March 15, 2006
JOAN vT ALEXANDER: We'd like to thank everybody for joining us here this morning at the Bay Hill Invitational. First of all I'd like to introduce Arnold Palmer and the Commissioner of the PGA TOUR, Tim Finchem. Arnold, could you please start with some comments about the state of the Bay Hill Invitational.
ARNOLD PALMER: Okay. Well, first of all, welcome and nice to see all of you. I can recall about 27 and a half years ago when this room at a press conference had about two people in it. It's nice to see what has happened over those 28 years of this golf tournament.
The golf course I suppose is probably one subject that we should relate to a little bit. There's been a lot of conversation about the golf course and what has happened to it. I suppose that the bottom line for our purposes is that the golf course is the best this year that it has ever been. With very few exceptions, the rough will be tough.
Of course, the PGA TOUR trying to accommodate the players, continue to cut it down ... (looking at Commissioner Finchem.)
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: It's going to be like that, is it?
ARNOLD PALMER: I looked at you when I said it. (Laughter).
Actually, they really have not done that. They have topped it at 3 1/2 inches, and I think they did that last year on Sunday, which is fine. What we've done is we've kind of fooled them a little bit. We let it grow so thick that topping it at 31/2 inches so it isn't going to really change much of the playing characteristics of the rough. If the ball goes down, it's going to be tough. There are a few spots where it is thin, but they are not spots that will be played a lot, unless something happens where the galleries walk it down or something like that.
Overall, the golf course is in extremely good condition. The greens and the fairways have responded to our treatment very well. Length wise, we have not increased the length of the golf course. We have kept it much the same as it has been over the last few years. We haven't really tried to change the character of the golf course. The greens will be probably a modest 11 or 12 on the speeds, and that will work pretty good.
I think most of know about the field, we have a good field this year, and of course we have some young people, such as my grandson, playing. He's very excited about that. And we have the Southern Amateur Champion, Webb Simpson, and that will provide at least some interest from the amateur point of view.
Generally at this point I am very pleased with what has happened to the golf course and the field. The other things here, the structures, around, we've increased and remodeled the hotel, added some new rooms to that, added a center section for MasterCard, our sponsor, to be able to have corporate business while the tournament is going on, and I'm very pleased with that and what has happened there.
I'll just give it to Tim. He has an announcement to make, and then when he's finished, both of us will entertain any questions you might have.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Thanks, Arnold. As you know we issued a press release last week and we just wanted to confirm today the renaming of the tournament beginning after this week as the Arnold Palmer Invitational. We are particularly excited about this development for the future of the tournament here at Bay Hill. Arnold, of course, is inextricably related to this championship. He created it. He and Jack Nicklaus created the PGA TOUR; I often say, if it wasn't for Arnold, I wouldn't have a job.
But importantly, I think what's happened here with the development of the tournament under Arnold's tutelage is very special. It is one of those things that's a part of the texture and the fabric of the PGA TOUR. What's happened with Arnold's relationship with the hospital here, the Arnold Palmer Hospital complex is also very special.
And, of course, the tournament is committed to assisting with the hospital, and Arnold does an enormous amount of work the rest of the year with the hospital as well. But it is a very special message for the relationship of this championship with what's happened at the hospital. We want to work with Arnold and the whole team here to perpetuate the championship well into the future and the relationship with the hospital, as well.
Those two things are our fundamental goal. To do that, we thought it was quite appropriate at this juncture in Arnold's career that the championship reflect his name, and on that basis, we're delighted that going forward we will be talking about the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Congratulations, Arnold.
ARNOLD PALMER: Thanks, Tim. (Applause). We'll continue, does anyone have questions for either Tim or myself?
Q. I think I know the answer for why you grew the rough, but I'd like it hear it in your own words, is it important to you to see these guys play out of the fairway?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I think you said you answered it. It is important.
Just so you all understand that we have not grown the rough in to the fairways, because the fairways, all 18 of them, every one of them are exactly the same as they are year round. We haven't narrowed them down in any areas whatsoever. The members play the same golf course basically as the pros, with that one exception, the fact that the rough is going to be four inches. We topped it at 31/2 and we're not cutting it any more. So it will be somewhere in the area of four inches and pretty consistent.
Q. We had a function last week down at Honda where the Nicklaus family's involvement with the Honda Classic was announced and we've already detailed Arnold's involvement with this tournament, how many I guess the question is: How many more times can you go to the well and call on Jack and Arnie, and is that one of the I guess better parts of your job is that you do have those two guys, Presidents Cup captains, involvement in your own events, can you talk about what the two of them have meant to the Tour, especially since you've been commissioner?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, I haven't thought about it in quite those terms, "going to the well." (Laughter). These two guys got together in the 60s and decided the PGA TOUR should happen. So they have been committed to it forever.
Last week we re shaped the Honda Classic for the future, and it was great that Barbara Nicklaus agreed to chair the charitable side of that equation.
This week, re naming the tournament the Arnold Palmer Invitational does a couple of things. It really identifies the tournament correctly, it positions the tournament for the future. In both cases, these were steps that really strengthened these weeks on the PGA TOUR. This week now will be a stronger week on the PGA TOUR and that's the objective.
The fact that they just happen to involve Arnold and Jack is happenstance. But Arnold has been to me, since actually before I took this job when I first started talking to him about it, a major influence on me personally, and I think all of us in the game, whether we're players or administrators or fans, television people, media owe Arnold an awful lot for what he has given. To have him agree that his name would be on a tournament on the PGA TOUR for the indefinite future is a very positive step for the PGA TOUR.
Q. Can you talk about what it means to you to have the tournament named after you, and maybe where that ranks among all of the things that have happened to you?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, first of all, I suppose over the years I've been invited to put my name on other tournaments around the country and I have resisted, and I resisted here as long as I was playing or participating on the TOUR full time. I just didn't think it would be appropriate to have my name on a golf tournament.
As a matter of fact, I kind of let it slide by without giving it a great thought until my daughter, Amy, suggested that we do this. And since she has something to do with me, I listened and talked to Tim about it and he kind of liked the idea. So I turned it over to him, and you heard what he had to say about it today.
If it can be what I had hoped this tournament would be over the years, I'll be very happy for it. As Tim mentioned, the Bay Hill Club, the hospital, the things that are important, my family, all of those things are a part of what we are trying to accomplish here. As Tim mentioned, we have continually advanced the growing of the hospital, and in April the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies will be opening up and that's huge accomplishment at the hospital. The trauma and emergency center, which is also a part of the hospital is coming on very close to opening. All of these things have something to do with my name and the fact that we are lending the name to this, and to call attention to important things here such as the hospital and what we'd like to accomplish in the years to come.
Q. Mr. Palmer, how will you be able to resist playing in the first ever Arnold Palmer Invitational, and can we expect a comeback?
ARNOLD PALMER: I won't have any problem at all. I can promise you that. (Laughter).
For the first time in my life, and he can say first time because it's the first time that I've really talked about my golf and playing, and there are days when I really never thought would happen and I have no desire to go out and play the way I've been playing.
So it's pretty easy for me to say I will not miss trying to play. And the other day, I was playing, which I do a lot here, with my friends, and I enjoy that well, most of the time I enjoy it. I have a couple guys I play with, like Dick Farris (ph), and then some guys from Kentucky, Frank and Jesse James, I think their names are (laughter), and it's getting to the point where I still enjoy that, but tournament golf is now something that I dream about. Of course there's nothing I'd rather do than tee it up and know that I could be a factor; that isn't like think to happen.
Q. Judging from your comments about the rough earlier, it seems that you would be maybe disturbed by the modern trend of these guys hitting the ball so far and with little regard for the accuracy off the tee, does it bother you, and what do you think is the answer to that kind of problem on TOUR with people hitting it so far?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I have to really analyze the situation and look at it from all aspects of the game of golf, which you know when you ask me that question, how much I love it, and I've spent my entire life around the game and in the game. Of course, one of the things that we continually try to do is grow the game, and grow it not for the professionals necessarily, certainly in their interests, but grow the game for the people who go out and play the game and enjoy playing it.
So I have a lot of thoughts about these young people hitting the ball as far as they do, and of course that's an ongoing situation, whether we soften the ball or pull it back 20 or 30 yards or whether we stop technology and the making of golf clubs and all of those things, things that are constantly being discussed with the manufacturers, the golf associations, whether it be the Tour or the USGA. People, and of course the young people today, you can see them, they are growing, they are bigger, they are stronger, and with the modern equipment, they are going to hit the golf ball further.
What do we do about it? Well, we continue to discuss the possibilities of slowing the golf ball down or making the rough deeper or lengthening Augusta or whatever we are doing, we're trying to confront this. But think about it. It's about one percent of all the golfers in the world that we're worried about hitting the ball too far. So we're looking for a solution to that. Whether it be growing the rough, and we'll watch the scores this week, this golf course has not been lengthened. We'll watch the scores this week, let the rough grow up a little bit, let the greens get a little faster and a little harder and see what happens.
Last year, I was very happy with the consistency of how the golf course was treated by these long hitters, 12 under par. If we can keep it in that area, that doesn't change much in 50 years, it's still running around the same number.
So I have to look at it from the point of view that I love the game, and I don't want to ruin it for the guys that go out and shoot 80 or 85. I want them to be able to enjoy it and I want them to feel like they can improve their games just like the professionals can improve theirs. That's sort of my point of view. And I will continue to work with Tim, with the USGA, the manufacturers, whoever, to try to keep the game advancing technically as well as helping the people that shoot those high scores to improve their games.
Q. Commissioner, many of your tournaments for obvious reasons have corporate names. Years ago there were a lot of entertainers whose names were a major part of the tournament name, Davis, Gleason. Right now, are you extremely guarded in putting an individual's name on a tournament and reserving it, I think Bob Hope is the only one of the names that survived, are you keeping it for the Babe Ruth/Vince Lombardi type people in golf?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, you never say never, but I think it's a fairly unusual circumstance that we would the step that we're taking here with the Arnold Palmer Invitational. There was a period of time 25 years ago where there was some entertainers involved to draw attention; I think the sport has outgrown that particular phase.
This is a special situation, I guess I would characterize it that way, with a unique individual and a unique history and a university set of facts. I would not suggest that this would become a pattern.
Q. I wanted to ask you about The Masters. I'm curious, with a kind of game is required to win when you were winning between '58 and '64, and what kind of game do you think is required now? Has that changed?
ARNOLD PALMER: You've been reading Jack Nicklaus's stuff. Actually, there has been some changes. But I can recall going to Augusta in 1955 and a lot of people that knew me, and there were very few of them that knew me said that when I played Augusta, that I didn't have the game to win there. I couldn't win. That was the popular opinion. And why was that? Well, it was because I hit the ball low in fact, everybody knew when I played a practice round because there were burn marks on the tee where my ball took off. And I was aware of that.
But Augusta was a golf course that really wasn't suited necessarily to my game. But the desire to win at Augusta was as great as the lack of maybe game to do it. I learned. I learned that there were other ways ever getting into the greens at Augusta rather than just hitting the ball up in the air real high like, say, Jack does. I learned to go around the corners.
I won four times. I should have won a lot more but maybe I didn't because of the fact that I didn't hit the ball up in the air all the time. That doesn't bother me. The thing is, that there were so many other premiums about Augusta, there was no rough to speak of, the greens were to our thinking in those days, were fast, and they were very fast compared to anything else. The condition of the golf course was superb as it has always been. And of course that prompted us to want to play and desire to play there even greater.
What they have done to the golf course now is they have brought the rough in. Well, I don't think that the rough is significant, even now with the second cut as they call it. It isn't a major factor. What is a major factor is the length, and the way you shoot into some of the greens with that additional length. As these young people continue to hit the ball further, and I heard somebody, or if I read somewhere where they said that they wanted the players to hit the same clubs that we hit back 40 years ago or 30 years ago. Of course, that's pretty difficult to do.
And the other thing that they talked about was the greens. Well, the greens when I was winning Augusta, were very hard. Now, the ball when it hit, and I've had to explain that, because the base for greens was bermuda and they were overseeded. When the ball hit the green, it always scared me to death. If I hit the ball not as high as some of the players did, if I hit it slow into the green and it was hot, it was going over the green. Well, the last thing you wanted to do was to do that. So you had to find a way, which I mentioned earlier I did.
Had they changed the greens from bermuda base, then the greens couldn't maintain the hard firmness that they did simply because the ball coming in would hit and tear the grass right out and it does still today, even though you will still see a few bounce here and there.
But the thing that is different is the greens are faster now than they have ever been at Augusta. And of course that has had an influence on it. But they are also softer. They will still accept the ball more so than they ever did. And to me that's a major change. It takes some tactic to know how to play, and in those days, just as it does today.
What they have done now is with the length, and I'm not being critical, don't misread what I'm saying, the players will now have a little different approach with the greens, the smaller greens and hitting the ball further, whether they are hitting 7 iron today if you look at the statistics, you will see they are hitting 7 irons 180 yards, 175, 180 yards, where we were hitting 7 iron, and it was pretty standard, 150 yards.
Well, let's just take the seventh hole, which is now 460 yards, basically. Well, I used to hit a driver off the tee and I did it on purpose. Even though the fairway was narrow, I wanted to get down where I could get to the upslope and hit the ball into a green that was unacceptable; it wouldn't accept the shot if you were hitting from the same level. So the upslope helped make it easier and that was my goal. When I played that hole.
Today with the hole the way it is, you'll see them hitting irons off the tee to a 460 yard hole to stay back on the level so that they can get that high shot into that seventh green. And I could go over every hole on the golf course almost the same way, the different approach that you have to make today to get it there.
But if they hit a one or two iron off the tee, they are probably hitting maybe a 7 or an 8 iron into the green from that level shot. And that's a different tactic than I have when I was playing, and trying to win The Masters. There are a lot of holes that the same thing happens on.
Does that answer the question?
Q. When you hit driver on 7, what did you usually have for an iron, wedge, 9 iron?
ARNOLD PALMER: I hit a sand iron most of the time, a pitching wedge or a sand iron. There are some people in this room that remember. (Laughter).
Q. Ernie played it last week and said he hit driver off 7, and one day he had a 4 iron and the other day he had a 7 iron.
ARNOLD PALMER: Who is this?
Q. Ernie Els.
ARNOLD PALMER: Really? Well I would not have anticipated that. If he hit a driver, I would think that he would be getting into the neck of the hole, which would put him on the downslope, maybe at the bottom of the slope. But I guess maybe well, I haven't played it a lot lately, but that's a good point if it's that long. But you just think about hitting 4 iron into the seventh green. I had trouble keeping a 9 iron on the green in those days. So it's the same comparison.
Q. Can you talk about your relationship with Billy Hurley III, when you first met him and what prompted giving him an exemption and when that discussion started?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I really didn't know Billy. I just knew that he had been playing some pretty wonderful golf as a member of the Navy team. I got to play with him a few times here. We talked a lot and we talked about the fact that he was going to be playing the TOUR, or hopefully playing the TOUR. I particularly liked his demeanor. He was a very nice young man and he stood for all of the things that I think we need in golf, in professional golf, and of course I asked what his intentions were and he's now teaching at the naval academy. He really played a wonderful couple rounds of golf when I was with him.
So I grew an interest in him and when we knew he wanted to come here, we offered him a sponsor's exemption and I'm very pleased with that and pleased with him as a young man.
Q. Commissioner, can you talk a little bit about where you stand on the late season scheduling for 2007 and beyond, and also, any feedback or repercussions from the changes on the PGA TOUR with other tours around the world and how that ripple effect has happened?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: On the first question, we're probably 60 days away, 30 to 60 days away from saying something more definitive on the Fall Series. We're about 80 percent finished, but we're going to hold off and announce all of it as a package.
On the second question, there will inevitably be some adjustments made when we move THE PLAYERS to May and some other changes in the schedule, playoff events late in the summer; the biggest impact being in Europe, and Europe is making some adjustments in their schedule. They are in progress of doing that, and they will be talking to us next week at THE PLAYERS about what this means and how they are going to go about that. They seem to be making progress but we don't have their final schedule organized yet for next year. But the Federation will know more about it next week or the following week.
Q. You have a legacy on your beautiful golf courses around the world and we enjoy them, we see a lot of them: Silver Rock, the Classic, a couple new ones, I wonder how you feel about going out and seeing that and the legacy of your name on these great golf courses and how you enjoy designing them and do you enjoy that?
ARNOLD PALMER: I do, and of course I will be concentrating more on designing golf courses. I have got some very exciting news recently about doing some golf courses. I'm going to limit the number of golf courses I do. In the years gone by, when Ed and I teamed up, one of our goals was to build a lot of courses and do a lot of that sort of thing. Today our goal is to slow down the numbers and do more of a Palmer premium type golf course and we will be concentrating on that.
As far as the enjoyment I get out of it, and Tim and the PGA TOUR has helped us stay in the loop on the tournament golf courses, and one of the things into pleased me very much was being able to do the Classic Club in Palm Springs. That golf course was a gift to the Bob Hope tournament. In doing that, the Foundation, the Berger Foundation, which made that all possible, told us to go ahead and do what we thought we could do to make a tournament site and also a resort type golf course work, and that's what we did.
I think the proof in the pudding is that this year, the final round of the Classic worked extremely well on that golf course. And the things that we put into the ingredients to the playability of the golf course, the presentation from parking cars to the fans being able to get strategically located on the golf course and see all of the things that made tournament golf better.
So do I get a kick out of it? If I haven't told you already, then yes, I do.
Q. You talked about your attributes and what you use to win at The Masters, could those same attributes be used today for someone to win at Augusta National, and with the driving distances on average on the TOUR being 280 yards, do you think that most people wouldn't have the ability to compete at Augusta now?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, of course, I can't disagree with some of the conversations that I have heard about taking a lot of the players out of the scenario for winning Augusta. It looks to me, and like right now, you have cut the field back for potential of winning at Augusta for that reason.
One of the things that was very was a real premium at Augusta as I was trying to explain earlier was the fact that it didn't matter earlier what the length of the shot was to the greens, it was knowing how to hit the shot into the greens and playing the shot that was necessary to putt the ball in the right position, the undulations in the greens, played a very important part of where you place the shot.
When I was saying I had to learn to hit the shots in, because I didn't have the high shot. If you go back a few years, you'll remember Trevino got in all kind of trouble because he was critical of some of the shots because he didn't play those shots. They weren't in his bag.
Well, I took a little different approach. I tried to find a way to do it and was reasonably successful. That is what I'm talking about when I say, knowing where to play the shots and how to play the shots. Every shot at Augusta, and you know I've had a reputation for always going for it wherever it was, I learned to play some of the shots that weren't just going for the pin, but playing for the part had a might get the bounce to the pin rather than just going right at it.
Does that answer the question?
Q. The only follow up to that is do you think that these guys today, a Fred Funk or somebody like that, maybe you were longer in your day, but could those guys do what you did? Is that still possible?
ARNOLD PALMER: Helluva question, simply because of the length they have to drive it to get into the position to play the shots that we're talking about. I'm not sure, every time I make a statement like, "Well, his chances aren't very good," he wins. (Laughter).
Q. I think Fred would be happy for you to say that.
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, you know, it's difficult. I would say that he's going to have to figure out, like I did, how to play the shots, and he may have to figure out how to hit it a little further to play those shots.
Q. You and Jack obviously have a unique relationship with Augusta National, as architects, champions and members there, and you exerted some influence on the chairman a couple of years ago with regards to the age limit there, do you think that if they feel like maybe they have gone too far on some of these changes on the course, would they be willing to dial it back a little in the future and maybe restore a little less length in places or maybe cut a tree down here or there? And if you had had any influence on the changes what kind of ideas would you have to make it a course that could keep up with today's golfers without just adding length?
ARNOLD PALMER: (Turning, looking at Commissioner Finchem.)
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Don't look at me. (Laughter).
ARNOLD PALMER: I think I'll stay out of that. (Laughter).
JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you for joining us.
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