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February 18, 2007
Palmer's Past Repeats Itself
Arnie's Career Similar to Tiger's
By: Larry Bohannan
The Desert Sun
LA QUINTA - Every golf tournament wants him in its field. Every sponsor wants him in their tournament or their commercials. Every television broadcast hopes to focus its cameras on him.
That might sound like the career of Tiger Woods, the brightest - and some say the only - star in golf today. But it happened 15 years before Woods was born, and the player in demand was Arnold Palmer.
Palmer, golf's biggest and most successful star at the dawn of the television age in the late 1950s, may be the only golfer who can grasp the kind of external pressure Woods is receiving from fans and media these days. They want Woods to play more PGA Tour events, revive lagging television ratings and generally push the sport to greater heights. It was no different in Palmer's heyday.
"Was there pressure? Sure, there is a lot of pressure. Jack (Nicklaus) had the same thing. Everybody does," Palmer said sitting in his La Quinta home inside Tradition Golf Club, site of one of his eight desert course designs. "And of course a lot of us were very conscious of that. But you have to live your life. You can't stop and go play everywhere. You would ruin your existence."
Palmer, 77 and now retired from competing in official PGA Tour or Champions Tour events, fueled the boom in golf's popularity in the 1960s. His dramatic comebacks - he rallied from seven shots back in the final round to win the 1960 U.S. Open - his go-for-broke style and his blue-collar work ethic brought new fans and excitement to a sport that was too often perceived as staid or elitist before his arrival.
Like Woods today, there was often a sense in the early 1960s that if Palmer wasn't in a tour field, the event didn't matter as much. Now 47 years after his seminal 1960 season of eight wins including the Open and the Masters, Palmer might be forgiven for looking at the modern PGA Tour pro with a "We did things different in my day" attitude. Instead, Palmer said he sometimes wishes he had been able to force himself to cut back on his tournament appearances and play a schedule more like Woods.
"Maybe I should have (taken weeks off) a little more. It might have enhanced my position on the tour a little bit," said Palmer, who averaged 29 tournament starts a year from 1955 to 1961. "You know, it's difficult. I was so grateful for the fact that I was there and could do what I was doing. I wanted to do everything I could do to enhance it and make it better for everyone else."
By contrast, Woods has averaged 19 PGA Tour starts in his first 10 seasons on tour and has never played more than 21 events in a year. Woods played 15 in 2007, the minimum required for full tour membership, though he took 10 weeks off because of his father's death. Still, Woods has 55 career victories, fifth on the tour's all-time wins list. Palmer is fourth with 62 wins.
Palmer said he felt similar pressure but in less-public ways.
"The commissioner would call you sometimes. I've had occasions when that happened. But not to the point where they called and said 'You've got to play.'" Palmer recalled. "Deane Beman might call and say, 'Arnie, it would really help us if you would consider playing in an event.'"
Palmer said he received similar calls from Joe Dye, the commissioner before Beman. Woods has certainly had similar conversations with people behind the scenes, Palmer said, but Palmer doesn't criticize Woods or any player for playing fewer than half of the tour's available events.
"I played a lot, as you know. And I tried to accommodate. But there was a time when I played so much just trying to accommodate, I wore myself out," Palmer said. "And I got sick, mentally and physically. That doesn't mean that I was literally sick, but I felt awful and my game was not good."
Palmer recalled arriving in Fort Worth, Texas, for the Colonial tournament one May after having played a heavy schedule of tournaments early in the season.
"I was exhausted. I got sick. And that was a case where I wanted to be excused from the tournament," Palmer said. "I was on site and sick, but they kept me and they wouldn't let me go. And I understood."
Some things have changed significantly over 40 years of golf - primarily money. When Palmer won eight tournaments in 21 starts in 1962, he earned a record $128,230 for the season. The winner of today's Nissan Open will earn $936,000 for the week.
"You can't help but look at the money. They have got it. I mean, if you finish second or third in a tournament, you are set for the year, financially," Palmer said. "So that definitely has to have an effect."
Palmer said many players in his era played week to week just to make ends meet. A missed cut and no paycheck for a week could be a disaster for a struggling player.
"I won $75,000 in 1960. Well that was the top. Down the list not very far, you find out you were winning $20,000 or $25,000, even for a medium-type player," Palmer said. "You could barely make it on the tour. Your expenses were getting close to what you were winning. That made a lot of guys play a lot more than they otherwise might have played."
There were differences in the two players' careers. Palmer didn't turn pro until he was 25, while Woods was a pro at 19. And while Woods is generally considered unchallenged for the top spot in the game, Palmer's career spanned the winning eras of Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Billy Capser and Palmer's greatest rival, Jack Nicklaus.
For the demands to ease on Woods, and for tournaments to feel comfortable without Woods in the field, Palmer says the competition needs to step up.
"Golf needs someone to challenge Tiger. He is so good and he is, right now, just my opinion, out there by himself," Palmer said. "It's kind of like how (Byron) Nelson was in his day. I think Tiger will continue to play and play a very dominant game."
On the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, which Palmer won five times: “It was a week off for me, just to be playing there. And the people like Ernie (Dunlevie) and the people that were running the tournament were all buddies. It was a week I wouldn’t miss for anything. Today, it would be the same situation for me. Tiger hasn’t had the experience. Had he, he might feel differently.”
On Woods’ dominance of the tour: “You can’t help but admire everything he does. It’s like at the British Open last year. He looked up at the leader board, saw he was three shots back and made three birdies in a row. That’s the kind of guy he is. He’s tough.”
On playing internationally, something he did often early in his career: “I had a couple of goals in my life about playing. One was to win as many countries’ championships as I could. When I started, I won the Panama Open, I won the Colombian Open, the U.S. Open, the British Open, the Canadian Open. One of my goals was to win as many national opens in the world as I could. And I tried for a while. But then I got curtailed, because of the travel and all the things, I just couldn’t do.”
On playing nearly every PGA Tour event at one time or another: “I skipped a lot of tournaments, but I played them all at one time or another. I kind of had a thing about that. Like the PGA. I never won the PGA, but I wanted to. The same thing applied to the (regular) tournaments. Palm Springs, L.A., Phoenix, Tucson, I wanted to win at least one time in every city in America. That was something I pursued. I did reasonable.”
On his best wins: “There is one thing that I always liked, and that was when there was a full field when I won. I wanted everybody there. And I think Tiger feels the same way. I think he likes the full field, he likes the competition and he doesn’t want a soft field. And I felt that way.”
Posted by scurry at 05:17 PM
February 12, 2007
API Will Again Feature the Best Golfers in the World
The 2007 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard is again expected to have one of the strongest fields of the year in world golf, potentially with as many as 13 of the current top-15 players on the Official World Golf Ranking.
The most recent player addition is Sweden's Henrik Stenson, who committed on Monday following his victory in the Dubai Desert Classic over a strong field that included world No. 1 Tiger Woods. Stenson, who scored the decisive point in Europe's 2006 Ryder Cup victory over the United States, is now ranked No. 10 in the world.
This will be Stenson's first appearance in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, previously known as the Bay Hill Invitational. The PGA Tour event is scheduled for the week of March 12-18 at Palmer's Bay Hill Club in Orlando, Florida.
Early commitments have also been received from Jim Furyk and Ernie Els, who are ranked respectively No. 2 and No. 4 in the world. Of the current top-15 players in the world, all but two have played at Bay Hill regularly or in recent years, including Woods, the champion for four consecutive years, 2000 through 2003.
Defending champion Rod Pampling, ranked No. 33 in the world, is among 15 players who have entered from the current top 50 players in the world. There have been 54 commitments as of today, and there will be a minimum of 120 players in the field. Greg Owen, the runner-up to Pampling last year, is included in that number.
Others are Nick O'Hern (No. 16 in the world), Davis Love III (No. 17), Jose Maria Olazabal (No. 22), K. J. Choi (No. 23), Michael Campbell (No. 29), Angel Cabrera (No. 31), Tim Clark (No. 32), Justin Rose (No. 36), Brett Wetterich (No. 41), Carl Pettersson (No. 43) and Charles Howell III (No. 47).
Fred Funk will be coming back from the Champions Tour after his top-10 finish last year. Other commitments include former Masters champion Mike Weir, former PGA winner Shaun Micheel, and these PGA Tour event winners of the past year: Eric Axley, Chris Couch, Charley Hoffman, Will MacKenzie, Troy Matteson, Cory Pavin, John Rollins, John Senden, D.J. Trahan, and Dean Wilson.
Joining Stenson and Olazabal so far from the European team in the 2006 Ryder Cup are Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood, while from the American team, commitments have been received from Wetterich, Vaughn Taylor, Zach Johnson, and Scott Verplank.
The Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard traditionally has one of the strongest fields of the year and usually is behind only the four major championships, the World Golf Championship events, and The Players Championship. Last year's Bay Hill field included nine of the top 15 players in the world and 30 of the top 50.
Tickets for the 2007 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard or for more information, log on to the tournament web site, www.arnoldpalmerinvitational.com or call the Bay Hill ticket office at 407-876-7774 or toll free at 866-764-4843. Tournament proceeds benefit the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies.
Posted by scurry at 04:44 PM
February 02, 2007
And the winner is . . .
. . . Colts, 31-24. That's Arnold Palmer's prediction. "I take the Colts for two reasons: Peyton Manning at quarterback and the Colts are a faster team," he says.
For those disposed to placing a small wager, Palmer looks for a 7-point spread which matches the line predicted by USA Today expert oddsmaker Danny Sheridan. Sheridan's over/under of 48 1/2 means Palmer thinks the smart money will bet "over."
Why listen to a golfer when making a Super Bowl wager? Palmer is the 2003 Super Sage Award winner given annually by Scripps Howard news service to the celebrity that comes the closest to accurately predicting the winning score. Palmer won the year Tampa Bay beat Oakland, 48-21, to win Super Bowl XXXVII.
Past Super Sage Award recipients include Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir, actor Dennis Farina ("Law and Order") and Palmer's long-time congressman, U.S. Rep. John Murtha (D-Johnstown). Youth actor Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense) has the longest winning streak in the celebrity poll's 17-year history, having accurately predicted the winner seven consectutive times.
Posted by crodell at 02:27 PM