CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. – Arnold Palmer’s presence was palpable at the first tee in Tuesday’s practice rounds at the BMW Championship.
Palmer made the first hole at Cherry Hills Country Club famous when he ignited his terrific final-round comeback victory at the 1960 U.S. Open by driving the 346-yard green with his opening tee shot. The drive set up birdie as he shot 65 coming from seven shots back.
There’s a plaque there today commemorating Palmer’s drive.
BMW officials spiced up Tuesday’s practice rounds leaving a persimmon driver and balata ball at the first tee for pros to try to re-enact Palmer’s famed shot.
Even power-hitting Rory McIlroy couldn’t duplicate the feat. He gave it a go, leaving his tee shot in the front, left greenside bunker.
When he teed it up with his own clubs and ball, McIlroy didn’t need driver to reach the green. He reached it with his Nike 3-wood.
“I think that Arnie will be upset to see guys hitting three woods there this week,” Graeme McDowell said. “Maybe less than 3-wood, honestly.”
The PGA Tour plans to use the Palmer tee for all four rounds of this week’s championship.
“No one hit the green with the persimmon wood,” said Mike Abitbol, a marshal manning the first tee. “The ball seemed to spin a lot more than they expected.”
The original driver Palmer used to hit the green when he won the ’60 U.S. Open is still on the property here at Cherry Hills, but it’s locked away in a protected place in the clubhouse.