Palmer says age not only obstacle for Woods
ORLANDO, Florida (AP) — Arnold Palmer believes age will be an issue as 38-year-old Tiger Woods tries to break the major championship record.
The standard all along for Woods has been the 18 professional majors Jack Nicklaus won over 25 seasons. Woods reached his 14th major when he was 32, but he has not won another since that 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. And now the world’s No. 1 player is coping with an ailing back.
“I don’t think 38 years is the ultimate stopping point for his quest to do what Jack did,” Palmer said Wednesday at Bay Hill. “I think it lessens the possibility of that happening. It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be tough to keep the concentration and the type of the game that is necessary to win majors.”
Nicklaus won four of his majors after turning 38. Ben Hogan, with battered legs from a car accident, won five majors after turning 38.
Palmer, however, believes more than age is at stake for Woods.
“These young guys are tough, and they’re strong,” Palmer said. “And if they continue to play as well as they’ve been playing, it’s going to be tough for anybody — whether it be Nicklaus or Tiger or whomever it would be — to continue to win major championships. And we’re talking about guys that are playing good and coming on.”
He also alluded to Woods’ mystique that appears to have eroded.
“And the fear of a player being so good that they back off, I don’t think that’s the case anymore,” he said. “I think that the players that are going to win, and win major championships, have to be physically fit, mentally fit and they’re going to continue to be tough to beat.”
Former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell also said the strength of the field is as much an obstacle for Woods as his own health.
“I would say the field is probably the biggest issue he’s got, maybe 70-30 — 70 being field, 30 being body,” McDowell said. “It’s tough to say. He never ceases to amaze us. ... You’d never put anything past him. He could prove us all wrong and show up at Augusta, win by 10, and you guys will be back to the keyboards and waxing lyrical and away we go again. Who knows?”
TO MEET A KING: Adam Scott was a 21-year-old from Australia in his second year a pro when he received a sponsor’s exemption to play at Bay Hill.
Walking off the first green, he saw tournament host Arnold Palmer sitting in a golf cart while greeting players.
“And he came over to me and he said, ‘Adam it’s great to have you here.’ And I couldn’t even believe he knew who I was,” Scott said. “His level of involvement in the game — and this was 10 years ago or more — is incredible. And he’s in touch with it and he’s relevant and he’s been a great leader for professional golf.”
Scott said players of his generation now have a responsibility to make younger players understand why Palmer is known as The King.
“I’m not going to say I’m an older guy yet, but eventually I’ll be telling some younger guys about everything he did for the game, putting us in the media and on the map and making golf what it is today,” Scott said.
TOP FIVE: Patrick Reed’s brash comments after he won the Cadillac Championship at Doral continues to resonate with players, even those who no longer play.
Palmer was asked if the young players who are winning — eight players under 25 are among the top 50 in the world — were any more cocky than the young players of his era. He didn’t mention Reed by name, though it was clear he was speaking of the 23-year-old when he talked about being “surprised recently” with some of the comments.
“As my father taught me, and he drove home that point, he said, ’Just remember something. You don’t need to tell anybody how good you are. You show them how good you are. And he drove that home with me,” Palmer said. “So I learned early not to brag about how good I was or what I could do but let my game take that away and show them that I could play well enough.”
Palmer said Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods lived by that credo.
“I never heard Jack Nicklaus say, ‘I’m a great player,’ or Tiger Woods, as a matter of fact,” he said. “They just get out and do it. And I think that’s far more appealing ... than talking about how good you are.”
FLORIDA SWING: Graeme McDowell has only one score under par in his last two tournaments, though it’s hard to tell by the results. He tied for 46th in the Honda Classic and was in the hunt at the Cadillac Championship until he tied for ninth.
Attribute the scores to the Florida Swing. It’s been tough in the Sunshine State.
For the first time, the winning score from the opening three stops in Florida were all single-digit under par. Russell Henley won a playoff at the Honda Classic at 8-under par. Patrick Reed won Doral at 4-under par. John Senden was 7-under par in winning at Innisbrook.
“It’s no longer sunshine, resort golf courses. It’s a tough test of golf,” McDowell said. “And that’s great. I enjoy the Florida swing, and even more so now because of how tough it is.”
CAN I TAKE YOUR ORDER?: So what’s it like to be Arnold Palmer and to hear someone order an Arnold Palmer?
Palmer has a drink named after him, the popular combination of iced tea and lemonade.
“I’m a little embarrassed,” Palmer said. “I’m happy they’re ordering it, but I don’t think about it as something. I just think that maybe I’ve created something that is fun. And it was fun for me. ... Like the guy says, ‘I’ll have a Palmer.’ I don’t think about it in first person. I think about, ‘Hey, thank you. Have a couple.’”