One story, of many stories, that tells of Arnold Palmer

By Joe PosnanskiSeptember 26, 2016, 3:39 am

Let us resolve to tell just one Arnold Palmer story. If we try to do more, if we try to recount or summarize or, dare I say it, capture the essence of the impossibly wonderful life of Arnold Daniel Palmer, well, we will fail miserably. The King did not live a life that can or should be summed up. He was the son of a hardened golf pro and groundskeeper in Latrobe, Pa. He played college golf at Wake Forest. He ran away to join the coast guard.

He returned with a slashing swing and a gambler’s nerve, and he played golf in such a daring way that he made it seem thrilling on television. Palmer was so handsome and carried himself with such an air of cool (“He would show up on the screen and it was like ‘Wham!’” the great TV producer Frank Chirkinian said), that he helped take the game out of the country clubs, he made farm kids and factory kids, small town kids and city kids all dream of Augusta. He won big, and he lost big, and through it all he smiled and waved and treated people with kindness, and an army followed his every move. They named a drink after him.

But, see, all those words fall flat. None of it can describe the true grandeur of Arnold Palmer.

One story. But what should it be? Should it be a story of one of his great victories, like the 1960 U.S. Open, the greatest U.S. Open of them all? Palmer finished the third round with a double-bogey and found himself seven shots behind leader Mike Souchak. His tournament chances were so bleak that one of his best friends just left the golf course and went home.

In those days, they played 36 holes on the last day, and so Palmer went to have a bite to eat with a couple of sportswriters, Bob Drum of the Pittsburgh Press and Dan Jenkins of the Fort Worth Press.

“Wonder what a 65 would bring this afternoon,” Palmer mused.

“Won’t do you any good,” Drum said.

Well that ticked off Palmer even more, and he went out to the first tee in the afternoon round and unleashed one of the most famous drives in golf history – he drove the green and made birdie. He shot 65 and won the whole thing, even though he was being chased by a 47-year-old Ben Hogan and a 20-year-old Jack Nicklaus.

It’s a great story, but it tells only of victory, it misses the heartbreak of Palmer’s career, the very thing that made him so human and beloved. That was the only U.S. Open he ever won – and he could have won two or three or even four more. The stories of Palmer’s great losses have a majesty all their own. For instance, there was the 1961 Masters – Palmer needed only a par on the 18th hole to win his second consecutive Masters and third in four years. He hit his drive down the fairway, par was a cinch, and then as he remembered it he saw an old friend in the gallery. “You won it, boy!” he shouted.

“And,” Palmer would say, “my mind left my body. Just went away. And I proceeded to, short story, make 6 on the last hole and lose the Masters.”

But this obviously cannot be our one Palmer story, either.

I have a personal story, one I wrote for Palmer’s 87th birthday, a story about how kind Palmer was to me the first time I met him (and every time I saw him after that). Palmer saw a nervous young reporter with no idea what to do, and though he had undoubtedly seen a hundred nervous young reporters, a thousand, he talked to me, inspired me, gave me every sense that he would watch out for me. It was just a small bit of grace from a man who brought a tiny burst of joy and confidence to countless people.

But that is too small a story for Arnold Palmer.

There was the time that Tom Watson met Palmer, back in 1965. Watson idolized Palmer. He would have his greatest duels with Nicklaus, and he admired Nicklaus, revered him, grew to love him, but there was something different about Palmer. Arnie was Watson’s hero. Arnie was the very essence of what a golf hero could be. When Watson first shook the King’s hand before their first exhibition together, he could feel the power – Arnie was famous for crushing Coors beer cans with one hand back before those cans were made of aluminum. Palmer himself was made of steel.

Watson stepped to the first tee of that exhibition match and with all the strength and hope he had in his 15-year-old body he unleashed his first drive in the hopes of impressing the King. “I really caught it,” Watson would say many years later. He thinks the ball sailed and rolled out to almost 300 yards. Watson would never forget the way Palmer’s eyes widened just a little, as if to say: “Oh, so that’s how it’s going to be?”

And then a small smile sprung on Palmer’s face, and he walked up to the tee himself. He put out the cigarette he had been smoking. And without even a warm-up swing, he walloped his drive 20 yards past Watson.

“That was Arnie,” Watson would say. “That was my hero.”

But this story tells only of the young Palmer. And his perseverance was yet another part of his story. There is the older Arnie, who showed up in Kansas City again 40 years after that first exhibition. He came this time to Watson’s charity event. It was an amazing day – there were the five legends who had dominated golf for a quarter century, Palmer and Nicklaus, Watson and Gary Player and Lee Trevino. But the topic was Tiger Woods and how the younger golfers seemed defeated by his greatness.

“Do you wish you were 30 years younger so you could take on this Tiger Woods kid?” Watson asked Palmer. And though Palmer was well into his 70s, though it had been years since he had been competitive, you could see the fire flicker on his face, the same fire that pushed him to charge back and win seven majors and all those tournaments.

“You bet your ass I do,” Palmer said.

No, there is no one story that can do what we need it to do, no one story that can bring Arnold Palmer back to life even for a moment. He died on Sunday at age 87, and for the last 60 or so years he was golf. Nicklaus was greater. Tiger, too. Watson and Player won more major championships. But all of them would tell you that Arnold was the King. He loved the game. He loved competing. He loved winning. He loved people. More than anything, he loved being Arnold Palmer. It was the greatest life he could imagine living.

Maybe there is one story, a small one from 20 years ago in Augusta. It was just before the Masters was to begin, Palmer’s 52nd Masters, and he agreed to play 27 holes over two days with a promising young kid who wanted to pick his brain, a 20-year-old amateur by the name of, yes, Tiger Woods. A couple of days before they went out to play, another guy asked if he could join the group. His name was Jack Nicklaus.

So the three of them went out to play, this marvelous junction of time and space. Palmer was done as a competitive player – he had not made a Masters cut in a dozen years. Nicklaus was still young enough to dream; he had actually led the Masters after the first round a year earlier. And Woods was all promise and wonder. It would be a few more months before he even turned professional and a year before he altered golf with his mind-blowing performance at the 1997 Masters.

When they finished playing their practice rounds together, the media topic was, of course, Tiger. His power and poise had dazzled Palmer and Nicklaus. At the 13th hole, Woods hit a 215-yard 3-iron that left both of them gasping. At times he hit his drives so far, that Palmer would just break out laughing. “Arnold and I walked off the golf course, and we both agreed that you could take his Masters titles and my Masters titles and add them together, and this kid should win more than that.”

It took a fairly quick calculation, even for sportswriters, that since Palmer won four Masters and Nicklaus won six, they were predicting that Woods should win more than 10 green jackets.

“This kid is the most fundamentally sound golfer that I’ve ever seen at any age,” Nicklaus said.

“He’s very impressive,” Palmer said.

So why would this be an Arnold Palmer story? Well, as it turns out, the three of them had a little money on the line because, after all, what fun would it be to play without some wagering. Woods hit the most remarkable shots. Nicklaus played the smartest shots. And ... Palmer took all the money. Well, of course he did. Arnold Palmer was one of the greatest golfers who ever lived. And, every golfer will tell you, he was even better when his own money was on the line.

When it ended, someone asked Palmer how he felt taking money away from a young amateur. He smiled.

“He will make plenty,” Palmer said. “I’ve got to get mine while I can. It’s tough out there.”

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(Not that) Jutanugarn shares lead with (not that) Ko

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 1:58 am

LOS ANGELES - A player eager for her first win and a rookie top the leaderboard at the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open. Lurking two shots back is a Hall of Famer.

Winless Moriya Jutanugarn overcame a poor start and birdied the 18th for a hard-earned 1-under 70 to tie rookie Jin Young Ko at 9 under on Saturday at Wilshire Country Club.

Ko shot a 66 in her bid to become the year's first two-time LPGA winner. She won the Women's Australian Open in February, her first victory as an official tour member after a successful run on the Korean LPGA circuit.

''I'm ready for win or top 10, so maybe tomorrow I will really focus on shot by shot,'' said Ko, who added an exclamation point to her golf bag for each of her wins on the KLPGA. ''I won 11 times, so if I win tomorrow, maybe I change to 12. I need more, I need every time motivation.''

Jutanugarn is trying to match younger sister Ariya as a tour champion. Seven-time winner Ariya was tied for 27th after a 72 in the third round.

Usually when one of the Thai sisters is in the lead, the other will watch when her round is finished.

''If she's not too lazy, she is probably going to come out,'' Moriya said about Ariya.

Playing in an all-Korean threesome, Hall of Famer Inbee Park was two shots back in third after a 69. Her birdie putt for a share of the lead on 18 slid just by the hole. The group drew a large contingent of Korean fans.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

''I kind of started off a little bad. I was able to come back strong, so I'm really happy with that,'' Park said. ''I left a few putts out there. The greens around this golf course are just really tough. You just don't know what's going to happen.''

Moriya Jutanugarn's round included a double bogey on the par-4 first hole and a bogey on the par-4 sixth. She eagled the par-4 14th after holing out from the fairway 93 feet away. The ball took once bounce and went in, eliciting a stunned look from Jutanugarn before she high-fived her caddie.

''Today was kind of a pretty rough day for me with not a very good start and like trying to come back,'' Jutanugarn said. ''I just try to play my game and be patient out there I think is the key.''

Jutanugarn, the second-round leader, read the break perfectly on a long putt to make birdie on 18 and share the lead with Ko.

Playing two groups ahead of Jutanugarn, Caroline Inglis also eagled the 14th from 180 yards. She briefly jumped up and down and smiled after three bogeys and a double bogey. She shot a 69 and was four shots back in a tie for sixth with Minjee Lee.

''It was like one bounce and then it like trickled in,'' Inglis said.

Aditi Ashok eagled 14 early in the round.

Ko did some scrambling of her own. Her ball found a sandy hazard on the 17th with a scoreboard and a winding creek in between her and the green 190 yards away. Her approach landed just off the green and she made par. Her round included six birdies and a bogey on 16.

Eun-Hee Ji (70) and American Marina Alex (72) were tied for fourth at 6 under.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng shot a 70 and was in a six-way tie for 12th at 2 under.

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Defending champs Singh, Franco take senior lead

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 12:15 am

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco took the third-round lead Saturday in the windy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Singh and Franco shot a 7-under 47 in wind gusting to 20 mph on the Top of the Rock par-3 course to get to 19-under 145, a stroke ahead of the teams of David Toms-Steve Flesch and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett.

''It was a tough day,'' Singh said. ''The wind was swirling, have to get the club right and we made some putts. Carlos played really well on the back nine and I played really well on the front nine, so we ham-and-egged it a little.''

Toms and Flesch also shot 47, and Broadhurst and Triplett had a 33 on the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course.

''We just paired well together,'' Toms said. ''I don't think either one of us played great. We picked each other up out there.''

Wind and rain is expected Sunday when the teams finish at Top of the Rock, again playing the front nine in alternate shot and the back nine in better ball.

''Make as many birdies as possible and see what happens,'' Singh said. ''That's all we can do.''

Singh and Franco are trying to become the first to successfully defend a title since Jim Colbert and Andy North in 2001. Singh won the Toshiba Classic in March for his first individual senior title.

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Flesch won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic last week in Georgia for his first senior victory.

Tom Lehman and Bernhard Langer had a 34 at Mountain Top to join Spanish stars Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal at 17 under. Jimenez and Olazabal had a 33 at Mountain Top.

''It's great for me to be able to play with him as a team member,'' Olazabal said. ''We do have great memories from the Ryder Cup and other events, and it's always a great pleasure to play with a great player and a friend.''

Langer took the final-round forecast in stride.

''We've done it hundreds of times before and we'll probably do it again,'' Langer said. ''We'll make the best of it. We both have a good attitude. We're known to play in all sorts of weather and I just look forward to playing one more day with my partner here.''

Wisconsin neighbors Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly were 16 under after a 48 at Top of the Rock.

John Daly and Michael Allen, the second-round leaders after a 46 at Top of the Rock, had a 37 at Mountain Top to drop into a tie for seventh at 15 under.

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Landry shares Valero lead, eyes first career win

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 11:15 pm

After coming up just short of a breakthrough win earlier this season, Andrew Landry has another chance to earn his maiden victory at the Valero Texas Open.

Landry came within inches of winning the CareerBuilder Challenge in January, ultimately losing to Jon Rahm in a four-hole playoff. He struggled to find form in the wake of his close call, missing the cut in each of his four starts following his runner-up finish in Palm Springs.

But Landry took some time off to welcome his first child, Brooks, last month and he made it to the weekend in his first start back last week at the RBC Heritage, where he finished T-42. He made a move up the standings Saturday at TPC San Antonio with a bogey-free 67, and at 13 under shares the lead with Zach Johnson heading into the final round.

"I just did everything really good," Landry told reporters. "I was staying patient and just trying to make a bunch of pars. This golf course can come up and bite you in a heartbeat, and I had a couple bad putts that I didn't really make. I'm happy with it, it's a good 5-under round. Gets me in the final group tomorrow and we'll see what happens."

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Landry started the day one shot off the pace and in the final group with Johnson and Ryan Moore, and at one point he took sole possession of the lead after birdies on three of his first six holes. Now he'll have another chance in the day's final tee time where he's grouped with Johnson and Trey Mullinax, who sits one shot back after firing a course-record 62 in the third round.

For Landry, it's another opportunity to break into the winner's circle, and it's one for which he feels prepared after coming so close three months ago.

"I mean, I don't want to go too deep into it because I don't want to sound cocky or anything, but I just believe in myself. There's no other explanation for it," Landry said. "You can totally get out here and play with Zach Johnson, Ryan Moore, two top players in the world, and you can go out there and fold under pressure or you can learn a lot.

"Zach's always been a role model to me the way he plays golf, I feel like we have very similar games, and it's just going to be fun tomorrow getting to play with him again."

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Z. Johnson, Landry share 54-hole Texas Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 10:56 pm

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson birdied the par-5 18th Saturday at the Valero Texas Open for a share of the third-round lead with Andrew Landry, a stroke ahead of record-setting Trey Mullinax.

Johnson shot a 4-under 68, holing a 10-footer on 18 to match Landry at 13-under 203 at TPC San Antonio's AT&T Oaks. Landry birdied the 16th and 17th in a 67.

Johnson won the event in 2008 and 2009, the last two times it was played at LaCantera. The 42-year-old Iowan is trying to win for the first time since the 2015 British Open.

''I've got 18 holes to get to that point,'' Johnson said. ''I've got to do exactly what I did on the back side and that was give myself opportunities on every hole. I'm putting great, I'm seeing the lines well, my caddie's reading the greens well, so it's just a matter of committing and executing down the stretch.''

The 30-year-old Landry is winless on the tour.

''I'm a good putter and I just need to give myself a lot of opportunities tomorrow like I did today,'' Landry said. ''I'll be looking forward to tomorrow.''

Mullinax had a course-record 62. He played the back nine in 7-under 29, going 6 under on the last five with eagles on the par-5 14th and 18th and birdies on 16 and 17. He also birdied Nos. 10 and 12 and bogeyed 11.

''It's probably one of the best rounds I've ever had,'' Mullinax said. ''To go out there and shoot 62 on a hard golf course is really good.''

Johnson played the front nine in even par with two birdies and two bogeys. He birdied Nos. 11, 14, 15 and 18 on the back nine.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

''Different wind today early on, misjudged some numbers, misjudged some wind, made some bad swings, all of the above,'' Johnson said. ''But truthfully, my short game was actually pretty good, my putting was great. I missed some putts, but I hit some really good ones, hit some lines and I gave myself opportunities especially on the back side.''

Landry had a bogey-free round.

''I just did everything really good,'' Landry said. ''I was staying patient and just trying to make a bunch of pars. This golf course can come up and bite you in a heartbeat.''

Ryan Moore was two strokes back at 11 under after a 70. Sean O'Hair had a 65 to join 2015 champion Jimmy Walker (67), Chris Kirk (68) and 2013 winner Martin Laird (69) at 9 under.

''I just feel like I'm getting closer and closer to playing better and better golf, more solid golf, putting rounds together,'' Walker said. ''I'm excited for the opportunity tomorrow.''

Mullinax has made 42 of 44 putts from inside 10 feet this week.

''They just kind of remind me of greens from home,'' Mullinax said. ''My caddie, David (Flynn), has been reading them really well. We trusted each other on our reads and I've been hitting good putts. Been working hard on putting on the weeks off that I've had so it's good to see some results.''

The 25-year-old former Alabama player chipped in for the eagle on 14 and the birdie on the par-3 16th.

''It was just a little bit down the hill,'' he said about the 16th. ''All you had to do was just land it just past that little light grass spot. My caddie told me just read it like a putt, so I tried to just read it like a putt and it went in.''

On 18, he hit a 3-iron from 255 yards to 15 feet to set up his eagle putt. He broke the course record of 63 set by Matt Every in 201 and matched by Laird in 2013. The tournament record is 60 at LaCantera, by Bart Bryant in 2004 and Johnson in 2009.