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March 24, 2010

Arnold Palmer


MARK STEVENS: Like to welcome Arnold Palmer to the media center, our gracious host here for the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard. It's been a good year since he can which check we had a dramatic finish on the 72nd hole last year, almost in the dark. Mr. Palmer had a special birthday this past year, did some course renovations and also the Arnold Palmer hospital is named the charity of the year on the PGA TOUR, which is benefitted by this tournament.
Mr. Palmer, if you would start off and talk a little bit about the course renovations, a lot of players have been raving about it since they have been in here this week, and then we'll take some questions.
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, okay. Nice to see you all here, and welcome to Bay Hill. I hope you have a good week, and I hope we have a good week.
As far as the golf course is concerned, we on May 15th last year, we closed the golf course, and we renovated it entirely. We did everything physical to the golf course from rebuilding all of the tees to all of the sand traps or bunkers, if you wish, from every hole, and we replaced all of the grass and 18 inches of dirt on the greens; meaning we went down 18 inches and got all pure dirt in there to redo the greens.
And as I say, we closed May 15th, and we opened September 1. I played the first round on the golf course on September 1, which is about as fast as you can do it. I used my entire crew to do it, too. I used all my architects and I came in periodically and supervised what was going on. Eric Larson was the lead on the architecture. Bill Kubly and Landscapes Unlimited were the construction people. They did an unbelievable job for us.
And if you can imagine from May 15 to September 1 with a springing of the emerald grass that we replaced the greens with; we feel that we have really made a good change and we feel that -- well, we know that the people who have been playing it are very pleased with it, and the pros that have come in through the period of time that it's been open have been very complimentary.
And should I stop and answer questions or should we just -- does anybody have questions about the renovations?

Q. On the tee box on 15, if you choose to use it, the new champion's tee, was there any discussion about whether it might be more a risk/reward or tougher tee shot forward because of the shape of the hole, as opposed to taking it back and just having to hit a big driver?
ARNOLD PALMER: 15 for those of you who are not familiar with it, we built a tee there that will -- actually the tee will suffice for 11 and 15, and it was there for that purpose. The question, and even in my mind at first was not the playability of it from that position, but more the traffic on the road. And I wanted to be sure that the PGA TOUR and our security force here didn't have a problem with us playing from the back tee.
Every one has passed all tests. We use the back tee, and it will make the hole very good. It will really make the hole play the way it was originally intended to be played, even though we never did that. So does that answer your question?

Q. It does. Do you play that tee?
ARNOLD PALMER: Do I? (Staring). Are you embarrassing me? (Laughter) I play the ladies tees. (Laughter).
But there was a time when I did (smiling).

Q. Sam was in here yesterday talking about how he approached you earlier this year and asked you to be more than just a grandfather to try to sort of guide him as a swing coach. I wonder if you can talk about that relationship. That must be very rewarding for you after all of these years to be able to take him under your wing as a grandfather and as a swing coach and impart some of that knowledge you've learned over 60 years?
ARNOLD PALMER: Of course, I started Sam playing golf many years ago, and he's done his own thing pretty much through the years up until he came and said, "Would you work with me."
You know that that was something that I had hoped would happen. I wasn't sure it would. But we started working together, and he has really just come along. He is really playing and swinging very well, and he's doing pretty much what I've advised him to do. He's stopped getting outside advice, and I think that's one of the most important things that he can do.
You know, I remember my father saying, and I've said this to you guys before, that he said, "When you go out on the TOUR, you just listen to everyone that you talk to out there, and they will help you. They will help you get back here to Latrobe and drive tractors." (Laughter).
Well, I said that to Sam: All you need to do is go out and get all that advice you can out on the TOUR, and you can probably get a job at Bay Hill working on the grounds or something like that.
But he has been really good. He has stuck with the things that we've talked about. We haven't made any real radical changes. Minor adjustments along the way when he has a little problem, he'll just say, "can I see you on the tee for a little bit," and I go out with him. And it's worked. And if he keeps doing that, it will work.
The thing that if we can get a positive on the psychological aspects of it, get him where he's positive and he has a system that he can use, I think it's going to work, and that's what we are working for right now. It's already proven to do pretty well. He's only played in four events and he's made two cuts. Hell, that's pretty good for a young guy coming up.

Q. One follow-up on Sam, and one more if I could. What was your reaction to the way he played at Honda? He played very well starting out. Didn't quite finish the way he wanted to, but overall, what do you think that experience did for him?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I think that's what I was referring to, and I think that what he has did and what he did there was very good. And I have to admit that whatever anybody else thinks, I sort of had a big grin on my face (chuckling) when he pulled the driver out on 18 on the last day and hit that drive. I was very proud of him doing that.

Q. Later on this year, you're going to get back together with the big three for an event, and I wonder if you can talk about that a little bit.
ARNOLD PALMER: Yeah, Jack and Gary and I are going to play at Olde Farm up in Virginia. Jim McGlothlin, who is the founder of the club, has put together this event. I didn't think we would be doing this sort of thing, but we are going to. It's going to be a 19-hole scramble, and they plan on -- they plan on raising about $12 million for one day, which is not bad. It's a charity, and it will go to benefit the Mountain Mission School, a school in Grundy, Virginia.
So we are going to do it. Well, I hope we are going to do it. Hell, at this point, as I say, I hope I'm around to do it in June. It's July 10. Is that right Doc?
Doc is getting old and sometimes it takes him a few minutes to react to a question. (Laughter) June 8? Ohh-kay.

Q. In a couple of weeks, Jack is going to join you as starter at the Masters. Could you first talk about how that came about. I guess you ask that he join you; and do you envision any scenario where you might play more than just the first shot as the honorary starters used to do?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I have no thoughts of playing more than that tee shot off the first hole. If anything in that regard, changes, I'll have to find it out from here. But right now, my intentions are to hit a drive and that's it. And I don't know what Jack's are. He may want to play, but he'll probably play by himself if he does.

Q. Did you ask for him to join you for this year?
ARNOLD PALMER: No, it's been -- well, I didn't -- I wouldn't say I didn't. It's been suggested that we might do it together.

Q. With all that's happened with Tiger Woods, do you feel that we have gotten to the point where we need to move on from it? You have a wonderful tournament you have going here, strong field; does it matter if he's here or not, with all of the things that you have going for you with this great tournament?
ARNOLD PALMER: First of all, I will say we are disappointed Tiger isn't here to play. On any of the other issues, you started your question with, "Move on," I think that's probably the best thing to do, move on.
I have an opinion; I will keep it till a later date to give it. It's not worth talking about right now, and I think that that's the best thing to do, move on.

Q. I had the microphone before he asked his question. It was also about Tiger and reference to the fact that he dramatically won this tournament last year, and he is a two-time defending champion and has won it more than anybody else. Was there dialogue between you and him about playing here? And the other thing I was curious about, he mentioned when he had his statement in February, respecting the game more, and I know some of the older players have touched on that in the past, and what do you read into that and what would you like to see him do what he does come back to play golf?
ARNOLD PALMER: I don't think that's my position to say. I think it's up to him to do and say whatever he feels he needs to do to redeem the situation, put it in the proper place. My opinion, as I said, I was going to keep to myself. But I suppose the best thing he could do would be open up and just let you guys shoot at him, and that's just my thought.

Q. And also, was there dialogue about him playing here? How did you find out that the two-time defending champion wasn't --
ARNOLD PALMER: Tiger called me. He called me one evening and we had a conversation. I wasn't in a position to hear him very well, so I asked him if he would call me the next morning just to confirm what he had said, and he did. And the situation was that he didn't feel his game was sharp enough to come and compete that soon, so he told me that he would was going to not play; he would go to Augusta first. That's really the conversation.

Q. Mr. Palmer, I have a question about the Japanese golfers in the tournament. Ryo Ishikawa making his second experience; he's shown growth and he's currently the money leader in Japan, graduated high school and will be moving on to the Masters. Your impression of him, if you would give him any advice if you see him. Also, Ryuji Imada, who did well last year, and Yuta ikeda making his appearance.
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I was out with him the other day, and of course, his record speaks for itself. It's a pretty fantastic record. I think he's got great potential and I'll be watching him myself to see how it all works out.

Q. Any advice that you might give him if you see him?
ARNOLD PALMER: Be probably the same advice that I would give my grandson, and that is just stick to his business. Practice, work hard, get to know how to conduct himself in this situation on the TOUR where he's dealing with various types of things concerning the game of golf and the people involved in the game of golf, whether it be the press or whether it be the officials, and I think try to pick up on as many things as he can, learn as much as he can; and when I say learn as much as he can, I mean personally, to his conduct, to actually playing the game and play tournament golf.

Q. I was just wondering why you think it would be the best thing for Tiger to open up and kind of take questions from all of us.
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, you can answer that question yourself. What would be the best thing? What would be -- someone said move on. Well, that might be the best way to move on.

Q. About the first ceremonial tee shot with Jack, can you talk about the fierceness of your rivalry when Jack first arrived and how that evolved into a friendship?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I'm considerably older than Jack, and when I was playing the TOUR, I had been on the TOUR about ten years, a little less than ten years, when Jack decided he was going to turn pro. He came to me and told me that he is going to turn pro, and if I could help him, he would appreciate it. And that's how it started. And I did whatever I could to help him. He started out with IMG and Mark, and that was one of the things, and we talked about much the same things as I would talk to anybody about who is going to come out; my grandson, or whoever.
And we had played an exhibition and some golf and we knew each other a little bit and we enjoyed each other's company. The competition was good then, and of course he came out immediately and was a major factor, as you know, on the TOUR.

Q. You always played a lot of events in your career. Could you ever fathom taking four or five months off before going to Augusta National before the Masters, and are there any advantages to it?
ARNOLD PALMER: No, no. I think I can't fathom taking five months off and going to Augusta, unless you have to, unless circumstances make it that you have no choice; then I suppose that's what you do. But I think that the sharpness of your game and your approach to playing at a major championship, whether it be the Masters or the Open or any championship, is how sharp you are.
You can't get very sharp not playing. Even just practicing won't do it. You really need to -- I think to be sharp, you have to compete. You have to be in the mood to compete.
Now, you can say a couple of weeks, that would be one thing; but five months, you know.
MARK STEVENS: Thank you, Mr. Palmer, we know you have a tee time and you have to get moving. Thank you for taking the time and we look forward to another great tournament this year.

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