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January 20, 2009

Arnold Palmer


MARK STEVENS: We'd like to welcome Mr. Arnold Palmer to the media center for the 50th Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. Mr. Palmer is the host this year. He actually won the very first Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in 1960. Of his 62 TOUR wins, he has won five times at the Hope after playing in 42 of the 50 events here. And he actually won the last of his 62 events right here at the Hope in 1973. We're going to start out and have Mr. Palmer give a few general comments about coming back this year as the host and then we'll open the floor up to questions. Thank you very much.
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, good morning and nice to see you all on this Inauguration Day and to be here. As you know, I keep reasonably busy with my various jobs that I have around and to be here for the hope this year is a great pleasure. And it's a particular pleasure since a good friend of mine, Ernie Dunlevie has also been 50 years at this tournament.
I think one of the things that always attracts me is the fact that the golf courses here in the desert are pristine. They are all always in such great condition and the conditions for playing are so good.
Other than that, and seeing a lot of my old friends that I haven't seen a lot lately, it's fun. It's fun for me to be here and to be a part of this this year.
MARK STEVENS: Okay. Thank you. We have a microphone over here. So please make use of those.

Q. Good morning, Mr. Palmer.
ARNOLD PALMER: Good morning.

Q. Can you talk about the good feelings you have when you come back here? Is that more than just the fact that you won the golf tournaments here?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, yeah, the feelings are wonderful. As I say, seeing a lot of my old friends and being able to talk to them and have a drink with them and just watch what is going on and kind of comparing from the first Classic to this one, and seeing all the things that have happened is fun. It's fun for me and I've been reminiscing quite a lot, just at the various clubs and seeing the various people that I am seeing.

Q. What's the biggest change that you've seen in this tournament? Is it the gallery or what?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, one of the things is the press. The press is far more represented here now than it was in the first one. And the galleries -- certainly I think in 1960 you could have probably shot a gun off and not hit anybody. But it has steadily increased from that first one and certainly I think that's something that is very important. I think the fact that the tournament and the prominence of the tournament has increased rather dramatically over the last 50 years.

Q. How would you describe the state of your golf game right now and do you play much and do you wish you could play more?
ARNOLD PALMER: I do not play much. I play occasionally in the Bay Hill Shoot-out. I played yesterday about 12 holes and my back got sore and I quit. So that is one of my serious considerations when I play, the fact that I have a bit of a back problem and can't seem to shake it off. It doesn't prevent me from doing most of the things I want to do, but it does have a radical affect on my golf game. And my golf game is not good. Occasionally I hit a good shot and I'm like the every day golfer that goes out and walks up the 18th hole and all of a sudden he hits a shot or makes a putt and can't wait to get back the next day. But it is not competitive any more for me.

Q. I know this is, you've been going near to this day of not being able to play very much, but does that make you sad?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, it makes me sad that I can't hit the golf ball the way I once did. That is a very sad situation mentally for me. When I play with some of my friends, amateurs or pros, and compare, it's hard to take. But I enjoy it. And I do it because of the friends that I have and the people that I enjoy being out there with.

Q. I'm wondering if you were able to watch the Inauguration or the oath this morning and even if you weren't, what your thoughts on that were.
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I watched it. I watched Obama take the oath and I watched most of his remarks. And I thought they were fine. I think he's starting out pretty good. He's got a pretty rough task in front of him. And I hope he can stick with it. I hope that he can go down the middle as he has indicated he might and get some things done.
Those of us in the golf business are feeling a pretty radical affect on our business in the game. It doesn't matter whether it's selling equipment or whether it's building golf courses, or whether it's sponsoring golf tournaments.

Q. Back in the day this tournament used to drawing most of the best players on TOUR, in recent years there have been a lot of players who have passed it up, what's changed about that do you think?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, that's a tough question because I understand where you're coming from with the question and how to answer it without getting into a crossfire is difficult. It's been so very good for all of the players, the people who are out here playing and I would just hope that they would understand that they need to support the tournaments as much as they possibly can. I was a player and I knew and I know that you can't play every week. But when I hear some of the reasons for not playing it disturbs me a little. And they do need to get out and support the events. I suppose like everything else, if there's a dramatic reduction in tournaments, they will then understand and maybe they will support them a little more than they do.
Having been a player and having the experience of understanding what it means to play and be supportive is very, very important.

Q. In your prime, obviously every tournament on TOUR would love to have had you in their field. And yet you know you couldn't play every week. How do you balance the demands of some of the top players who are in such demand with their need to make sure they have some time off?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, you can't, there's not a way that you can predict or know what the top players are going to do. Certainly some players start out with a routine and they stick with that routine throughout their career.
On the other hand, a lot of the players will play every week or as much as they can. I used to try to spread my tournament appearances so that I never missed a tournament more than two years in a row. If I missed it, I tried to go back the next year. Tournaments like the Hope, of course I played every year because I just simply enjoyed being here and the conditions under which we were playing.
But in my early years and when I was playing pretty well I was playing somewhere close to 30 tournaments a year. I mean that was hitting it pretty strong.

Q. Slightly frivolous question, what advice do you have for somebody who is 80 years old and just beginning to play golf?
ARNOLD PALMER: I don't know anybody 80 years old who is just beginning to play golf.
I knew what you were saying.

Q. I'm looking for a free lesson.
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I would probably give them the same advice I take personally, since I'm almost 80 years old and I still go out and practice and hit the ball and I enjoy that. Sometimes I actually enjoy more hitting and practicing than I do playing. So I do that a lot. And that would be my advice to someone that's 80 years old.

Q. I'll bet you can break 120 though.
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, it's getting difficult to do that. I know. I understand. But hitting balls and working at your game, even though you're not maybe taking it to the course is something that is enjoyable, it's enjoyable for me.

Q. I'm wondering if you had ever talked to George Lopez about the last, previous two years about his experiences hosting this and then maybe if you feel like this tournament needs for the foresee able future another of course you can't have another Bob Hope, but somebody to really be established as the host of this for 10 years, 20 years, whatever. Do you think this tournament needs that?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I have not talked to George, so I can't talk about that. I suppose that because of Bob Hope and the fact that he was such a great host and provided a lot of interest in the tournament that that's probably the type of thing that they're looking for here. And hopefully they will find someone that will be able to do that.

Q. You talk just a little bit about the experience of playing in the pro-am and that, I assume you met some friends, made some lasting friendships and the fun of it all.
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, that of course was part of what I enjoyed. And I have to say that even though that becomes a detriment to some of the players playing with the amateurs, I found that it was pretty enjoyable. And today I still have many friends who I met here playing in the pro-am. And they're good friends. And in addition to that, some of them were people who had the wares for my association business-wise. And that has worked out extremely well over the years, even though I haven't played in a number of years, the friendships and the business associates that I have made through this tournament have been extremely valuable.

Q. From what you know about Tiger Woods, do you expect him to come back as good as ever and how much of a bonus would it be if he came back and played at your tournament?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, first of all, I don't think there's any question about the fact that he is capable and will be capable of taking up where he left off. I think that's, in my mind, that's a foregone conclusion, that he will be just as good or better than he was.
What would it mean if he came and played at Bay Hill to defend it? It would mean a great deal if that was his first event back, which is certainly, let's say, possible. We would love to have him do that. And it would call attention to my tournament and the fact that he is the defending champion.
I think that the most recent situation is that he will come and he will be back and what tournament he chooses, who knows. I don't know. Unless and there's one other circumstance that could kind of foil the whole thing, and that is that he might become ambassador to some country in the world, now that he is, he was at the Inauguration and he played a reasonable role in that. So he may get appointment from the President, who knows.

Q. Kind of off subject, but I assume that you were pleased with the results of the football game on Sunday.
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, you don't know what you just said. Or you do know what you just said, but you don't know how that affects me. Because both football games I had a very keen interest in. One, the Steelers have been a team that I have rooted for since I knew what a football was; and the other thing is that Arizona, who happens to have a coach that is a very good friend of mine, and also a scratch player, golfer, you didn't know that, he is a very good player, and he is the offensive, was the offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers. And we played some golf when he was there.
So I had a definite interest in those games and since I was forced to make a choice for the coming Super Bowl, I will, I don't mind telling you, unless you know already.

Q. No.
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, every year they have a poll and I won it a couple years ago right when I was here. And this year I've made my selection and reluctantly, however, but I'm picking the Steelers 28-14 over Arizona.

Q. When you remember winning here the first one of these, what specific memory comes to mind?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I think that as I mentioned earlier, one of the things that I enjoyed so much here was the conditions. The golf courses from day one have been excellent. Excellent playing conditions. And of course the people, the gallery. In the early days, I knew everyone in the gallery.
(Laughter.) Well almost.
And that hasn't changed too much over the years. But those are the things that stand out. As I said, playing Indian Wells and Eldorado and Bermuda Dunes, that was fun. And the golf courses were ideal.

Q. In the spirit of Inauguration Day I'm wondering if you can talk about which Presidents you've played golf with and maybe who you had the most fun playing golf with.
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I've had the good fortune to play golf with quite a few Presidents. Jerry Ford was a good, he was a personal friend. Oh, you could almost name it from there. I think the man that I spent the most time with on the golf course and personally was President Eisenhower. I played a lot of golf with him, I played exhibitions with him for the Heart Fund, and after a number of years when he was told he shouldn't play golf any more, we used to just visit. And I, when he lived at Eldorado I would go there to his house and we would spend a couple hours in the afternoon just talking and maybe sipping on a beer or something like that. So he and I were, I would say, very close. He was one of my close friends.
MARK STEVENS: Okay. Well, thank you, Mr. Palmer, for being here for the 50th anniversary of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.

End of FastScripts

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