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July 14, 2010
ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND
MALCOLM BOOTH: Well, ladies and gentlemen, we're joined by Arnold Palmer. Thank you so much for coming in. A real shame that the Champions' Challenge that we were all looking forward to seeing you play in today has been cancelled, but we appreciate your time in coming in to join us.
In 1960 when you came across for the Open, many regard that as a real turning point for our championship because it rejuvenated interest in the event and went on for a couple of wins after that. Maybe you could just take us through your thoughts on how much the Open Championship has changed since that trip you made in 1960 to what it is today.
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I can't even believe it. You're really running out of subjects when you have me in here now. (Laughter.) Good gracious. Well, I accepted a degree from St. Andrews University yesterday, and I was unaware of the fact that I might have to say a few words, so I'll tell you what I said. Out of a resource to say something that was reasonably intelligent, I told them about when I was here in 1960, and of course, the pressroom, number one, was about as big as that first quarter right there, back to about where Russ Myers is sitting in the yellow shirt. I knew every reporter there by name and personally, and I played bridge with them, and that was my first trip to St. Andrews.
So seeing what is happening, I certainly had something to relate to St. Andrews when I accepted my degree, and it was just the difference of what has happened in 50 years. And this is the 50th anniversary, and I will say that it's a pleasure to be here. It's a pleasure to see what can happen in 50 years. The press was numbered -- I could count them on my hands, and that was one thing. And, of course, it was exciting for me because I was trying to fulfill a desire that I had to play in the Open Championship, and I felt that if you were going to be a champion, you couldn't be a champion without playing in the Open and hopefully winning the Open. So that was part of the whole programme for what I was doing.
And I can remember, when I arrived here the other day, I looked at the 18th fairway, and I thought how magnificent it looked. It was green. The mounds were green. There wasn't a green mound in this whole place when I came here in 1960. And then all of a sudden, I saw a whole line of traffic. The traffic was mowers, and they numbered -- at that day they numbered 14. And I thought, gee, I didn't know I was at Augusta.
And here I was at St. Andrews, and there were 14 mowers mowing the 18th fairway. Think about it. In 1960, they had two mowers, and they were gangs. One was three and one was five, and they cut the whole golf course with them. And they had walking mowers to cut the greens, and some of the guys in back of them were letting them pull them and some of them were pushing them. So you can see the difference now.
And of course the magnificent condition of everything and the people, you people here, from the days of '60, it's pretty magnificent.
The championship. I won't say that it isn't or wasn't as great in 1960 as it is in 2010, but it was pretty great. To have played, and I remember some of the things that happened, that after the third round I was in the Russacks Hotel and I was looking out the window, and my father and a friend was with me, and it started raining. And they said, "It's raining hard, Arnie." I said, "Yeah, don't worry about it. The Open Championship has never been rained out. That's number one. Number two, the Open Championship has never played on a weekend."
And they said, "What do you mean?" I said, "That's the way it is. That's the Open Championship. So I'll be out there playing in a little bit."
Well, as all of you know -- not all of you because there's a lot of you that weren't even born yet, but it rained it out, and it set a new precedent for the Open. It went to Saturday. We played on Saturday. Kel Nagle played wonderfully, unfortunately. (Laughter.) But he was a great guy, and it was a great championship.
I remember I finished 4-3 and I had been finishing 5-4 and 5-3, but I didn't finish 3-3, and Kel Nagle did, and he beat me. And that was the beginning.
Q. Arnold, unfortunately bad weather has prevented you playing this afternoon. What's the worst weather you've ever played in here at St. Andrews? And how do you cope with links golf and weather like this? How do you tackle an Open Championship in bad weather?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, nothing is happening. I mean, it's normal. We're here. In 1960 that's the one thing that's the same. 1960 the weather was just like it is now on one of the days of that championship. The wind blew, it rained, and I said something about it then, and it got the same answer: Hey, this is Scotland; you've got to expect it. And I loved it.
Q. Several courses across the world have had to be lengthened because of the new technology. Even Augusta has lengthened quite a few holes. Here very few changes have been made. How is it that St. Andrews has managed to stand the test of time? And is it still as big a test as it was for you in 1960?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I don't think that, as you say, the golf course hasn't changed that much. They've added some length here since 1960. Certainly the condition has changed. It's far better just from what I've observed in the last few days here. It is absolutely beautiful. And of course the greens I haven't played, so I don't know just -- but I understand they're very good. They're fast, and I think all of those things are going to have something to do with the scoring.
As to the technology and the changes, I'm not sure that it makes a great deal of difference to the outcome of this championship, other than the fact that it is in magnificent condition. I suppose in 1960 we didn't expect much more than what we got, and it was good. It was a challenge. We played the small ball. A lot of things were a little different.
The players, they were good. I can't say that the field was as great and as heavy as this field is, but there were a lot of good players. I felt like I played pretty well, and I know Kel Nagle played very well, because he beat me. (Laughter.)
Sometimes you don't really need to make so many big changes to a golf course like this. The mystique of this golf course is the fact that you have to know where you're going, and you have to hit it in those spots. I had the best caddie that I've ever had in any championship with Tip Anderson. He pointed me, and I was playing pretty well. I had won the Masters and the U.S. Open prior to coming here that year, and he pointed me, and I went where he pointed. And I was really kind of raw. I didn't know the golf course very well.
So I suppose that maybe just not being too smart about it helped me as much as anything.
But I think this golf course will weather the storm for many years to come. I think they'll probably do some things down the years, 50 years from now. What will they do to this golf course to make it different? Not a hell of a lot. They'll lengthen some more tees, they'll back the tees up, they'll make the greens a little bit faster and they'll do some things to make the fairways a little more magnificent. But it will be St. Andrews.
Q. Over the years you used to have a special rapport with the fans behind the Road Hole, and there was one old gentleman who you used to speak to every time you played here. What are your recollections of that?
ARNOLD PALMER: I'm sorry, the sign?
Q. No, a golf fan, a gentleman who used to sit behind the Road Hole. You can't remember? That's all right.
ARNOLD PALMER: You've got me. George Lowe, is that who you're talking about?
Q. I don't know his name.
ARNOLD PALMER: That's who it was. He was a Scotsman, and he was a friend. He was a man that kind of encouraged me to come here and play, if that's who you're talking about, and I think it is. He claimed that he helped me with my putting (laughter), and actually he was a guy that was very good, great putter. And how he helped me with my putting -- and he did for years; he used to watch me putt. And he never told me how to putt, he told me how good I putted. And after a few years it started to sink in that I was a pretty good putter.
If you don't know who I'm talking about, he was a son of a Scottish pro, and he was a man that was known in the States as the man who never owned an overcoat. He was a man that traveled the Tour all the time and looked at young guys like me, and I knew him very well, and he never had a job in his life. He played golf. He played professional golf. And as a matter of fact, officially he was the first man as a professional to break Byron Nelson's winning streak.
If you go back into history, you will see that he didn't win the tournament, but he was the pro that beat Nelson in that Memphis tournament that year. Is that what you were asking me?
Q. Yes, that's the one, yeah. In a similar vein, a few golfers have connected with galleries in the way that you have and yet Seve Ballesteros was arguably one of them. What was the quality in him that connected so well with the galleries? And have you had a chance to speak with him any time recently?
ARNOLD PALMER: I did. I have corresponded with him and sent him a note, wished him well and invited him to come, if he ever felt good enough to do it again to the States and play, and hoped that I would see him here. That's pretty much what we did.
Q. What was it about him, about Seve, that enabled him to connect so well with the galleries, a quality that you have, as well?
ARNOLD PALMER: I think Seve had a great attitude. He was a flamboyant, high-flying guy that got to the job. And winning the tournaments he won, the Open, the Masters, he did it with style. He was always outgoing, and he was always doing things that attracted people, the gallery, the fans. They loved him for the way he played and for his graciousness in the process of doing all that.
Q. On your way here in 1960, you stopped off in Dublin at Portmarnock where you and Sam Snead won the Canada Cup. So dare I say, Portmarnock was actually your first experience of links terrain. What do you remember of that? It was about two weeks, I think, before the Open that it took place. Do you remember anything of Portmarnock on that occasion?
ARNOLD PALMER: Yeah, Flory Van Donck. He won the individual title, and Sam Snead and I won the team, and that was merely my first real encounter with European golf, and I loved it. I had a great time. And it only made me want to come here more than I even thought.
Q. Tom Watson last year obviously came close to winning this tournament, and then he played well again at the Masters and at Pebble Beach this year. Does it surprise you how well he's able to play at age 60? And would it surprise you if he was able to do something again this week at St. Andrews?
ARNOLD PALMER: It would not surprise me. I think it would be very difficult for him to duplicate what he has done in the last year. But he has got a great game right now. I've watched him closely, and I've watched him play. I think that -- I wouldn't say that he won't have a shot. I would say that it's not very likely, simply because of his age and the fact that he has done so well. It will have some psychological effect on him that he may relax a little bit and enjoy it. And as I heard him say last night, this is probably the last time he'll come here to play. That tells me something, that Tom is probably ready to hit the ranks of the older players on the Tour and do that. And that's probably the right thing.
Q. When you looked out the window this morning, did you kind of get the urge to play?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I always have the urge. But I'm playing so poorly. As I told someone, they said, "Well, how are you hitting it, Arn?" I said, "I'm hitting it so hard, I can hear it land." (Laughter.)
But I'll tell you what, looking out the window of Russacks and looking at the golf course and all the people this morning and having breakfast and relaxing and enjoying it, I saw all the things that I saw and I thought about in 1960. I thought about the championship -- I will say that the first -- oh, I suppose most of the week when I came here the first time, I didn't understand well enough to respect the kind of golf that I was going to have to play to do good in the Open Championship, whether it was here or somewhere else. I didn't appreciate what I was playing on in 1960. It took me a while to begin to understand what this golf course and what European golf and what the links golf was really all about. So it was quite a thrill.
Having Tip -- and I've got to give Tip a lot of credit for the fact that he directed me. He was a real good director as a caddie. He didn't know the shots that I was going to hit, but that had nothing to do with it. He knew where I had to go, and he told me. And I created the rest of it myself. But without him, I would have been lost. Just knowing this golf course and knowing where to hit it was so key to playing well.
Q. Who's going to win the Ryder Cup, and what would be your reasons?
ARNOLD PALMER: You know, the Ryder Cup, I was down there a year ago, and I suppose that the Americans are going to have to really pull it together. They're going to have to pull their team together, pull their players together, have them understand what they're going to be doing in Wales. And it isn't going to be easy. I think the European team will be very, very tough.
And having seen that golf course and the conditions, I think weather will be a major factor in the fall, and that's something that they're going to have to consider. At this point in time, it's a 60/40, 50/50 shot as to who might win.
MALCOLM BOOTH: Arnold, thank you so much for coming in to join us.
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