Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Golf

A memorable week awaits the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando without The King

RECOMMENDED READING


ORLANDO — A bottle of Musk Monsieur — the cologne that announced Arnold Palmer was near — is still on his desk at Bay Hill.

Next to it, a plastic cup holds pens Palmer used to sign autographs, too many to count. Even when his health kept him from hitting a ceremonial tee shot at the Masters, he would spend as many as three hours a day carefully putting golf's most famous (and legible) signature on whatever his army of fans sent him.

For the most part, everything is just as Palmer left it when he packed up from Bay Hill Club & Lodge last spring and headed home for the summer in Latrobe, Pa. Only this time, he didn't return.

This year's Arnold Palmer Invitational, the first since the beloved tournament host died in September at age 87, is sure to bring strong emotions for some, stories for all and reminders of the King at just about every turn.

"You always heard his laugh coming out of this office. You always smelled his cologne coming up these stairs," said Cori Britt, the vice president of Arnold Palmer Enterprises who handled so many of his corporate relationships. "Little things like that you miss on a day-to-day basis."

This will be Orlando's chance to say goodbye — the public and private funeral services in September were in Latrobe — though the buzz word for Bay Hill is "celebration."

The PGA Tour tournament commissioned a 13-foot bronze statue of Palmer — similar to the one at his alma mater, Wake Forest — which was to be unveiled for the tournament volunteers Saturday. It is positioned behind the first tee at Bay Hill.

Two stacks of plastic crates filled with trophies, medals and other items that had been in his Latrobe office will be placed around Bay Hill for spectators to see and remember.

An opening ceremony will be held Wednesday on the practice range for players to hit a ceremonial shot and sign the golf ball. And in perhaps the most touching reminder of his presence, Palmer's cart will be stationed behind the 16th tee — his favorite viewing spot — with two bags of clubs on the back, just like always.

"It's a reminder that he's still with us," tournament director Marci Baker said. "The players will be able to see that he's still there."

Still to be determined is how to handle the finish. For so many years, Palmer would head out to the 18th green to watch the conclusion, and a handshake from the King was as valuable as the prize money or the silver sword that goes to the winner.

Among the options are for the defending champion, the Palmer family or even this year's tournaments hosts to do the honor. Current and former pros Curtis Strange, Peter Jacobsen, Graeme McDowell and Annika Sorenstam, and former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge have been asked to serve as hosts.

"We'll be taking some of the Arnie's responsibilities for the week and representing him, which is impossible to do," said McDowell, who lives in the Orlando area. "How are you supposed to do that? It's impossible to fill those shoes. It's a massive void."

Tiger Woods, an eight-time winner of the tournament, will not play this year because he says his back needs more rest and treatment.

Some players, such as Robert Damron, have gone on Twitter to single out players who have not signed up for the Arnold Palmer Invitational this year, though early commitments have come from 14 of the top 25 in the world, including four of the top six.

Tournament organizers are more interested in who's playing rather than who won't come. They're more interested in the future.

"You play this year and then never play again? I have as much an issue with that," pro Paul Casey said. "I want to see a legacy."

Palmer once joked in 2013 that he would break Rory McIlroy's arm if he didn't play. McIlroy showed up two years later and was treated to a meal, and has been back ever since. It was particularly important to him last year because of Palmer's health.

"I played the last couple of years because I knew it might be the last time he would be there," McIlroy said. "Obviously, he's passed and you want it to be a great tournament, a great memory. But look, there's going to be guys who miss it for personal reasons and scheduling reasons, and that's understandable. … I just hope they're not vilified."

Bay Hill always will be linked to Palmer. It was in 1965, the year that Walt Disney announced he was buying 27,000 acres to build a theme park near Orlando, that Palmer played an exhibition at Bay Hill. He loved the club so much that he set out to buy it. Palmer took full ownership in 1975, and his tournament moved there in 1979.

The Bay Hill logo is a colorful umbrella, and it will be stitched into golf bags and even on some players' shirts. Among those playing is Sam Saunders, Palmer's grandson, who spoke so eloquently at his funeral two days after the Ryder Cup.

"It's going to be a very emotional week, but I think it should be a celebration," Saunders said. "There's still moments of sadness, and we obviously miss him. People come up and say, 'I'm sorry for your loss.' The truth is, we all lost somebody that meant a great deal to us and did a lot for all of us. It's not just me."

Everyone has a story.

Just about everyone has a letter from Palmer, who routinely wrote to players after a victory, no matter what tour he or she was on.

When he died, there was still a pile of items to sign. Palmer's staff returned the items with regrets, but the work is not done. Britt said some who had an item returned will get something in the mail signed by players at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, with a notation they are acting on Palmer's behalf.

Regardless of who plays, or even who wins, the focus likely will stay on one of golf's most important figures.

"For guys like me, who grew up in the Tiger Woods era, you feel the Tiger impact and you don't really feel the Arnie impact," McDowell said. "Arnie was probably more important in the modern game than Tiger. I mean, that's a big statement. Tiger transcended the sport. Arnold was the first golfing superstar, really, the first guy that did it all — beloved by the fans, became an entrepreneur, a philanthropist and just a loved superstar."

Comments
Ariya Jutanugarn rallies past Lexi Thompson to win LPGA’s Tour Championship

Ariya Jutanugarn rallies past Lexi Thompson to win LPGA’s Tour Championship

NAPLES — Lexi Thompson never had a putt so short that was potentially worth so much. She had a one-shot lead when she settled over a 2-foot par putt on the final hole Sunday at the Tour Championship. A victory would be worth $500,000 in prize money ...
Published: 11/19/17

Rookie Sung Hyun Park continues to roll at LPGA’s Tour Championship

NAPLES — Golf felt so easy to Sung Hyun Park that only when she took out her card to catch up on her scores did she realize she had closed out the front nine with five straight birdies Friday at the Tour Championship. Park kept right on attacking. Th...
Published: 11/17/17
Kevin Sutherland wins Charles Schwab Cup Championship, takes Champions season title

Kevin Sutherland wins Charles Schwab Cup Championship, takes Champions season title

PHOENIX — Kevin Sutherland finally broke through on the Champions Tour, taking the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship — and topping the yearlong competition, too. Sutherland closed with 5-under 66 Sunday for a one-stroke victory over Vijay...
Published: 11/12/17

Paul Goydos leads at Champions Tour’s season finale

PHOENIX — Defending champion Paul Goydos took a one-stroke lead Saturday in the Champions Tour’s season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship. Goydos, a first-round co-leader, shot 5-under 66 to reach 12-under 130 at Phoenix Country Club. "This golf...
Published: 11/11/17

Trio share first-round lead at Champions Tour’s Charles Schwab Cup

PHOENIX — Defending champion Paul Goydos and major winners Vijay Singh and Lee Janzen shot 7-under 64 Friday to share the first-round lead in the Charles Schwab Cup Championship. Bernhard Langer, trying to sweep the Champions Tour’s three playoff eve...
Published: 11/10/17

Patrick Cantlay wins Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in playoff

LAS VEGAS — Patrick Cantlay won the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open on Sunday in a playoff for the first victory in a PGA Tour career mostly derailed by a severe back injury. The former UCLA star, 25, hit from behind a tree and got up-and-down f...
Updated one month ago
J.J. Spaun, Beau Hossler tied for lead at Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

J.J. Spaun, Beau Hossler tied for lead at Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

LAS VEGAS — Beau Hossler and J.J. Spaun shared the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open lead Saturday after another breezy day at TPC Summerlin. Hossler birdied the par-4 15th and 18th holes for his bogey-free 5-under 66, the best round of the day in...
Updated one month ago

J.J. Spaun takes second-round lead at Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

LAS VEGAS — J.J. Spaun shot 6-under 65 on Friday at breezy TPC Summerlin to take the lead in the suspended second round of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. Spaun rebounded from bogey on the par-4 third with birdies on the par-4 fourth and pa...
Updated one month ago

Kim Meen-Whee leads Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

LAS VEGAS — Kim Meen-Whee birdied two of his final three holes for 6-under 65 and a one-stroke clubhouse lead Friday in the PGA Tour’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. The 25-year-old South Korean birdied all three par-5 holes at TPC Summerlin, ...
Updated one month ago
Justin Rose overcomes eight-shot deficit to win HSBC Champions

Justin Rose overcomes eight-shot deficit to win HSBC Champions

SHANGHAI — Justin Rose posed with the trophy from the balcony high above the 18th green at Sheshan International, a moment that didn’t seem possible. He started the final round eight shots behind Dustin Johnson, the No. 1 player in the world. "The be...
Updated one month ago