Palmer entertains with insight on past, present and future

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2013, 4:51 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – To put this in context, when Arnold Palmer won his first PGA Tour event in 1955, Vijay Singh – the oldest player in this week’s field at Bay Hill – wasn’t even born. It would be another eight years and 35 victories for Palmer before the Fijian would enter the world.

The point is, if that kind of living history isn’t enough to make you brave a morning monsoon in Central Florida to hear the King, then you can stop reading.

There are no topics that Palmer will not address and he does so with grace and a unique perspective that only comes with six decades of trial and error. On Wednesday at Bay Hill he didn’t disappoint.

From Tiger Woods’ continued quest to reach Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors to Rory McIlroy’s well-documented decision to skip the Arnold Palmer Invitational, when the man from Latrobe, Pa., talks all of golf listens.


Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, videos and photos

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“I give (Woods) a chance to do the record,” Palmer said. “I suppose that every year it's a little more fleeting, however, and he'll have to really work hard to keep himself up and keep his mental attitude if he's going to do it.”

As for McIlroy skipping his event, Palmer offered a subdued, “I was as surprised as a lot of people.”

When it came to the game’s hot-button issue, however, there was no ambiguity in Palmer’s response. The potential ban on anchoring and the idea that the game could be entering a new era with two sets of rules – one for amateurs and the U.S. and British Opens crafted by the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient, and another created by the PGA Tour – drew a pointed response.

“I don't think that golf has a place for two sets of rules,” Palmer said. “I think one of the reasons that the game has progressed in the way that it has over the years is the fact that the amateurs and the pros all play the same game and they play under the same set of rules. I feel like that is very, very important. … It may be the key to the future success of the game of golf.”

The bifurcation of the Rules of Golf gained momentum recently when the Tour announced its opposition to the proposed ban on anchoring, although commissioner Tim Finchem has stopped well short of calling for two sets of rules.

As for the proposed ban on anchoring, Palmer was equally passionate.

“We don't need a long putter,” he said. “That's not part of the game of golf. To attach it to your body in any way is taking a little bit away from the game. … We do not need a contraption to play the game of golf.”

If Palmer was … well, king for a day, high-octane golf balls would also be on the endangered species list along with long putters. “I would like to see them slow the ball down. I think that's probably the major thing that I would like to see happen,” he said.

But even under that pretense, Palmer said he would not be in favor of a “tournament ball” for certain events like the Masters or U.S. Open. On this, unification trumps the need to save classic courses from irrelevancy.

Yet it’s not just Palmer’s ability to put the game’s current issues into historical context so much as it is his capacity to bridge the generational gap that is so compelling. He connects us to the game’s past like few can or will with the ease of a historian and the authenticity of a participant, not a spectator.

In a moment that drives golf scribes to Bay Hill each year to hear the “State of the King,” Palmer was asked the loudest roar he had ever heard in his career. After a few moments of reflection, he described the scene in HD clarity.

“It was on the 16th hole at Augusta when (announcer) Jimmy Demaret was in back of the 16th green and they were talking about the shot that I had,” Palmer recalled. “Demaret was saying – I could hear it – ‘He's got an impossible shot here, and to get it up and down will be a small miracle.’

“I'm listening to him saying all of this and then I chipped it in, and that was a loud cheer.”

For the record that shot occurred at the 1962 Masters, nearly a year before Singh was born.

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Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.


Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship


Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

“I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

“We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”