50 Years Arnold Palmer

By Mercer BaggsApril 3, 2008, 4:00 pm
Editor's note: This is the second in a two-part feature on Arnold Palmer's victory in the 1958 Masters Tournament. Tune into 'Live From The Masters' Sunday, April 13 for Rich Lerner's interview with Palmer. Click for Part 1.
In 1958, Arnold Palmer was on the cusp of stardom. The kind that transcends the sport in which the athlete participates. He was an established winner, with eight PGA TOUR titles to his credit in just over three seasons. He offered the attraction of Marlon Brando and the adventure of Douglas Fairbanks.
All he needed was that signature victory. The kind that only comes from winning a major championship.
On April 6, 1958, Palmer had that opportunity. He shared the lead with Sam Snead entering the final round of a rain-plagued Masters Tournament.
At the beginning of that Easter Sunday, holes 11, 12 and 13 at Augusta National Golf Club were just White Dogwood, Golden Bell and Azalea. By the end of the day they were exalted as “Amen Corner.”
Legendary author Herbert Warren Wind was looking for an appropriate way to describe where the tournament’s most critical action took place. And as every great originator does, he stole a little of the past to create something that would stand throughout the future.
Wind borrowed the name from the jazz recording “Shouting at Amen Corner.” Milton Mezzrow produced that version. Arnold Palmer conducted the ’58 reprisal.
After making the turn in even-par 36, Palmer dropped a shot at the par-4 10th. On the par-3 12th, he opted for a 4-iron from 155 yards. Too much. The ball flew the green and embedded between the rear bunker and the putting surface.
“The golf course was very, very wet and that day we were playing wet weather rules,” Palmer says. “I saw an official there and I said, ‘I’m gonna lift, clean and place this ball,’ and he said, ‘Oh no you’re not.’ He says, ‘You can’t do that.’ Well, of course, I knew better and so I begged to differ with the official.
“I said, ‘I’ll play two balls,’ and I did. I made five with one and I made three with the other.”
Palmer first played his original ball on his way to making double bogey. He then dropped from the embedded area and pitched up nicely for a gimme par.
It wasn’t until the 15th hole that Palmer was officially told that he was entitled to a free drop and that he would be credited with a par at 12.
That didn’t sit too well with his playing companion that day, Ken Venturi. Venturi, who had blown the 1956 Masters by shooting 80 in the final round to lose by one, challenged the decision, as well as Palmer’s integrity. In his 2004 book, “Getting Up And Down: My 60 Years In Golf,” Venturi said Palmer knowingly took an illegal drop.
Trailing Palmer by just one, Venturi initially believed that his chief opponent was entitled to a free drop. But after Arthur Lacey, a former president of the British PGA, denied Palmer relief, Venturi felt Palmer didn’t adhere to the rules.
His senior complaint was that he believed Palmer did not declare that he was going to play a second ball until after making double bogey with the first. Palmer says that’s not true, that he informed Lacey – whether Venturi heard him or not – of his decision to play a provisional.
Venturi also believed that Palmer should have been playing both balls simultaneously so as not to gain a competitive advantage, by getting a feel for green conditions playing one and then the other.
USGA rules at the time – under which the tournament was being contested – stated that even if a player did not announce his intentions ahead of time, the score he made with the second ball would count – which in Palmer’s case was the par.
Venturi’s argument, which he made in his book, was: “What if he had chipped in for birdie (with the first ball)? He wouldn’t play a second ball, would he?”
Says Palmer now about the accusations, “Well that bothered me a little, yeah. But we’ve talked a lot about that and that’s a dead issue.”
Venturi went on to lose this Masters by, not so coincidentally, two strokes. It wasn’t, however, those pair of strokes stricken from Palmer’s record at the 12th that the champion recalls as paving his path to victory. It’s the two he earned against par at the 13th.
With Masters Chairman Clifford Roberts and tournament founder Bobby Jones looking on, Palmer striped a tee shot down the par-5 fairway. Then, with the ball above his feet, and Rae’s creek about 220 yards in front of him, he laced a Wilson 3-wood.
“I was pretty sure I hit a good shot,” he says, “and I knew it was going to be OK. I didn’t know if was going to be as good as it was.”
Palmer’s ball finished 18 feet from the hole.
“I made the putt for eagle,” Palmer says, “and later, when the tournament was over (Jones) remarked to me – and he was very complimentary – he said, ‘Those were three of the best shots I’ve ever seen. …He said, ‘Arnie, if I ever have a 10-footer for my life I want you to putt it for me.’ Well, I swelled up over that.”
After making the impressionable putt, Palmer flung his cap in the air as if he had won the tournament – and didn’t still have five holes left to play.
Whether nerves or a loss of concentration, Palmer bogeyed Nos. 16 and 18. And then he waited.
(Back in those days players weren’t grouped in accordance to score, which is why Palmer didn’t play alongside Snead on Sunday.)
Two players had a chance to force a playoff with Palmer. Fred Hawkins missed a 12-foot birdie putt on the final hole to do so. Doug Ford did likewise from 10 feet.
“I sure was elated. It never was a sure thing,” Palmer, who earned $11,250 for that victory, says today. “And to win the Masters … there are things I will never forget about that.”
In addition to the birth of Amen Corner, two other things came to life at the 1958 Masters: 1) Arnie’s Army. 2) Arnie’s celebrity.
It was 50 years ago that Arnie’s Army was first publicly commissioned by a group of military personnel who came to the tournament from a nearby Army base, Camp Gordon – back when you could get tickets at the gates.
It was also when Palmer became the object of TV’s affection.
The Masters was being showcased on television for just the third time in 1958, with a broadcast of only holes 15-18. And even though all of the drama had transpired on that reverential trio of holes, and Palmer dropped shots at 16 and 18, he was still the beauty of the camera lens’ eye.
Dashing and daring, the blooming superstar was the perfect match for the thriving medium.
“Well, I don’t think there’s anybody perfect for anything, but it was a great opportunity for me,” Palmer says. “And, of course, to win Augusta and then a couple years later win the (U.S.) Open right after winning Augusta again, it was exciting. I was living in it and I was loving it.”
Palmer was a leading man in more ways than one. His triumph signaled a new era in golf, one in which the legendary likes of Hogan and Snead would never again win a major championship.
Palmer, on the other hand, would win six more, including three more green jackets over the next six years.
To this day Palmer can’t emphasize one major victory more than another. But there’s nothing quite like the first.
After that maiden major, Palmer got to play a round at Augusta with the President of the United States, famed general and golf aficionado Dwight D. Eisenhower.
“The President, he was there, and he invited me to play golf with him the next morning, Monday morning, which was a great thrill,” Palmer recalls. “I had planned on going home and that changed my mind. I stayed and played golf with him and that was one of the great thrills of my life.
“That’s something I’ll never forget.”
As time progresses our bodies begin to regress. Our faces become less taut. Our stride less quick. Our speech less loquacious. But, if we’re fortunate, our memory remains, even if confusion occasionally casts a cloud.
On a fine day in March, 2008, Arnold Palmer vividly recalls the incidences of the first week in April, 1958. How he won his first major championship and how it forever changed his life.
Can you believe it’s been 50 years, he is asked?
Palmer laughs and looks down. He then looks up, pauses, and says, “Well, it’s a long time. Some mornings when I get up I can believe it’s (been) 50 years. But there are other days when I get up … and then I feel pretty good.”
“Today,” he says, “I feel pretty good.”
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Related Links:
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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.”