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March 20, 2013
MARK STEVENS: I'd like to welcome Mr.Arnold Palmer, host of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard. Mr.Palmer, if you want to start off and make some general comments? I've heard a lot of wonderful feedback from the players on the course and the conditions this week. If you want to make some comments on that, and then we'll go ahead and take some questions.
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I think you said it. The players, and the golf course, in my opinion, is about as good as it's ever been for this tournament. Everything is groomed right to the tee, the greens, the fairways, the roughs. The rough is not particularly long, but it is thick, and that's, of course, that was an effort that we made to get it thick and not make it so long so that the guys could hit it.
The comments, as you say, from the players has been very good. I haven't heard any derogatory remarks, as yet, and that's a surprise because usually someone will have something to say about the golf course.
But, generally, conditions overall are great. If we can just keep this rain from becoming a major factor, we'll be in pretty good shape, I think, with everything. Our ticket sales, last checked was yesterday, and they were ahead of last year and in pretty good shape. So we're hoping that that will continue and everything else seems to be falling into place.
Q. Tiger is going after an eighth win here. What is it about this course that you think maybe matches Tiger's game?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I don't know. He played well here from the first time he came here. He won the Junior here, and he has really played very well on the golf course. What I would suggest is that the golf course is not overly long, but it's consistently long. Let's just say that. And it suits his game from the standpoint of if he can drive it in the right position, most of the time the shots into the greens will give him that opportunity. From what I've watched of him over the years here, it seems to work pretty well.
Q. Next month is the 50th anniversary of Jack's first Masters win. What do you remember about that, and how did that kind of set‑up the dynamic between you and him going forward?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I haven't concentrated on Jack's 50th win, okay. But I think it's great (laughing). Jack, of course, through the years, we've had a pretty good relationship. It started when he played a tournament or an exhibition with him in Athens, Ohio, that was a long time ago. That kind of started a friendship that has lasted ever since. Of course, when he was about to turn pro, he came to me and asked for some advice, and I gave him whatever I could and that's continued through the years.
Q. Did you try to talk Rory McIlroy into playing in your tournament, and do you understand why he's not here?
ARNOLD PALMER: Did who try to talk? Did I try to? No. I sort of threw a casual fun at him. It was meant to be funny. I guess, I don't know whether it was or not. I was kind of kidding when somebody said is he playing? And I said, well, if he doesn't, I'm going to break his arm. But it was meant in jest, and it was strictly a passing remark.
Frankly, I thought he was going to play, and I was as surprised as a lot of people when he decided he was not going to play.
Q. How much of a younger version of yourself do you see in Bubba Watson? And what do you like about his game from what you've been able to watch?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, what I've seen of him is he's long, and a lot of the time it doesn't have a zip code on it. But he plays fun. It looks like he's enjoying himself, and I think that's‑‑ if there is something similar, that may be it.
He's very long, and someone said something about the shot that he hit at 10 that's afforded him the opportunity to win The Masters. A lot of those shots are natural, and that was, for him, it looked to me like a perfectly natural shot out of the woods. He had an opening, and he made it. Of course, that's one of the things that I did a little bit from here to there. A lot of people didn't know who I was, because they never saw me. I was in the trees. But if there is a similarity, that might be it.
Q. Jack said a couple years ago that you're the one that taught him how to write letters to a tournament sponsor after the event to thank them for the week. Did anyone teach that to you or how did that come about?
ARNOLD PALMER: No, I just did that as something as a reminder to the sponsors and to the players that that was a good habit to get into. Of course, I have been writing to the players for quite some time now congratulating them on their tournament wins each week. Doc Giffin, who all of you know, was a guy that he keeps me up on that, and we write the letters and we sign them usually Monday or Tuesday right after the tournament is over.
I think it's a good habit. It's something that reminds them that we have a tournament also, and that we'd like to have them show up here.
Q. Were you able to watch the final round or the final couple of holes last year when Tiger won, or were you ambulanced at that point? How are you feeling nowadays?
ARNOLD PALMER: I was sort of a little incapacitated at that point, so I didn't see all of the shots. I saw a couple of them, but I was getting blood pressure taken and all of that stuff. So I really missed a lot of the shots that he played.
Q. This is related to The Masters where you have competed for 50 years, including your four wins. I was just curious to know how fast were the greens back in the late '50s and '60s, and also the changes in grass and the advancement of the agronomy, the grass, and mowing the scenery. From your point of view as a player and an architect, just curious to see how the speed of these greens and the slopes influence the complexity of competition?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, the greens were not as fast back in the '50s and '60s. Every year, they got a little bit quicker because of the technology that they had and the way they maintained the golf course at Augusta. But only after they changed the grass from the Bermuda and overseed to the bentgrass did they really get as fast as they are now practicing.
I never really‑‑ well, I played on them when they were bent, but in the tournaments that I won, they were never that fast. They were fast for what we were used to the TOUR. But they were not the speed that we see them today.
Q. You mentioned you thought Rory was playing in this event. How disappointed are you that he isn't? And have you had an official word from him or his advisors as to why he isn't?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, he's not, obviously, and I was surprised. I thought that he would play. I've had conversations, brief conversations with him some time ago, not recently, about his playing. For some reason I got it in my mind that he would be playing, but that, obviously, is wrong.
What his reason or reasoning is, I don't know, and I'm not going to worry about it.
Q. What did you make of the march for the hospital yesterday and the support that all the players have given?
ARNOLD PALMER: Oh, I think it's wonderful. Hey, this hospital and the work that they're doing at the hospital is fantastic. Every bit of support that we can get to make the hospital work better is welcome. To have the players and their wives and all of these people supporting the program is fantastic.
We have a policy that we don't turn anyone away from the hospital. When they come, they get treated, and that's going to be our policy for as long as I'm connected with it, and we're proud of it. We're proud of the hospital, the way it is set up, the way it operates.
These guys that are ambassadors like from yesterday and the walk and the things that they do, all the attention we can get helps the hospital. We're probably about number two in the United States now. We'd like to be number one because we think that if we improve with all of the various modes of the hospital, whether it be the kidneys or the heart or just taking care of the people. Of course, the husbands and wives that come in to have their baby born in the hospital, we like to have them say, boy, was that a great experience, and it has helped. Whether it be Annika or Tiger or Joe Dokes, we give them all the same treatment, and we're very proud of that.
Q. With the TOUR's recent opposition to the proposed ban on anchored putting, I'd like to get your thoughts on the idea that there could be two sets of rules on this issue? A TOUR rule and a USGA rule?
ARNOLD PALMER: Of course, you know that I am very strong on two of those subjects that you just passed. One, I don't think that golf has a place for two sets of rules. I think one of the reasons that the game has progressed in the way that it has over the years is the fact that the amateurs and the pros all play the same game and they play under the same set of rules. I feel like that is very, very important.
It may be the key to the future success of the game of golf, just the fact that there will be one set of rules and we'll all play by them.
Now the long putter, I've objected to that from the beginning. I only think that we don't need a long putter. That's not part of the game of golf. To attach it to your body in any way is taking a little bit away from the game.
I'm not going to argue with anybody about it. I'd rather just‑‑ I've stated my position, and that is that we do not need a contraption to play the game of golf. I would hope that we'd play under one set of rules, and those rules would include a ban on the long putter hooked to the body in some way, shape or form.
Q. Given where the game was when you started out, what is it like for you to see a 14‑year‑old from China in this year's Masters field?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, of course, I don't have any real feelings about ages and how that works in the game of golf. I think that if a young man 14 years old qualified to play, let him play. I'm not so sure that it isn't more of a detriment than it is a plus for him. I think that if he had a little more experience and a little more time to play the game and play in competition, that he might want to wait a little longer to attack something like Augusta.
But as far as the rules and the club is concerned, if he can qualify, let him have at it.
Q. Do you remember the piece of advice that you gave Tiger when you and him first talked? Second, given that you followed his career from the very beginning, do you think he'll break the majors record?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I think whatever advice I gave him was only in his best interest, as far as I was concerned. I think he's done pretty well with a couple of exceptions. I think right now looking at him and watching him play, as I have recently, he looks probably as strong and as good from a golf perspective as I've ever seen him. I think his swing and his posture and his attitude is far better than it's been in some time, and it takes me back to when I first played with him at Augusta when he was a rookie.
I give him a chance. I give him a chance to do the record. I suppose that every year it's a little more fleeting, however, and he'll have to really work hard to keep himself up and keep his mental attitude if he's going to do it.
Q. I wanted to ask you about another record Tiger is in pursuit of, and that is Sam Snead's 82 victories. You've been around and fortunate enough to see both of them play. If you could maybe share your thoughts on what was most impressive part of Sam's record, and maybe just get your thoughts on that?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I think Sam Snead was one of the most natural swingers of the golf club that I have ever seen, and that still stands. He's one of the most natural players and certainly a persistent, long time professional. The record that he set is great. Can Tiger do that? I don't think there is any question about the fact that he can win that many tournaments. I think he can, and I think he probably will.
Q. Augusta National has finally invited some female members. Did that bother you that it took so long?
ARNOLD PALMER: Are you asking me female members or that it took so long? I would say neither bothers me. I think that it will be‑‑ I think it will be different, but I think that it's probably something that was going to happen, and I've accepted it like everyone else.
Q. Found out the new video golf game that's coming out. The public can play as a legend like you against the current TOUR pros. I just wanted to get your comment on that. Also the story that I hear about the 1960 Cherry Hills, driving the green on the last day. Given that the current technology in the golf clubs, how would you feel putting up a good fight against a current top long hitter?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, of course everything has changed since the 1960. I used a wooden club, and it was totally different than it is today. If they wanted to take it out and play with all those old things that I did, they're welcome. But I'm probably still playing golf because of the modern equipment that is coming out on the market. Whether it be graphite or titanium or a hard golf ball, whatever it is. I think the game has advanced, and it will continue to advance.
I would like to see them slow the ball down. I think that's probably the major thing that I would like to see happen. I think the technology in the clubs and what they're building into the golf clubs is going to continue. I don't think you can stop that. But I feel like somewhere you're going to run out of room, and the golf courses that we're playing are not going to be adequate for the way they hit the golf ball.
So I think that we need to start looking for a way to slow it down just a little, and, of course, my thoughts would be the golf ball itself.
Q. Would you play that video game or your grandson?
ARNOLD PALMER: The video game, I just did some lead‑ins, which I enjoyed. It was funny. It will be fun. And, yes, I think it would be fun to play these video games against‑‑ well, let's go to 1960s versus 2013. I think that's part of it, and it would be very fun.
Q. Do you recall your reaction in the early '70s, when Deane Beman came up with the concept of a Players Championship, what you thought of the idea, and how you think that tournament's evolved? It will be played for the 40th time this year.
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, THE PLAYERS Championship as a championship, I think is great. I think that's very good, and I would like to‑‑ I think I would like to see it continue and become a tournament such as it has. It's an important tournament. But I think if you fool with the four majors, which you're infringing on, I think that that's something that we should continue to emphasize as the major championships in golf. The Open, the Open, the PGA, and The Masters. How can you beat The Masters for a championship and a tournament that is a highlight of the year? It starts our year, and it really gets it ignited throughout the year.
I think international golf is going to become a bigger factor as time goes on than it is now, and I think that we as a nation and the United States are going to have to take a look at the international aspects of golf. Of course, I think then we'll see other major championships coming along.
We're a little ways off of that right now, but I would expect that it will continue.
Q. You had said that you like to see the ball slowed down at some point. But my question to you is at the same time, if the tournaments or the majors suggested that they might have a tournament ball and only for those events, which would actually be bifurcation, would you be in favor of that?
ARNOLD PALMER: I've thought about that, and frankly, I'd rather see the golf ball and the same set of rules be the same set of rules for everybody. If you change the golf ball for a particular event or series of events, then you're going to have to change the rules, and I'm not in favor of that. I'm in favor of keeping one set of rules, and that would include the golf ball.
Q. Are you much of a video game fan? Do you have an XBox back in Latrobe?
ARNOLD PALMER: Do what?
Q. Are you much of a video game player yourself, and do you have much of a history?
ARNOLD PALMER: No. Just no (laughing).
Q. I'm curious, what is the loudest cheer you ever heard on a golf course? If you can't think of something, can you make something up?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, Geez. I'm trying to think. It was probably on 16th hole at Augusta when Jimmy Demaret and I forgot who the other announcer was, was in back of the 16th green and they were talking about the shot that I had. This is '62, and Demaret was saying he's got an‑‑ I could hear it -- he said, "He's got an impossible shot here, and to get it up‑and‑down will be a small miracle." And I'm listening to him saying all of this and then I chipped it in, and that was a loud cheer.
Q. The same kind of chip Tiger had?
ARNOLD PALMER: Yeah, yeah.
MARK STEVENS: Thank you very much for your time, Mr.Palmer, and have a good week.
ARNOLD PALMER: Very good. Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports