Through Golf Channel, the King Arnold Palmer has published his 2013 State of the game:
STATE OF THE GAME: GOLF THROUGH ARNIE’S EYES By Arnold Palmer Published December 29, 2013
This is the season of nostalgia. As one year of memories gets packed away, another filled with opportunity beckons. Before we jump headlong into 2014, I’d like to take a few minutes and remember some of the good people we lost in 2014.
My formative experience with losing a loved one came in 1950. I was a senior at Wake Forest when my roommate, Bud Worsham, was killed in an automobile accident. Bud was my best friend; in fact, he was the reason I had attended Wake Forest in the first place. What made his loss even harder to handle was the fact that I might very well have been in that car that night had I not opted to skip a Homecoming dance and instead attend a movie.
I bring that up because there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of Bud Worsham. There’s not a facet of my life that hasn’t been improved for knowing him, albeit so briefly. I’ve lost many loved ones over the years: my father in 1976, my mother in 1979 and of course, my wife Winnie in 1999. But Bud’s death taught me the lesson—wrenching as it was—that death is a part of life, and that the memories are worth the pain. I celebrate that lesson in remembering these departed friends.
Miller Barber: If all you knew about Miller Barber was his golf swing, you’d say he had no shot. He had the ultimate chicken-wing right arm and held the club virtually perpendicular to the ground at the top of his backswing. But what people overlooked with Miller—as they do with most good players with unorthodox swings—was that he had a great release through the ball. And while he may not have been the most athletic looking player, Miller was very strong and very powerful.
He also enjoyed a pretty colorful nightlife, though one that was opaque to the rest of us. In those seemingly simpler days, groups of us would often get together and frequent the same bars or restaurants, but Miller never told us where he was going that night or where he’d been the night before. As a result, our PGA Tour colleague Jim Ferree dubbed Barber “The Mysterious Mr. X.” Over time the moniker was reduced simply to X. Up until the last time I saw him, I still called him X, not Miller. He had a great sense of humor and took to the nickname. But he also remained the man of mystery and a very close friend.
Bill Campbell: Bill was not only one of the great gentlemen of the game, he was one of the great gentlemen, period. Sandy Tatum, the high priest of American amateur golf, once said that “in the whole history of golf there have been just two ultimate quintessential golfers: Bill Campbell and Bobby Jones.”
Like Jones, even though he lived a full life off the course, Bill regularly competed against the best players in the world. Although he and I were never paired together in a major championship, we did compete in 1965 when Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and I took on three outstanding amateurs in Bill, Deane Beman and Dale Morey. I wasn’t playing my best, and as we were walking down the fairway I was trying to keep a positive outlook. I said to Bill, “My father always said to me, ‘He can who thinks he can.’ Bill, do you believe you can force yourself to do things?”
Bill said, “Well, Arnold, I can’t argue with that. You’re pretty strong evidence of it.”
Perhaps the story that best illustrates Bill’s exalted place in the game came from Jack Nicklaus. Years ago Jack had been debating the finer points of amateur status with Frank Hannigan, the former executive director of the USGA. Jack said to Frank, “Name one top amateur who doesn’t take anything from the manufacturers.’
“Bill Campbell,” replied Hannigan. Jack paused for a moment. “Okay. You can have Campbell,” he said. “Name another one.”
Frank Stranahan: Stranny, who passed away in June, is one of the most overlooked talents in the history of the game. This guy was sensational. He pretty much won everything there was to win as an amateur, including three North and Souths, three Western Ams, two Canadian Ams and two British Ams. The only important amateur trophy that eluded him was the U.S. Amateur, in which he finished runner-up in 1950.
Given that he came from a wealthy family (his father founded Champion spark plugs), many of us expected Frank to remain a lifelong amateur, but he turned pro and won six times on the PGA Tour before leaving competitive golf in the mid-1960s to focus on business. “Muss”, as we also called him because of his fastidious appearance, had the complete package: a terrific game, dazzling good looks and lots of money. People credit Gary Player with bringing fitness to the game of golf, but Stranny, who used to travel with barbells in his suitcase, was a devoted fitness buff and health nut. He ran dozens of marathons, and competed in bodybuilding and weightlifting well into his 70s.
One last note about Frank. I am often given credit for “salvaging” the British Open in the early 1960s. We can argue whether or not the game’s most historic championship really was in danger of sinking, but it is safe to say that after World War II, many American competitors simply found it easy and more profitable to compete here in the United States. Frank never quit on the Open. He continued to compete there on a regular basis, and finished second in 1947 and 1953. His devotion to the Open Championship is what inspired me to go over in 1960. I won the following year, and I’ve been credited ever since with “saving” the Open, but it was Frank who paved the way.
Pat Summerall: His Fox Sports colleague John Madden put it best when he said of the millions of sports fans who embraced Pat Summerall’s mellow brand of broadcasting, “They invited a gentleman into their homes.”
Whether it was football or golf, Pat became as much a part of the fabric of American sports as the leather on the arms of our easy chairs. I thought it was a beautiful gesture when Augusta National Golf Club offered him membership upon his retirement from television. Though out of the spotlight, the final years of Pat’s life, when he reacquainted himself with the most important thing in anyone’s life, family, were some of the happiest he ever enjoyed.
Ken Venturi: Ken became well known to casual golf fans when he joined the television booth in the late 1960s, but he was a force in the game as early as the late 1940s. A student of Byron Nelson and frequent playing partner of Ben Hogan, Ken was a formidable talent whose career was both sparked and unraveled by physical ailments. He first took up golf as a 13-year-old in response to his teacher’s diagnosis of Ken as a “an incurable stammerer.” He took up the loneliest sport he knew.
His ironman performance in winning the 1964 U.S. Open while battling severe dehydration remains the hallmark by which on-course toughness is measured. But ultimately it was another physical challenge, carpal tunnel syndrome, that forced his early retirement in the late 1960s and encouraged his transition to the broadcast booth.
Ken and I will likely forever be linked by a rules decision invoked while playing in the final round of the 1958 Masters. On the 12th hole, I hit a 6-iron off the tee and my ball plugged into its own pitch mark on the back fringe of the green. The ground was wet and soft, and a local rule providing relief from an embedded ball was in effect all week. I was leading by a shot, and just to be safe I called over the rules official, the late Arthur Lacey. I proposed that I could lift, clean and drop my ball without penalty to a spot as close as possible to the original position and no nearer the hole (a stance with which Ken agreed), but Lacey disagreed, saying I had to play the embedded ball. I knew I was right, but I wasn’t in much of a position to argue. Finally, I said, “I’m going to play two balls and appeal to the tournament committee.” I knew I had that option under Rule 3-3a.
Lacey objected, saying, “No sir, you cannot do that either.” I told him, “Well, that’s exactly what I’m doing.” I played the original ball as it lay for a 5 and then announced that I was about to play a second ball. I dropped to a clean lie and made par. Ken objected, saying that I was required to announce to him that I was going to play two balls before I played the original. The officials on site at the Masters reviewed the case, agreed with me, and I won my first Masters by a shot.
That incident affected our relationship. We both wrote about it in subsequent books, each of us insisting that we were right. I think the whole episode says more about the confusion built into the Rules of Golf than it does about me or Ken. I regret that the incident affected our relationship. Ken was a remarkable human being, and a warm and true friend to thousands of people in and out of the game.
Following the fantastic duffed putt video this week (see below), I HAD to come up with a new award to recognize the most entertaining golfer of the year.
Hands down the inaugural winner of the Hooked On Golf Blog Most Entertaining Golfer of the Year award is Jason Dufner. NOBODY can come close to the entertainment value Jason provided this season. Here are the three biggest highlights:
First we had “Dufnering.” This photo below of Dufner at a school became legendary, and everyone on the planet got in on Dufnering.
Go to Google and type in “Dufnering” and click images. There are 100’s if not 1000’s!
After winning his first major at the PGA Championship Dufner was greeted by his lovely wife. On national television in front of millions of viewers, Jason grabbed his wife’s ass.
Not like Dufner needed to do anything else to win MEGOTY after the grab-ass gig, but for good measure we had this video gem last week, courtesy of the PGA Tour:
Jason Duffs a putt. Amazing. PGA Tour players are human.
In fact, that’s one of the things we all love about Jason Dufner. He’s not a swing robot. He’s human, likable and not phony at all. We can relate.
Lost in all of these funny things are the fact that Jason Dufner is one hell of a golfer and has had a great run the last couple of years. The sky is the limit. Can’t wait to see what’s next.
I’d like to personally wish The King, Arnold Palmer, a great 84th birthday. While I grew up on the waning side of Arnie’s career, I still loved to watch him play. I seriously break into tears every time The King leads off the Masters with the ceremonial tee shot. Yeah, I’m soft.
Arnold Palmer after ceremonial tee shot at the Masters
I did follow around Arnie a few times on the course during some Champions Tour (then the Senior Tour) events and it was a blast. Perhaps the best group was the time I followed Arnie, Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino. Fantastic. Arnie and Jack didn’t get much of a word in over Lee. No surprise.
Nobody has done for golf what Arnie did. This blog probably would not exist and I’d probably be blogging about pool or something if not for the popularity The King brought to this great game in the 50’s.
Many people have “Arnie stories.” My lovely mother (RIP) had one. She was watching Arnie play during a tournament. After putting out, The King walked up to my mom and gave her a big wink, then went on to the next hole. She melted. I always loved hearing that story from her.
My dad had an Arnie story too. He was a sports writer here for many years and had the opportunity to interview The King for an hour. He asked Arnie, “if I practice as much as you do and hit as many range balls as you, can I beat you?” Arnie’s answer was, “no.” My dad asked Arnie how he could play so great under pressure. What makes him so good? His answer, “I WILL the ball into the hole.” My dad later told me that if he was Arnie’s golf ball, he’d be afraid not to go in the hole.
I hope to have my own similar Arnie story someday.
Thanks for everything Mr. Palmer. Have a great birthday.
There’s your attention-getter. Think of the four majors. The Masters is ALWAYS exciting. The U.S. Open is ALWAYS intense. The Open Championship (British Open) is ALWAYS interesting because of the style of golf and the history.
After the conclusion of the PGA Championship I was asking myself, “was this boring or what?” But I couldn’t figure out if that was because the course didn’t produce excitement, like Augusta National does or other “Open” venues do. Is Oak Hill boring? Was it the setup?
It dawned on me that perhaps it wasn’t the course that made the tournament, especially the final round, seem boring. It was the play. Hear me out before you block me from your social networks…
The final pairing was perhaps one of the best pure ball-striking pairings possible. Jim Furyk is a methodical dart thrower who is not long but is extremely accurate. Other than perhaps the 16th hole in last year’s U.S. Open I’m not sure Furyk has missed a fairway, or if he did, it would be only by a foot or two. Jason Dufner was deadly accurate. You could literally see his ball landing on, and finishing on or near the middle cutline of the fairway. You know, the place where the mowers split the fairway.
With both players in the final group so accurate, there were no wild shots and therefore no chances for brilliant recovery shots. No drama.
Maybe It Wasn’t Boring
Then again, I just started recalling all of the absolutely brilliant approach shots Jason Dufner hit. It seemed like he had some kind of wedge into every green. Dufner’s approaches were so dialed in, they almosted landed in the hole on numerous occasions. Most of them were intentionally flown past the pin where they’d spin back to easy birdie range. Those were really amazing shots under the pressure of a major.
The most excitement of the final round may have been when Dufner nearly missed a putt which was easily less than 12 inches. No wonder he takes his time over those.
Furyk’s Slow Play
Jim Furyk needs to take 5-Hour Energy just to get through his pre-putt routine.
Furyk’s routines are completely out of hand and impossible to watch without losing my sanity. Don’t get me wrong. I really like Furyk, but he’s the poster child for slow play. His pre-putt routine is awful. He reads the putt, gets over it, takes his putter back like he’s going to hit the putt, stops, backs up, does it again, walks the putt off, does it again, asks Fluff (caddie) for a read, rinse, repeat. 47 minutes later he hits the putt… OMG. I can’t wait to see the 24 handicapper with the tattoos and the wife beater shirt doing that at the muni course next weekend because he saw Furyk doing it.
Jim: Speed it up, please.
After Tiger Woods’s dominating victory at the Bridgestone, golf scribes and the regular clueless media awarded him the Wanamaker trophy before the tournament started. Good thing they decided to play the tournament to find out who the real winner would be.
Another year goes by where Tiger doesn’t win a major. With five victories on the season, one can only conclude that not winning the majors is now a mental issue. He may be getting in his own way, putting too much pressure on himself. Who knows.
Think about where Tiger has won (majors or regular tour events). He’s dominant on certain courses and other courses he avoids. Horses for courses. If he had his choice, he certainly wouldn’t choose to play Oak Hill. It isn’t exactly Firestone Country Club to him.
Honestly, I didn’t expect Phil to contend this week (thus I didn’t pick him on my fantasy team). This has been one of Phil’s best years and I thought he’d have a bit of a Scottish hangover after winning the Scottish Open and the Open Championship, aye?
I was happy to see Rory McIlory getting his game back. I really feel professional golf needs him and I certainly want to see him at his best. When he’s bad he’s bad, but when he’s good nobody can beat him. I dare say not even Tiger.
Many players were in the running this week. Jason Day seems to have a knack for great play in majors. Henrik Stenson could be the best player in the world right now, without a win on the season. He finished 3rd this week at the PGA, 2nd at the Open and 2nd last week at the Bridgestone.
In the flying under the radar and flying without ever having been seen on the TV broadcast category, David Toms’s final round 67 jumped him up to a very respectable solo 7th. Did anybody see him during Sunday’s broadcast? I didn’t.
Ian Poulter, Howard Stern
I’ve never met Ian Poulter. For a long time I figured he was probably an arrogant chap who I didn’t care to meet. But the more I see his personal tweets, the more I respect the guy. He at least has the golf balls to call out these idiots who are yelling after golf shots, “get in the hole,” and “mashed potatoes,” etc. These people need to shut up. I wish the PGA of America had the kahunas to kick those people out.
Poulter’s comments on the subject even got a rise out of Howard Stern, who corrected Poulter for the spelling lf Babba Booey. Poulter then came back with an entertaining slam of stern citing that he has more twitter followers (1.5 million) than Stern (1.4 million). That was entertaining.
So cheers to Ian. I just might be the newest Poulter fan club member. He’s not a PR machine robot like some other players, if you know what I mean.
Bye Bye 2013
The majors are over for 2013. I’m already dying for the 2014 Masters, but then again I was dying for that one millisecond after Adam Scott made the winning putt in the playoff against the studly Angel Cabrera a few months ago.
For the rest of the season all we golf fans will be hearing about is the FedEx Cup. That’s all fine but I don’t think many casual golf fans either care about it or even understand it still.