Palmer, the King of golf, dies at age 87

By Randall MellSeptember 26, 2016, 1:00 am

Whatever cosmic substance was woven into Arnold Palmer’s DNA, we may never see the likes of it again.

While Sam Snead, Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan won more PGA Tour events, Palmer won more intangible treasures.

Really, how do you measure all the hearts Palmer lured to the game?

If somebody up in the cosmos is keeping a record of that, Palmer’s mark may never be broken.

Alastair Johnston, CEO of Arnold Palmer Enterprises, confirmed to Golf Channel that Palmer died Sunday afternoon due to complications of heart problems. While Palmer might not be remembered as the single greatest player who ever lived, he died Sept. 25 at age 87 as the most beloved. 

That’s his real legacy. That’s what earned him his nickname “the King.” That’s why there is such deep grieving today.

Born Arnold Daniel Palmer on Sept. 10, 1929, in Latrobe, Pa., he would go on to win 62 PGA Tour titles and amass a total of 95 professional wins. He won seven majors: four Masters, two British Opens and one U.S. Open. He won at least one PGA Tour event over 17 consecutive years (1955-1971). Nobody has won in more consecutive years, with only Nicklaus equaling the mark (1962-78). Palmer played on six American Ryder Cup teams (all winners), serving twice as captain, and he remains today the last playing captain (1963). Four times, he won the Vardon Trophy as the PGA Tour pro with the lowest scoring average.

Palmer’s amateur record was also formidable. He was the first player from Wake Forest to win the NCAA individual championship. He won it in 1949 and again in ’50, but he left college as a senior, deeply affected when his teammate and best friend, Bud Worsham, was killed in a car accident. “Wake without Bud was unthinkable,” Palmer wrote in his autobiography, “A Golfer’s Life.” After three years in the Coast Guard, Palmer returned to Wake Forest, winning the U.S. Amateur in ’54 before turning pro.

The marks Palmer left on the game as a World Golf Hall of Famer go beyond his playing record.

Palmer helped build the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies in Orlando. He founded Arnie’s Army Battles Prostate Cancer and contributed to countless charitable endeavors. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2012. His architectural company has built more than 300 golf courses around the world. He helped found Golf Channel, and he even has a drink named after him, a mix of iced tea and lemonade.

Into his 80s, Palmer’s appeal didn’t wane. He was on the cover of the video game “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14,” alongside Woods. He was photographed planting a kiss on the cheek of Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Kate Upton during the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2013.

“I’ve always wanted to meet Arnold, he’s a legend,” Upton was quoted saying.

In 2012, Palmer, at 82, ranked third on Golf Digest’s annual list of highest paid golfers, ranking behind only Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

What set Palmer apart?

“In a word, it’s charisma,” the late CBS television director Frank Chirkinian once said.

It wasn’t just Palmer’s triumphs that got him on a box of Wheaties and on the cover of Sports Illustrated 11 times. It was the dynamic way Palmer carried himself. It was the derring-do nature of his bold charges and how they came to define his career. It was also how he was able to make his legion of followers believe they were making the charge with him, that they were invited guests, welcomed along in his adventures.

“The manner in which Arnold won, the way he attacked and made birdies, it was very spectacular,” Dow Finsterwald, the ’58 PGA champion and a close friend to Palmer, once said.

Palmer was a superstar, but he became so with a grassroots appeal in the way he related to his fans. He was one of them, a blue-collar boy who used to work on a tractor with his superintendent/club pro father at Latrobe Country Club in Pennsylvania.

“The high-handicap player, he doesn't have much course management,” said Bob Toski, a Hall of Fame teacher who was PGA Tour’s leading money winner in 1954. “He always goes for broke. So did Arnie. The difference was that Arnie would knock it in the trees and make a 3. I think golf, with TV coming into the game, was really ready for a player who attacked like that. Arnie was a star, and he had a way of making people feel a part of it all.”

Palmer won the U.S. Open in 1960, coming from seven shots back in the final round at Cherry Hills. He won after boldly driving the first green, a par 4, and making a birdie. That same year, he birdied the final two holes to beat Ken Venturi at the Masters.

The derring-do also led to some spectacular collapses. Palmer lost a seven-shot lead to Billy Casper over the final nine holes in the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in 1966.

Palmer’s dynamic personality was a perfect fit with television discovering the sport.

Leaning on a golf club, a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, Palmer was James Dean in golf spikes back then. He had that rebel spirit over the ball, a go-for-broke style that made viewers lean into their TV sets.

Chirkinian was there directing CBS productions when Palmer took command of the new technological stage in sports.

“Arnold was great theater,” Chirkinian said more than once. “The camera, it loves you or hates you, there is no in between. The camera loves Arnold Palmer.”

Of course, Palmer’s career would become dramatically bound to the emergence of Nicklaus, who as a rookie infuriated Arnie’s Army, beating Palmer at the 1962 U.S. Open at Oakmont. Nicklaus won in a playoff in what was virtually Palmer’s backyard, igniting a rivalry that would shape a complex relationship.

“We didn’t always see eye to eye on everything,” Nicklaus once said. “But one thing I’ll always be proud of: In important matters, when it came to the Tour and the game of golf, we always stood together.”

Five times, they finished 1-2 in major championships, with Nicklaus taking the ’62 U.S. Open, the ’65 Masters and the ’67 U.S. Open and Palmer the ’60 U.S. Open and ’64 Masters.

They loved beating each other.

“I always looked to see what he shot,” Palmer said.

Even outside the ropes, as business and golf course architectural rivals, they competed hard. Through it all, there was mutual respect that evolved into friendship.

“It was a great rivalry, and the rivalry didn’t take away from the friendship,” Palmer said late in 2013.

The nature of the relationship came through when Palmer’s first wife, Winnie, died in November of ’99. Nicklaus and his wife, Barbara, left PGA Tour Q-School at Doral, where they were watching their son, Gary. They flew to Latrobe to attend Winnie’s funeral. There, Palmer invited Nicklaus to watch Gary win his PGA Tour card on television. They reportedly fell into each other’s arms in joy and sadness. 

Nicklaus appreciated what Palmer meant to the game.

“There's no question about his record and ability, but think of how much he brought to the game,” Nicklaus once said. “The hitch of his pants. The fans. He paralleled the growth of television golf. He was just the right man at just the right time.”

Palmer had the magical quality of making his fans believe he loved them as much as they loved him.

That’s no small feat in a world where celebrities can grow to despise the insatiable appetites of their followers.

“Hell, I know them all by name,” Palmer once joked. “They call me at home. There’s a lot of truth in that.”

After winning his first Masters in 1958, Palmer returned to Augusta National the following year to see a soldier from nearby Fort Gordon manning a scoreboard with a sign that read: “Arnie’s Army.” The Masters began capping ticket sales with the growing invasion of Palmer fans.

Palmer’s popularity would prove good for the domestic and international game.

Back in 1960, after winning the Masters and U.S. Open, Palmer decided to fly to the Old Course at St. Andrews and play The Open at a time when most Americans skipped the championship. Palmer’s agent, Mark McCormack, believed the trip was important in making Palmer a global star.

Over drinks on the flight over, Palmer and his friend, writer Bob Drum, got to talking about Bobby Jones’ Grand Slam sweep of the majors.

“Why don’t we create a new Grand Slam?” Palmer recounted in his book “A Golfer’s Life.”

Palmer didn’t win that British Open. He lost by a single shot to Kel Nagle, but he reinvigorated the championship anyway.

“I never like to say any one man is bigger than the sport, but Arnold Palmer is a man for whom our sport owes a great debt,” Player once said. “He has been a wonderful ambassador to the game. He behaved well. He was passionate with people.”

Palmer enjoyed mingling with his fans. He touched so many of them with a simple autograph, something he never seemed to tire doing. Nobody signed more.

How many lives did he touch with all his handwritten notes?

Palmer mailed out thousands of notes of congratulations and encouragement in his lifetime.

Kyle Hitchcock, a high school sophomore back in 2001, knows the Palmer touch. He was dejected making news in South Florida after turning himself in for signing an incorrect scorecard that cost his team a berth in the state championship. Hitchcock got one of Palmer’s personal notes.

“I admire you for the courage and honesty you showed,” Palmer wrote Hitchcock. “You had to make a difficult decision with obviously damaging consequences, yet you made the right choice and you were able to walk away from the event with your head held high.”

A year later, Hitchcock won the state championship.

Palmer’s notes have become treasures to the people who have received them over the years.

The values that governed Palmer came from his parents and Pennsylvania roots, he always said. His father, Milfred, was known as “Deacon.” His mother was Doris.

“My father prided himself on simple, clear logic, a way of looking at life that I eventually accepted as `Deacon’s Gospel.’ Not surprisingly, he had the same simple reverence for the rules of the game,” Palmer wrote in “A Golfer’s Life.”

Palmer, like his father, had large, strong hands. Deacon, the superintendent and club pro at Latrobe, famously taught Arnold how to hold a golf club, with the Vardon grip, when Arnold was a young boy.

“His initial thoughts on the golf swing weren’t complicated,” Palmer wrote in his autobiography. “`Hit it hard, boy,’ he said simply. `Go find it, and hit it hard again.’”

Palmer did learn to hit it hard. His blacksmith’s lash and corkscrew finish made his swing among the game’s most distinct.

After unleashing that dynamic swing to win the U.S. Amateur in ’54, Palmer’s life changed, on and off the course. Shortly after winning that event, he met Winifred Walzer during a party at a golf tournament in Pennsylvania. In a whirlwind romance, he proposed to “Winnie” the same week he met her. Two months later, they eloped. McCormack described Winnie as a devoted wife, secretary and business partner to Palmer. During Palmer’s rookie year, the couple traveled together with a trailer behind their coral pink Ford.

Palmer bought Latrobe, the club his father worked at, in 1971. Five years later, he purchased Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, home to the PGA Tour’s Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Palmer’s life wasn’t without heartache. He survived a prostate cancer diagnosis in 1996. He lost Winnie to abdominal cancer three years later. They have two daughters, Peggy Palmer Wears and Amy Palmer Saunders, and six grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

In 2005, Palmer married Kathleen “Kit” Gawthrop in a private ceremony in Hawaii. “I feel like a 25-year-old again,” Palmer said after the marriage. “She’s a great lady. She’s just very special.”

Asked once about why he connected so well with people, Palmer said: “You just treat people the way you want to be treated. That’s about as simple as I can put it.”

The attitude helped him win so many more hearts than he did trophies.

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M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

Marina Alex was second after a 68.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.

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Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

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Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.

Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.

When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:

It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.

Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.

Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.

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Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''

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

Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.