King sat at the microphone, ready to chat about whatever was on the minds of the assorted media folks. One thing that was settled immediately was the issue of Ken Venturi and his insistence that Arnold Palmer broke the rules when he played a second ball at No. 12 in the 1958 Masters.
 
Next question! Palmer said when the issue was broached in a question. Another gentleman persisted with the same question, momentarily raising the hackles on Father Arnie. I dont really know a thing about it, said Arnold. And Im not really too interested. Thats my comment.
 
He doesnt dignify the anecdote with a retort. A stickler for the rules, he obviously was stunned when Venturi brought up the assertion in a book. Palmer had heard the objections raised from Venturi before, but now the incident is more than 40 years old. Palmers recollection is one way, Venturis another. The worst thing Arnold could do, Arnold has obviously decided, is get into a mud-slinging match about it. So there it lay, and if you expected him to mount a defense, you expected wrong.
 
The issue of The King is something else again. Palmer himself doesnt like the term, certainly he has never in his career used the term to apply to himself.
 
You know, Im not crazy about that nickname that they put on me ' The King, said Palmer when he was preparing for a biography feature presented a few years back by The Golf Channel.
 
I dont feel like the The King. I feel like maybe the ambassador for the game of golf. And I would like that. No one is The King of golf, and no one WILL be. The game is bigger than any individual, and it doesnt matter if is Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus or Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan or Sam Snead or Tiger Woods.
 
Palmer was addressing the media gathering before his Bay Hill Invitational this week. Palmer is an owner of the Bay Hill course, having purchased it way back in 1969. That was the year he moved to Central Florida from his year-round home in Latrobe, Pa. He still has a home in Latrobe, as well as the Palm Springs, Cal., area. But Orlando and Bay Hill was the site he personally chose after an exhaustive look at the state of Florida early in his career.
 
I came here in 65 and played in a Chamber of Commerce fund-raiser, Arnold said. I loved the golf course After the exhibition, I asked if the golf course was for sale. And they said, No, it isnt.
 
Palmer then said that if Bay Hill ever were for sale, he wanted to buy it. Oh, thats a different story, said the owners. Lets talk, they said ' and Palmer wound up owning the course in 1969.
 
And why did I come here? Arnold asked rhetorically. I love freshwater. The lakes here are pristine, nice boating, good fishing and very quiet.
 
That was, of course, before the Disney conglomerate moved into the Orlando area. And that was actually before there was a Bay Hill tournament. But there was a tour tournament in Orlando at another course ' in fact, Palmer had finished in a second-place tie in that event in 1967 when Julius Boros was the winner. Anybody still remember the Florida Citrus Open Invitational?
 
Palmer actually won the Florida Citrus in 71. And it would continue to be held at the other track ' Rio Pinar ' until Palmer made a few strategic improvements to Bay Hill and the event was moved to his course in 1979.
 
Twenty-six years later, the course ' and the tournament ' stands on the threshold of history. Tiger Woods is trying to win Bay Hill for the fifth consecutive time ' a mark that has never been achieved. And to think it would come at the course of ' well, The Ambassador.
 
Arnold, now 74, speaks glowingly of Woods - who has moved to Orlando himself.
 
At this point, given the same energy that he has used to do what he has done thus far ' its hard to say how many golf tournaments hell win, said Palmer.
 
Who knows, maybe someday Tiger will wind up owning a golf course just as Palmer has done. Maybe someday he will fly past Palmers 62 victories. But he will have to go some to match the appeal that Palmer has had with the game ' and the fans ' of golf. Arnold may not be The King, but he certainly is The Idol. He will always be idolized by those who love this crazy game.
 
Email your thoughts to George White
Getty Images

Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

Getty Images

Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

Getty Images

Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.

Getty Images

Rose: T-2 finish renewed my love of The Open

By Jay CoffinJuly 22, 2018, 9:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Justin Rose made the cut on the number at The Open and was out for an early Saturday morning stroll at Carnoustie when, all of a sudden, he started putting together one great shot after another.

There was no pressure. No one had expected anything from someone so far off the lead. Yet Rose shot 30 on the final nine holes to turn in 7-under 64, the lowest round of the championship. By day’s end he was five shots behind a trio of leaders that included Jordan Spieth.

Rose followed the 64 with a Sunday 69 to tie for second place, two shots behind winner Francesco Molinari. His 133 total over the weekend was the lowest by a shot, and for a moment he thought he had a chance to hoist the claret jug, until Molinari put on a ball-striking clinic down the stretch with birdies on 14 and 18.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I just think having made the cut number, it’s a great effort to be relevant on the leaderboard on Sunday,” said Rose, who collected his third-career runner-up in a major. He’s also finished 12th or better in all three majors this year.

In the final round, Rose was well off the pace until his second shot on the par-5 14th hole hit the pin. He had a tap-in eagle to move to 5 under. Birdie at the last moved him to 6 under and made him the clubhouse leader for a few moments.

“It just proves to me that I can play well in this tournament, that I can win The Open,” Rose said. “When I’m in the hunt, I enjoy it. I play my best golf. I don’t back away.

“That was a real positive for me, and it renewed the love of The Open for me.”