April 9, 2003
BILLY PAYNE: Ladies and gentlemen, it's my pleasure to introduce Arnold Palmer. Making this week his 49th consecutive Masters appearance. As we all know, in 1964 he became the first four-time winner of the Masters. And has won multiple tournaments on the PGA Tour and Champions Tour with over 72 total victories.
Arnold, welcome back to the Augusta National.
ARNOLD PALMER: Thanks, Billy. Thank you.
BILLY PAYNE: Questions, please.
Q. I heard you played the course today and were already rethinking your rethinking about coming back. Is it that hard out there?
ARNOLD PALMER: It's that hard. It is very hard. And it's long. But I'm going to tee it up tomorrow because I said I would. And you know that's the way I do things. I've made mistakes before.
Q. Can you just take us through how you reconsidered your decision to play again this year. What went into it?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I'm going to play.
Q. How do you decide that were you going to play?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, let me just sort of give you the scoop. Before some of the business of last year happened my competitiveness in the tournament was going away, as you guys all know. But you always think, well you can get a couple good rounds in. And that's the way I felt. And I got to hitting the ball reasonably well, oh, some time ago. And I thought, well, it would be nice to do 50 Masters. And that became kind of an objective of mine. As much as I like this place and as much as I've enjoyed being here and coming here, I thought, well, it would be nice to just play 50 Masters. So that's the whole thing in a nutshell, really. And then I got to thinking about the exemptions. Well, you know that. And you know what happened. And that's been explained to you. So then I went back to my original thought of playing 50 Masters. And that's it. That's really the bottom line on it.
Q. Can you give us some idea of how long the course is playing, what the difference is with the conditions?
ARNOLD PALMER: I can. It's difficult. The length of the golf course, I played a week ago here -- a little over a week ago, I guess it was. I played with Jack and his son and my grandson, and it was fairly dry. And the golf course was playing long. I mean just with everything. We played the tips the same as we played today on the back tees. And a lot of the shots that are being hit now reflected some of the years that I played in the past where the guys, the long hitters were hitting drives at 1 and 7-irons. And normally that would have been what I would have hit in, 7 -, 8 -, 9-iron to the 1 green.
And with all the things that have happened, first of all the length of the hole, and I hit a drive today and I didn't hit it good, but I didn't hit it all that badly and I hit a 3-wood. And was short. Now granted, I'm not hitting it that long. I played with a couple young guys that are long, Vijay Singh was one of them and Ricky Barnes. And they hit big drives. They hit, I think, around 7-irons, which is much the same, maybe a little more than that, maybe a 6-iron.
So with the water and the wetness and the golf course as it is, today you could probably, in the cold air and all the things put into one nutshell, you could probably take the 7,000 yards that we played this golf course at for many years and add another thousand yards to it. And I really believe that.
Now of course with the equipment and the ball and the things that are happening, these guys are hitting it a long way. But even the big hitters are hitting a club or two more to most of the holes than what we did in the days gone by.
Q. I'm sure you've been through this countless times, but for those of us who haven't heard it, can you tell us what your feelings are about The Masters policy on women members.
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I don't -- I'm sorry it's happening. I suppose that's the major thing I have to say about it. And I think about all the things that are happening in the world today and we have got enough controversy outside this golf tournament to be concerned about and shouldn't be and shouldn't have to be concerning ourselves with such things as this. I think that's all I have to say about it. And I'm very sorry that it's happening.
Q. How have you missed Sam Snead? It's been 50 years since he hasn't been here, almost a little longer than you, even, and at the dinner last night particularly.
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, it was mentioned at the dinner last night that Sam wasn't there. And I think there was just a moment of silence for everyone in the room that knew Sam, and as I did, when I came out on the tour in 1955 and '56 and that, in those days I played with Sam quite a lot, and ended up playing with him in a couple of World Cups, and some other events, and he was just -- he was great. He was great for the game. He had the sweetest golf swing you ever saw, and a lot of just natural talent. And some pretty good wit. Some of his jokes, well --
(Laughter.) We miss some of those, too. But they weren't the highlight of his career, I don't think.
(Laughter.) I miss Sam. I miss him giving you a tip or whatever it might be, or one of his jokes sometimes. But I think that the world of golf will sorely miss Sam Snead.
Q. Back when you were dominating the game there were still a lot of players who would take a tournament from you every now and again. Do you think the competitors then had a little more mental toughness now than the people who haven't stood up to Tiger's onslaught?
ARNOLD PALMER: Do I think that the players then were more mentally tough or today?
Q. Right. Do you think the challengers to you and to Jack were a little more mentally tough than the guys who seem to give in to Tiger?
ARNOLD PALMER: That is a good question. That is really a good question. And I'm not sure that I can answer it. There was certainly a tough attitude and playing to win versus today. And I can see exactly where you're coming from with your question. I'm not sure that -- you know, there's a thing about the way the guys play today that is probably more you go to the office, and you do your job. And you do it in a work ethic style. And you do that and if you win, you win. And if you lose, it's part of your job. It just ties in to all the things you do.
I'm not sure -- and maybe this is a clue to answer the question -- I'm not sure that maybe there wasn't a little more emotion attached to it back in the earlier days of the tour. And the emotion got to a high and guys played -- came on strong. And I wouldn't mind applying some of that emotion and feeling to Tiger when he's playing. I think that he develops an emotion that brings out the adrenaline and makes him play much better at times. And I'm not sure that I see that, as I say, and I think I explained that the work ethic is a little different. It's a business. They go to work like you go to an office and you do what you can do and you use your intelligence to operate the best you can.
Q. I think you've probably been asked this many times before, how would a 25-year-old Arnold Palmer and a 25-year-old Jack Nicklaus come up against Tiger Woods if it was today?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, of course we will never know that, but I would like to think that we could. We would have held our own. Under everything being equal, I would like to think that it would have been a dead heat.
Q. What would you do extra if, like Ernie Els, he's trying to make that break through at the moment, like all the top players are, trying to literally get inside Tiger's head and dominate him. How would you do that?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I think that the guys you're talking about, like Ernie, are great players. He's a wonderful player. I'm not sure that he took the approach that has to be taken to beat Tiger when he started. I think he has to develop that, if he hasn't already. But I certainly think that there's a toughness to Tiger and to some of the people that I knew in the past. Nicklaus, Player, that emotions had a lot to do with it. I'm not sure I see those same emotions in people that you're talking about. And I think if we did, we would see some things happening.
Q. Hootie Johnson said earlier today that you were part of the influence on him to change his policy about former champions playing. Can you express your feelings to us what you told or wrote Hootie about that?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I just -- I merely said that I thought that the exemption, lifetime exemptions, is the same thing you've been told already, but I'll tell you again, that the lifetime exemptions was a part of this golf tournament. And it was in keeping with the tradition of the tournament to have that lifetime exemption. And I didn't do this in the letter, I just said that I thought that that was an important part of the tournament and I thought that it was important that a player decide when he should quit. I should quit. I'm getting to that stage. And I'm very aware of that. And I will. But you heard why I am playing and I think it's only proper.
I played with Gene Sarazen here when I first played in the Masters, and it was one of the great experiences of my life. Now Gene was a much older man like I am. And it was wonderful to play with him and to have some conversation with him. And I think that the people in the galleries saw that. And I think that they enjoyed seeing that. And I think they enjoy seeing it today.
The competition is going to be the competition. And it's going to happen. But this is an added plus to, I think, the tradition of the tournament that no other tournament has. And if you start -- and I will be very frank with you, and I didn't say this really out this way, but I think that if you take some of the things that make tradition away from The Masters, then you make it another golf tournament. There's not many golf tournaments that you have these things happening, whether it be a Masters club dinner, whether it be playing with Gene Sarazen, or whether it be playing with Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus or Gary Player, down the road. It's different. And it adds to the tradition of the golf tournament. We need some different things.
If we just resign to the everyday tournament, where have you to qualify and have you to be there to play and it has nothing to do with who won the tournament or why they won the tournament or how they won the tournament, then you lose some of the old tradition that made the tournament what it is.
Q. Going back to Tiger's rivals you say they're not showing a lot of emotion or enough emotion. Do you not think that it's because their psychologists, their golf psychologists, are saying you've got to be low-key and one shot at a time and all that nonsense?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, my psychologist was my father, (Laughter.) And he never went to college. So I think if you're asking me, does that have something to do with the emotion or the lack of emotion that we see today, the answer is yes.
Q. What was your father's psychology of competing?
ARNOLD PALMER: "Be tough, boy." (Laughter.) Go out and play and if you listen to anyone, you're not too smart. And play your on game. And if you start listening to other people, when you're out there, I have a job pushing a lawn mower here at Latrobe Country Club, you can come back and do that. And he was right, 100 percent right. And that was his psychology.
Q. Because scoring is so difficult for you this week and some of the previous years recently, what are the things that you cherish about this tournament coming back to it? What are the things that you look forward to because the golf is so hard?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, first of all, I enjoy being here. Just presence, and seeing people that a lot of the time I never see through the year. I see them here, and here only. And that is very enjoyable. If the good lord is willing, I will continue to come back here when I'm not playing anymore, for at least a couple days during the week to have a chance to say hello to old friends, members of the club that are friends of mine, and have been friends for, well, over 40 years. And I enjoy talking and seeing them. That's what Augusta is all about. And when that stops happening, then this won't be what it's been for, in my life time, 49 times.
Q. Even though the golf course has changed, is it also just being on the golf course?
ARNOLD PALMER: I don't think the golf course changes has anything to do with really what I'm answering your question with now. That's a whole different ball game.
Q. I'm just wondering, even though it has changed, is just being on the golf course also part of it, just having that feeling of being out there?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, it gives you an opportunity to -- being on the golf course and seeing what's happening today versus 1955, that is -- it's fun reminiscing and looking back. I think of the holes and what attracted me here in the first place. The course we know, in 1959, The Masters was making its mark as one of the biggest golf tournaments in America or in the world.
But there were other things. You talk about the golf course, you played all winter, I hit golf balls from January to March off of hard ground, harder than my head, and my shoulders got so sore that I couldn't play in one tournament, I had to be medically treated. And all the time I was doing that I was just waiting and looking to get here to this place to play golf because it was perfect. The golf course was perfect, the greens, the fairways, everything. The food, the people. It was professional, and it was friendly professional, which makes a difference. And that's why I talk tradition here.
If you take tradition and take it away, then you're back beating the ball off the hard ground again, even though it might be soft and lush, it's a different situation.
Q. At the other Majors we'll occasionally have somebody come out of nowhere to win the thing. Yet that hardly ever happens in this tournament. Do you have any theories about why that is?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I might upset some people around the world if I answer that totally honestly, but I'm going to.
(Laughter.) You just heard me talk about the golf course. And every player in this field, if he knows this golf course and knows Augusta and knows what The Masters is all about, looks here to come and play because there are no bad bounces. The bounces are normal. They're straight bounces, the turf is good, the greens are good. You get just what you play. That's why. That's why the favorites are going to be near the top all the time.
If you go through history of this golf course and this golf tournament and you go through the names in the book, for anywhere from 10 to 20 years, you're going to see the favorites are all pretty close. And that's what you're talking about.
Q. If Tiger should win his third straight Masters this week, what are your thoughts on where that would rank as an historical accomplishment?
ARNOLD PALMER: Oh, if he wins? That's pretty damn high. As far as history is concerned and performances, I put it very close to Nelson's performances. And I don't know that there's anything that I can say about golf that bests what Byron did. And somebody says, well, the fields were light. That's bullshit. You're still playing against 150 players and they're good players and he played well. And he won a lot of golf tournaments. And that's the way I feel. That this would come close to matching most of the great fetes in golf.
Q. When were you winning every other year what reason can you think in your mind why you didn't put that same streak together, because you were winning every other year anyway?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well a six at 18 one year.
(Laughter.) I lost my -- I'll just go a little -- elaborate a little further on that. And a couple of times just like that. It could have been, you know, if I had done what my father taught me, I might have won five times in a row, because I had the opportunity to do that. But I made some mistakes, and if you make mistakes you're not going to win three times in a row or four times in a row or two times in a row.
When you walk off the 18th hole and you've got a one shot lead and you're going to the ball in the middle of the fairway to hit it up on to the green and 2-putt for a win, and you walk 20 yards to the left to shake hands and talk to some old friend that wants to tell you how great you are, you're pretty stupid. And that's what I did. And that's why I didn't win two times or three times in a row. Here.
Q. Tiger's very helpful to us in here talking in the media room, but outside of that, he doesn't have the relationship with us that you and Jack and Tom Watson did. What does Tiger gain and lose and what does golf gain and lose that we don't know him as well as we knew you and Jack and others?
ARNOLD PALMER: First of all, I think Tiger is doing pretty well. I think he's coming across better every time I hear him talk. I think that there is a certain apprehension in his approach and there is an unheralded desire to win. And he doesn't -- I think he wants to keep that intenseness that he has built in himself going. I think he wants to keep it there for the next event. This event, The Open, the PGA, the British Open, whatever it might be.
And I think that if there's any apprehension in his part or not a friendliness that you're talking about as much as, I think that may be it. Just the fact that he's trying to protect what he's doing, and to the best of his ability, and he's doing a hell of a job.
BILLY PAYNE: Arnold, thank you, sir. Good luck this week. We appreciate it very much.
ARNOLD PALMER: Thank you, gentlemen.
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