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April 11, 2002

Arnold Palmer


BILL MORRIS: Ladies and gentlemen, we are delighted to have Arnold Palmer with us, four time Masters champion.

Arnold, please start with some general comments.

ARNOLD PALMER: Well, Billy, I haven't been here for a while, and probably won't be again for a while. (Laughter.)

Well, my comments are that this is it. That's the general. I think tomorrow will probably be my last competitive round in the Masters. I've been thinking about it for some time now, and after my round today, I suppose I'm like everyone else, you hope that you're going to get something going, but I hit two shots at the first hole and put it on the front edge of the green and felt pretty good about it and then 4-putted. Then I knew what kind of writing was on the wall, and I had been contemplating this for some time, anyway. It doesn't mean I'm going to quit playing golf. It means I'm going to just have some more fun and play a little at Bay Hill and Latrobe or wherever I might be, and maybe a few special events and a few senior events, occasional senior events, and that's about it.

Q. Arnold, just in that statement, you said probably your last, is it any less definitive that it will be your last competitive round in the Masters tomorrow?

ARNOLD PALMER: Tomorrow will be it. That's it. I don't want to get a letter. (Laughter.)

Q. Was that part of your thinking, though, that you would like to go out on your own terms and not be asked to leave?

ARNOLD PALMER: Oh, I don't call it my own terms. I just think it's time. My golf has been pretty lousy as of late and it doesn't warrant being here playing. If I thought there was a chance that I could play the kind of golf that I would expect I should play, I certainly wouldn't stop. But as most all of you know, I haven't played good in some time. And that is enough of a push to push me over the edge and just say, hey, enough is enough. And I've said that all my life. I said that 20 years ago, 25 years ago. I said, you know, I'm not going to make a big announcement about anything that I do playing golf. I'm just going to fade away, and this is the time.

Q. You played a lot of emotional final rounds in this major championship. How do you think this will compare, tomorrow, to the British Open and U.S. Open?

ARNOLD PALMER: Well, there's no question about the fact that Augusta has meant an awful lot to me over the years, and it may be the one tournament that really kicked me off and got me started on my career. So it will be emotional. But, you know, those things happen, and I'm not sad about it. I'm not -- I'm sad that I'm not playing well enough to play and represent the kind of golf that I would like to represent. On the other hand, I practically look at the young people playing the game today, and they are hitting the ball, really, very, very well, and I think that tells me something, when I watch these guys play, and I hit it myself and I think I hit the hell out of it, and I look up and they are 100 yards in front of me, that's a pretty good message right there.

And there's no question, I love Augusta.

Q. When you get the cheer you got from the gallery on 18, does that reflect at all in your mind what it was like back in the days --

ARNOLD PALMER: On what hole, on 18?

Q. When the gallery gives you the response they gave you.

ARNOLD PALMER: The gallery, as you know, they have been fantastic, and they were no less than that today. They were very protective. They were very, whatever you want to say. Just the whole way around, it was one hole after the other, and, of course, that made me feel good. On the other hand, as someone said to me, how do you account for this large gallery when you're not playing worth a damn.

I said, "Well, hell, the ones I don't know by their first name are relatives." (Laughter.)

Q. Would you talk about the frustration of not playing well when you've been the best player in the world and now you're shorter than other players and not scoring as well as other players?

ARNOLD PALMER: Well, there are some things in life that is inevitable and I guess that I'm facing that right now. I'm not any different than most people. I like to think that there's always a couple more good rounds in my body, and maybe there are. But certainly, I haven't shown up here. And I think enough of this golf tournament and the people that are playing it and the people that run this golf tournament to say, hey, I don't need to be here. I'll support this tournament until the day I die and I'd like to think that I'll come here and be a part of it, but as far as the playing is concerned, it's over. It's done. I'm certainly unhappy about it, but I'm not sad. I'm not sad to the point that it's going to bother me that much. I've enjoyed Augusta and I've enjoyed what it has meant to me over the years, and the good thing is, I will come back and play a little golf and enjoy it some more. I think that's the bottom line on it, and I recognize the fact that, you know, some day I'm going to die. I don't want to die, but I'm going to. That's the way it is.

Q. Arnold, if asked would you come back and hit the ceremonial first ball?

ARNOLD PALMER: I don't know. I would give that some consideration. I certainly would consider it, and I would have to think about it. I don't know, frankly.

Q. What are your thoughts on the letters that were sent to the former champions, asking them not to play?

ARNOLD PALMER: I don't think I can comment on that. I think I've told you how I feel, and I hope that answers the question.

Q. If you would look back, what change at Augusta National or change in the Masters would you think is the most significant in your time here as a player?

ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I don't think that the Masters as a golf tournament has changed. I could go through every specific thing that has happened through the years here, and I don't think that this tournament, as a golf tournament, has changed at all. The players change, the equipment has changed, but the structure of the tournament and the ambiance of the atmosphere, the things that have happened here, are not any different than they ever were. Different faces, different names, but the same kind of competition, and I think that's what's so great about this golf tournament, the fact that it can go on and on.

We talk about the changes in the golf course. My God, from 1955 to this year, there's never been a year that there has not been some changes made on this golf course. I was talking to someone the other day about, let's just take the eighth hole. The tee used to be between the trees to the left or right of the green, however you want to say it, and at the green, there was a series of sand traps on the left side of the green. I think in 1958, I holed my sand shot for an eagle 3 out of that sand trap. And a couple of years later, there are mounds there.

So the physicalness of the golf course has changed every year, slightly. But the wonderful thing about it is, unless you really go out and look for it, you don't see those changes. It will change again next year. I would venture to tell you that next year there will be some changes in the golf course. Hootie has said that. Hootie has said the fifth hole is going to change, and I think that's in keeping with this tournament.

Q. Will you base your schedule on the Senior Tour, on how you're playing, places that you enjoy going, both, and will you continue playing senior majors?

ARNOLD PALMER: For the immediate future, my plans are to play in the senior majors. I will do that this year. Like the PGA at Akron, the Open at K Valley, and I might even take a sojourn to Ireland and play in the Senior British Open.

But unless my game just continues to deteriorate to a point, then I just won't do it. But right now I'm going to work on my game a little, take some time, and work on it, see if I can get it respectable and then -- but I do plan on doing that.

Q. You said that you have been thinking about this decision for a while. Did the decision come during your round of golf today, the first hole, or when exactly did it hit you that this is it?

ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I don't know whether I should tell you everything. (Laughter.) But earlier this year when I withdrew -- or didn't withdraw, but I announced that I wasn't going to play in the Hope any more, and then I did the same thing at Bay Hill. I pretty much had the thought that I would not -- it was only a question in my mind of whether I played this year. And that decision was pretty eminent, unless I had a really good round today, it was obvious that this was going to happen.

If you want to get down to more specifics, on the first hole when I put it up on the front edge in two and putted it off the green on the other side and ended up 4-putting for 6, I knew what was going to happen pretty much from then on. (Laughter.)

Q. I wonder, with the technology, which is part of the reason for this year's big changes, do you wonder -- I know it's hypothetical -- do you wonder if the technology had been in your day where it is now, how much better you would have been?

ARNOLD PALMER: Oh, my God. (Laughter.) Well, I always said that the equipment I was playing way back in the 50s wasn't very good. I'm kidding.

I think the equipment has made a tremendous difference in the game. Certainly, for my even playing up to this point, the improvements in the golf equipment in the United States has kept me playing. I don't think that if I had to go pick out the driver that I won the Masters with four times, that I could hit it into the fairway on a couple holes. So that has had a lot to do with it.

The golf ball is -- I really have a hard feeling for the golf ball. We, as an intelligent group of people, intelligent manufacturers, rules people, tournament sponsors, we need to really think about slowing the golf ball down, and that's the place that -- I don't think you can stop much technology on golf clubs. But with one stroke, you can bring all the great golf courses back to where they were years ago in slowing down the golf ball. I don't think that there's a player playing golf -- well, there may be, but I don't think there are very many players playing golf today, professionally, that wouldn't agree with that.

Now, you can take the approach that -- I have a friend in this room that says there are two rules, two sets of rules should be the situation. That may be the case.

On the other hand, it may be just slow the golf ball down, bring it back to where it was in 1958 when I played here and won. I'd like to give all of those guys one of those golf balls and let them play and see what would happen, because the technology that has been put into the golf ball is fantastic.

Q. What did you hit at No. 1 today, driver?

ARNOLD PALMER: You had to ask that, didn't you? You just want to embarrass me, right? (Laughs) I'm just kidding.

I hit a 3-wood as hard as I could hit that son of a bitch.

Q. What will be your greatest memory of playing in the Masters?

ARNOLD PALMER: God, what's this, my 48th? 48th Masters.

I think of the ruling that I got at 12, and I remember that like it was yesterday. And what happened, and how it happened, I remember every detail of it. And most importantly, when John Winters was chairman of the rules committee, that was John, Sr. I played 12, and, hell, I was young and I was nervous and I really wanted to win. And I eagled 13 and made a par at 14. The one thing in the back of my mind was, "They could rule against me." But then I always wiped that right out and I felt confident that they couldn't rule against me.

When I saw John Winters walking out on the 15th hole, which was two holes later, and I didn't know John real well, I was a little frightened and I was in awe of the whole situation. He sort of grinned (indicating a thumbs up). That was it, I knew what had happened. And I remember what he said to me. And his words were very clear and precise, "Mr. Palmer, the committee has rules in your favor. You were right." That's the end of the story.

Q. That's the most vivid you have left, really, of all those 48?

ARNOLD PALMER: Oh, no. That was one memory. I could remember 16 when I had hit -- and we talk about the clubs that we hit. I hit a 3-iron and I was one of the longest hitters on the Tour at the time. I hit a 3-iron into a little breeze at 16, and I remember it like it was yesterday. And the big tower was back on the back right of the green and I walked right up there and it really made me hot because I was in a position to win the Masters. And Jimmy Demaret was in the tower, and I came right under the tower, and I'm sure Jimmy didn't know that I could hear him as clearly as I could. He was describing the next shot I had to hit down to the back left pin. He says, "You know, I know Arnie pretty well. He's good at these shots, but he has no chance." (Laughter.), "To get this up-and-down, and he has to do that if he's going to win this golf tournament."

And I heard it all. I was taken back a little and I thought, "I'll show that son of a bitch." (Laughter.) And I chipped it in and won the Masters. That was another good memory.

But there are a lot of them, Furman. The putt at 17, the putt at 18, and, of course, then there's the story that most of you know, but if you don't, I'll tell you anyway.

The 1961, we talked about all of the good things that have happened and things like that. I remember birdieing the 17th hole, and I was so determined, and I birdied, and I had a one-shot lead over Gary Player. I walked off the 18th tee and my tee shot was right in the dead center of the fairway. An old friend through the years had helped me a little with my putting and given me a little confidence in my game, and he went like this and waved me over to the edge of the ropes. I made a mistake that my father taught me when I was a little boy not to ever do, and he put out his hand and he says, "You won it boy, great going." My mind left my body. Just went away. And I proceeded to -- short story, make 6 on the last hole and lose the Masters. That was the saddest situation that I had here.

But overall, the things that I have had the privilege of doing here knowing Jones and Cliff Roberts very well and having the opportunity to spend some time with both of them and talk to them, and probably a lot more with Cliff Roberts than anyone at this site, in this tournament. I spent a lot of time with Cliff, and not just here, but in other places. I used to see him in the desert, and spend some time with him talking and I had a great relationship. Those things were very important.

All the other people, the people that I have had the opportunity to be associated with, either business-wise or golf-wise, a lot of it right here at Augusta. So I'm very proud of all that. That's it.

Q. Tell us about the first time you walked through the gates at Augusta National. What that meant to you then.

ARNOLD PALMER: Well, the first time was when I had been here when I was at Wake Forest very briefly. I don't really -- I didn't grasp the real -- I knew what the Masters was and how important it was. But the real first grasp of what it was all about was in 1955 when I came here to play in my first Masters as a contestant, and that's when it really dawned on me that this is the tournament of all tournaments that I want to win.

I spent some time with the other players like Lloyd Mangrum and Jimmy Demaret who were good friends of mine and they always said, if you win there, that's it.

Of course, a lot of the players, the older guys that I knew that were sort of -- whatever they thought of my game, they didn't give me any chance of winning the Masters. Most of them thought that the way I played was not going to be conducive to playing this golf course and winning this tournament. The reason for that, and I'll make it very simple and short, is that I hit the ball low. My father taught me to hit the ball low with all the clubs in the bag, and that's the way I hit it. A lot of people knew where I was playing golf because there were burn marks on the tee a lot of times where tee shots went off. But that was -- that was basically it. And, of course, to come here and play, I had to figure out then and spent a lot of my time figuring out how I could play the shots into the greens without hitting way up in the air, and that's what I did.

Q. You talked about in 1961 walking over to see a friend, and you spent a lot of time with the gallery today, do you think you will do it tomorrow, as emotional as tomorrow is liable to be?

ARNOLD PALMER: The people that I was talking to today, and I've done that all my life, you know that; that's where a lot of the things that have happened came from the fact that I came over and talked to the people. The people that I was doing that with today, hell, as I said, I knew them by their first name or they are relatives, and I'm kidding a little, but I'm not kidding too much. I know people, that gallery today, I could probably name, I don't know how many there were through 18 holes, a lot, but I could probably tell you the first names of thousands of them. A lot of the others were people that I've been with all my life, friends, and relatives.

So that's not unusual for me to do. A lot of the time today, they are people that I haven't seen; it's been six months or a year and I like to say hello to people. I like to keep those relationships.

Q. Do you think you'll be able to do that tomorrow, as emotional as it will be?

ARNOLD PALMER: I probably will.

Q. Considering everything, how much fun was it playing today and how much fun do you think it will be playing tomorrow?

ARNOLD PALMER: Well, that's a mixed emotion there. Playing as poorly as I played isn't much fun. If I had played a reasonable round today, I would have had a ball. Would I have really had a good time, and hopefully tomorrow, I will play a little better, and maybe I can just have some fun doing it.

But whatever I do, I'll enjoy it tomorrow.

Q. What would be the single greatest shot you could hit tomorrow?

ARNOLD PALMER: I never thought of that. I could think of making a hole-in-one at 12. (Laughter.) Or could I think about the last putt on 18 and all the memories that I've had there.

I think just the round, just being here.

BILL MORRIS: Before we go, let me call for a moment of personal privilege. I've had the privilege of interviewing you for almost all of those 40 years, in three different buildings here. Some of you who have been here a long time remember the old Quonset Hut that was to the east of this building. When we didn't have a sound system that would allow us to hear each other so we had to repeat all the questions and I'm sure you remember all that.


BILL MORRIS: But it's been my pleasure and I thank you for all you've meant to golf and this place and I know that I join with everyone in this room to wish you a very fine round tomorrow. Thank you.

ARNOLD PALMER: Thank you. (Applause).

Since Billy said that, I want to thank all of you. You've been great.

End of FastScripts....

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