The Local Knowlege

Throwback Thursday

How 'The Machine' perpetuated Jack Nicklaus' futility at the Canadian Open

Cancer survivor. Classic car collector. Quiet competitor. Part of the much vaunted San Diego-bred brotherhood of golf stars. World Golf Hall of Fame member.

loop-gene-littler-300.jpgGene (The Machine) Littler is all of those, and during this week of the RBC Canadian Open, he's on the calendar for two milestones. He turned 85 on Tuesday, and this year marks the 50th anniversary of his Canadian Open win, when he edged Jack Nicklaus by a shot in a duel at Mississaugua G. & C.C. in Toronto. The two entered the final round tied for the lead. Littler closed with a 66 to Jack's 67. On 18, Jack had a nine-foot birdie putt to tie, but missed. Littler made a four-footer for par to clinch. It was one of seven runner-up finishes for Nicklaus at the Canadian Open, an event he never did win.

Littler was also known as "The Smoothest Swinger on the Pro Circuit," a somewhat clumsy label compared to "The Machine," but he is in that elite group of tour players over the last several decades lauded for having the most natural and best-looking swings ever. The group included the likes of Sam Snead, Tom Weiskopf, Tom Purtzer, Steve Elkington, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Adam Scott, among others.

Littler used his swing to win 29 PGA Tour titles. His big career moments were winning the 1953 U.S. Amateur and 1961 U.S. Open, plus he played on seven U.S. Ryder Cup teams. His fight back from cancer helped him earn the Bob Jones and Ben Hogan awards in 1973. His record would have been better if playoffs lost in the 1970 Masters and 1977 PGA had gone his way. In the latter, he was making a sentimental bid at age 47 to win at Pebble Beach, but a final-day 76 did him in.


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Throwback Thursday

Harry Vardon's King of the Open title seems pretty secure

In the hearts of most pure-minded golfers, the Open Championship has always been golf's world championship and thus the winner is the "world's" champion golfer of the year. That's in recognition of the influence the game's birthplace has had on golfers on a global scale. Even non-Brits can now just call the oldest major the Open Championship, dropping British from the title, and feel at ease to be giving proper respect.

For the last 101 of the championship's 155 years, Harry Vardon has been King of the Open. He won his sixth title in 1914, at age 44, and has not been caught since. The four members of the Five Timers Gang -- James Braid, J.H. Taylor, Peter Thomson and Tom Watson -- each had chances for a sixth, but couldn't finish them off. Watson's epic effort in 2009 at age 59, which fell one shot short, will likely ensure King Harry an even longer reign since the active leader in victories is Tiger Woods with three, and at nearly 40, he must resume the chase quickly to challenge for six or more.

Related: Watson to play last Masters in 2016

Watson is having one last go at St. Andrews this week in his 38th and final Open appearance, 40 years after his first Open, and will have son, Michael, caddieing. In the mystical world of Scottish golf, one can imagine that the ghost of Vardon sent an extra puff of wind to help propel Watson's 18th-hole approach at Turnberry in 2009 over the green. If so, how does Watson stand a chance at age 65? But perhaps consolation for him is in knowing that behind Vardon, his runner-up result in 2009 seemingly makes his record the best of the players in the five-win club, thus earning him here an unofficial title of Duke. (Coincidentally, all four won consecutive Opens but Thomson won three straight.)


Make your own conclusions about who had the better record in chasing a sixth claret jug after reviewing their record following win No. 5:

James Braid: Won five Opens in a 9-year span (1901, 1905, 1906, 1908, 1910) followed by 2 top-5 and 3 top-10 finishes in 1911 (T-5), 1912 (third) and 1914 (T-10), the last at age 44.

J.H. Taylor: Won five in a 19-year span (1894, 1895, 1900, 1909, 1913) followed by 2 top-5 and 4 top-10 finishes in 1914 (second), 1922 (sixth), 1924 (fifth) and 1925 (T-6), the last at age 54.

Peter Thomson: Won five in an 11-year span (1954, 1955, 1956, 1958, 1965) followed by 5 top-10 finishes in 1966 (T-8), 1967 (T-8), 1969 (T-3), 1970 (T-9) and 1971 (T-9), the last at age 41.

Tom Watson: Won five in an eight-year span (1975, 1977, 1980, 1982, 1983) followed by three top-five and five top-10 finishes in 1984 (T-2), 1987 (seventh), 1989 (fourth), 1997 (T-10) and 2009 (second), the last at age 59.


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Throwback Thursday

How a foursome of tour pros learned (almost tragically) that lightning is nothing to fool around with

For the majority of golfers, lightning is just something we're reminded of during National Severe Weather Awareness Week, or when a suspension of play during a tour event gives a broadcaster the chance to remind us that lightning strikes the earth worldwide about 100 times a second. By and large we are blissfully unaware of lightning's potential severity.

But there are historical reminders of lightning's danger for golfers, such as the lightning-affected 1983 U.S. Open and 1989 PGA, and the spectator deaths at the 1991 U.S. Open and PGA.

And then there is the 40th anniversary of a frightening lightning event at the 1975 Western Open. It was during the second round June 27 at Butler National in Oak Brook, Ill., when dark skies, rumbling and lightning forced tour officials to suspend play. While still playing, however, Tony Jacklin was in his follow-through when a lightning bolt knocked his 8-iron 30 feet out of his hands. Remembering the day in 2002, he told Golf Digest's Guy Yocom, "I was immediately aware of a burning taste in my mouth."

When another bolt knocked his playing companion Bobby Nichols to the ground, he got up with "a look of terror on his face I've never forgotten," Jacklin said. A woozy Nichols told a club official he felt strange and didn't have his equilibrium. The official, Red Harbour, later explained, "I knew there was something wrong -- and then I smelled his breath. I'm in the construction business, and I know what burned wire smells like. That's just what I smelled. I called for an ambulance right away."

Related: When lightning strikes a flag stick, it can do crazy things

Two other players, Lee Trevino and Jerry Heard, were next to the 13th green under a tree with umbrellas open, following Trevino's thinking of waiting out the storm. They were stationed next to their golf bags full of metal clubs when a lightning bolt hit a nearby lake and the current spread to where they were sitting. Both players suffered burns to the body, Trevino to the back and Heard to his mid-section where the handle of his putter was resting.


Trevino, Heard and Nichols were sent to a hospital in nearby Hinsdale; only Heard was able to get out in time to continue playing. When the Western finished on Monday with a 36-hole wrap-up, Heard amazingly tied for fourth. In the ensuing years, all three would be affected by health issues. Trevino notably had chronic back problems and underwent several corrective surgeries.

Although they were affected by indirect hits, the three could have done things differently under the conditions and avoided the near-tragic outcome. Trevino and Heard, for instance, violated several lightning safety tips by sitting under a tree, near a body of water and adjacent to their steel golf clubs rather than going immediately to an enclosed building or car.

Lightning experts will say not to wait to get off the course until you see lightning but before, and that you should wait about a half hour after lightning has left the area to resume play. The USGA's safety tips include:

When you hear thunder, lightning is near. Immediately head indoors.

Seek to enter: A large, permanent building; fully enclosed metal vehicle (cars, vans or pickup trucks) and the lowest elevation area.

Avoid: Tall objects such as trees and poles; small rain and sun shelters; large, open areas; wet areas; elevated areas; all metal objects, including golf clubs, golf carts, fences, electrical and maintenance machinery and power lines.

If sudden, close-in lightning does not permit immediate evacuation to a safer place, spread out from your group, squat down, tuck your head and cover your ears. Head for the safest place as soon as immediate threat passes.

For other lightning safety tips and weather resources, you can check out (National Lightning Safety Institute), (American Meteorological Society), and (United States Golf Association).


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Throwback Thursday

The Sam Snead connections with The Greenbrier never end

Any week -- any day, really -- is likely to be an anniversary of something special the great Sam Snead achieved in golf. Exhibit A: July 4 marks the 50th anniversary of a Snead double repeat. In both February 1964 and 1965, Snead won the Senior PGA Championship, which allowed him to go up against the English senior champion in July each year in a 36-hole International World Senior match, sponsored beginning in 1955 by Teacher's Scotch. In 1964, Snead beat Syd Scott, 7 and 6, at Wentworth in England (Snead is getting the winning trophy below). Then on July 4, 1965, he beat Charles Ward in 37 holes at England's Formby Golf Club. After 1968, Teacher's dropped sponsorship of the match.


With this being the Greenbrier Classic week, it's only appropriate to also look back at Sam's remarkable association with "America's Resort." Almost 80 years ago in 1936, Snead made his first visit to The Greenbrier and the two were nearly always associated until Snead's death in 2002. Snead memorabilia populates the West Virginia resort, including at two restaurants, Sam Snead's at the Golf Club and Slammin' Sammy's.

Related: Don't think West Virginia is a playground for the rich? Think again

Snead was The Greenbrier's golf pro from 1946 until the end of 1974 when the two parted ways because the ageless wonder Snead, at age 62, "wanted more time to play tournament golf and [The Greenbrier] wants a full-time club pro," according to Golf World coverage. He rejoined as The Greenbrier's Golf Pro Emeritus from 1993-2002 (Tom Watson followed from 2005-2015 and Lee Trevino was named GPE earlier this year).

In October 1970, Snead aced the 18th hole of the Old White House Course (now Old White TPC), with a 7-iron covering the 163 yards. At the time it was his 18th career ace and the fourth on that hole, but he had another on it -- his final one -- in 1995. Snead also shot 60 six times on the Old White Course, and he had an easy-to-remember 59 in 1959 on the Greenbrier Course. 


An elegant fixture of The Greenbrier is the Spring Festival, which began in 1948 and was later renamed the Sam Snead Festival. It was a star-studded event at its origin, held in late spring. Forty pros played 18 holes Thursday through Sunday, and three amateurs joined each pro on Saturday and Sunday in a pro-am format. Bob Hope, the Duke of Windsor and assorted U.S. senators were amateurs in the early days; Ben Hogan, Peter Thomson, Jack Burke Jr., Dow Finsterwald, Doug Ford, Claude Harmon, Henry Picard and Jimmy Demaret some of the pros.

Snead won the event multiple times (and gave clinics at the event like in the photo above), but in February 1968 the resort announced it was dropping festival. The announcement said, "Following a thorough study of current and future spring activity schedules at The Greenbrier, we have reluctantly decided to cancel future Sam Snead Festival golf tournaments."

But in a beautiful example of how life and common sense can come full circle, the Sam Snead Festival is back on The Greenbrier schedule as a 36-hole pro-am to honor his legacy. It was restarted in 1994 and he hosted it until 2001. This year it was held June 7-9 and hosted by Nick Faldo, who has a learning center at the resort and an affinity for The Slammer. 


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Throwback Thursday

Recalling the first Senior Open and its underrated champion

The great Argentinian Roberto De Vicenzo has a perennially sad tie-in with the 1968 Masters but more upbeat is to recall his competitive longevity, including his stellar 1967 British Open victory, which he won at age 44, the oldest Open Championship winner of the modern era.


When De Vicenzo won the first-ever U.S. Senior Open in 1980, he was already 57 years, 2 months and 15 days old, and 35 years later that ranks as the second oldest age of a Senior Open winner, behind Allen Doyle (58 years, 13 days in 2006).

The minimum age to enter the first Senior Open was 55, putting De Vicenzo at the prime age to contend. Played on the East Course at Winged Foot, the inaugural event finished on June 29, 1980, so this Sunday’s winner at Del Paso CC will be crowned almost 35 years to the day from Roberto’s four-shot victory over amateur legend Bill Campbell. De Vicenzo shot four under on the weekend to finish at one over par, 285, for the championship.

De Vicenzo’s post-victory comments showed a competitive mindset that works at any age. “To win, you have to fight. Men 57 years old can still do anything -- score a 1 or a 10,” he said. “But at the start we didn’t think anybody would break 290.”

Begun as a “result of the remarkable growth in senior golf, both at the professional and amateur levels,” the debut of the U.S. Senior Open coincided with the formation of the PGA Senior Tour, although notes from the 1969 USGA Annual Meeting show a Senior Open was discussed back then. It wasn’t until the 1979 meeting, however, that the Senior Open was a go.

With his Legends of Golf success on the new senior tour, De Vicenzo was demonstrating his staying power there, too. In 1984 at age 61 he won the Golf Digest Commemorative. In 1981, the USGA lowered the Senior Open age minimum to 50 to “make the championship more competitive” and to more closely align it with other senior-age events. That also made the favorite players more likely to be in their early 50s rather than late, making it unlikely the oldest winning ages will be challenged.


With the passing of Kel Nagle earlier this year at age 94, De Vicenzo is now the third-oldest surviving major champion. Doug Ford will be 93 on August 6; Jack Burke Jr. was 92 in January, and De Vicenzo turned 92 on April 14. The list continues with Peter Thomson (86 in August), Dow Finsterwald (86 on September 6), Arnold Palmer (86 on September 10), and Gene Littler (85 on July 21).


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Throwback Thursday

50 years later, Gary Player winning the career Grand Slam is still pretty incredible

In a sport that's centuries old, the history that matters can be measured in increments of time as prolonged as an entire era or as quick as a single shot. And then there's the landmark, milestone-type historical moment that for several months has been part of the mainstream golf conversation for two present stars and, this week, celebrates a 50th anniversary for Gary Player.

loop-gary-player-300.jpgThe career Grand Slam, achieved by five players, was a big discussion point two months ago when Rory McIlroy had his first chance to complete it at the Masters. His fourth-place finish means we'll have to wait to for it again next April. This week, the conversation moves to Phil Mickelson with his second chance at completing the career Grand Slam at the U.S. Open. If he does it, as you'll see, the components of his achievement compared with the quintet that preceded him will be significantly different, particularly his age.

Like baseball's Triple Crown achievers, which total 17 but just one in the last 47 years, golf's Grand Slam players were busy early and quiet lately. Four players completed the Slam from 1935 to 1966 but just one since then. Completing the Grand Slam can take several years to do, but the week that it happens, the focal point becomes the winning moment and celebration, the zenith of all the effort and buildup. The first to do it, Gene Sarazen, nailed it down after a 36-hole Masters playoff with Craig Wood on April 8, 1935, accompanied by rain and cold.

With the Masters being so new, Sarazen's Grand Slam took awhile to be appreciated. Player, however, was the third to accomplish the feat, and recognition of his sweep of the four majors was immediate. He, too, did it in a playoff, with Kel Nagle, at the U.S. Open. The playoff at Bellerive in St. Louis started at 1:15 p.m on June 21, 1965. (Player will officially mark the 50th anniversary Sunday at Chambers Bay.) The '65 Open was also the first National Open televised in color and first to go to four days of play rather than three with a double-round on Day 3.

Here is a Grand Slam primer, with dates when Grand Slam history was made, in the order they happened, with feat details. Interestingly, Sarazen, Ben Hogan and Player won their clinching major just once; Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods won their clinching major, the British Open, three times. Sarazen and Hogan did not win another major after their Slams were done.

  • April 8, 1935: Gene Sarazen (two months past age 33) wins the Masters, beating Craig Wood, 144-149, in a 36-hole playoff. Sarazen clinched the Slam on his first try (he did not play the 1934 Masters). Three years passed from his No. 3 major (1932 British Open). Grand Slam span: 13 years; 1922 first, 1935 fourth (the Masters did not start until 1934). Won Masters once. Seven total majors won at time of completion.

  • July 10, 1953: Ben Hogan (one month shy of 41) wins the British Open by four. Hogan clinched the Slam on his first try (he only played the British Open once). Two years passed from his No. 3 major (1951 Masters). Grand Slam span: seven years; 1946 first, 1953 fourth. Won British Open once. Nine total majors won at time of completion.

  • loop-garys-gang-throwback.jpgJune 21, 1965: Gary Player (five months shy of 30) wins the U.S. Open in an 18-hole playoff with Kel Nagle, 71-74. Player clinched on his third try. Three years passed from his No. 3 major (1962 PGA). Grand Slam span: six years; 1959 first, 1965 fourth. Won U.S. Open once. Four total majors won at time of completion.

  • July 9, 1966: Jack Nicklaus (age 26 and a half) wins the British Open by one. Nicklaus clinched on his third try and his fifth time to play the Open. Three years passed from his No. 3 major (1963 PGA). Grand Slam span: four years; 1962 first, 1966 fourth. Won British Open three times. Six total majors won at time of completion.

  • July 23, 2000: Tiger Woods (age 24 years 7 months) wins the British Open by eight. Woods clinched on his first try and his sixth time in the British Open. One month passed from his No. 3 major (2000 U.S. Open). Grand Slam span: three years; 1997 first, 2000 fourth. Won British Open three times. Four total majors won at time of completion.


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Throwback Thursday

If you want to win the U.S. Open, you probably don't want to win this week in Memphis

The predominant strategy heading into a major such as next week's U.S. Open is to have your game peaking for the best chance to win. But Golf Digest research shows that's all fine and good as long as the peaking doesn't include actually winning the week before the Open.

loop-throwback-usopen-ernie-els-300.jpgSince 1934, the year the PGA Tour first crowned a leading money-winner, the tour has played an event the week before the Open 65 times (this week marks the 16th time it's being played in Memphis). Since 1962, it has been a full-field, stroke-play tournament. Of the 65 winners of these tournaments, however, none has ever gone on to claim the U.S. Open title. The best Open finishes were runner-up results for Jimmy Demaret in 1948 and Lloyd Mangrum in 1950, third-place finishes for Arnold Palmer in 1963 and Tom Weiskopf in 1973 and a T-3 by Sergio Garcia in 2005.

As it turns out, winning the week prior to the National Open has done little to improve a golfers chances of even contending in the major. Eight of the 65 winners of the lead-in tournaments did not actually play in the Open and 17 winners missed the cut the next week, meaning 40 percent of the winners weren't even close to being a factor in the U.S. Open. Of the other 39 who played 72 holes at the Open, the average finish was 21st; only 16 players (25 percent) finished in the top 10.

Related: One of these 11 players will win at Chambers Bay

The fact no player has gone into the Open off a win and repeated likely speaks to the different (and more difficult) nature of the course the USGA is playing its championship on compared to the normal tour venue, where birdies aren't quite so scarce. In short, the Open likely ruins whatever good feelings you had about your game after winning.

In some cases, it was beneficial to come close to winning and then do it at the Open: In 1962, Jack Nicklaus was second at the Thunderbird Classic and won his first pro tournament at the Open. In 1971, Lee Trevino lost a playoff at the Kemper and won the Open the next week. In 1974, Hale Irwin was second at Philadelphia one week and won the Open the next. Corey Pavin lost a playoff at Kemper then won at Shinnecock Hills in 1995.

The toughest heartbreak trifecta was Palmer in 1963: He won a playoff June 16 at the Thunderbird Classic, lost a three-way playoff the next week in the Open, then won a playoff at the Cleveland Open the next.

Related: 15 things that only happen at the U.S. Open

There is actually more evidence that winning the U.S. Open can carry over to the following week, if the champion feels up to playing after a big win. Five U.S. Open winners have carried the momentum over into the following week's tour event: Ralph Guldahl (1938 U.S. Open) at the Western Open; Cary Middlecoff ('49 Open) a rare co-champion at the Motor City Open; Billy Casper (1966 U.S. Open) won the Western; Irwin (1990 Open) won the Buick Classic at Westchester; and Ernie Els experienced both perspectives. In 1994, he was second at the Buick Classic a week before winning at Oakmont in a playoff, but in 1997 he did an Irwin and won the Open and Buick back-to-back.

Of course, some players can win an event and take time off to win an Open: In 1953, Ben Hogan won Colonial on May 24 and the Open in his next start on June 13. Tiger Woods won the Memorial May 29 in 2000 then was off until winning at Pebble Beach June 18.

Interestingly, 13 players twice won the event leading into the Open, but neither time got the follow-up win at the Open: Mangrum, Palmer, Gene Littler, Casper, Weiskopf, J.C. Snead, Andy Bean, Ray Floyd, Seve Ballesteros, Vijay Singh, Lee Janzen, Justin Leonard and Garcia.


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Throwback Thursday

A milestone birthday has us revisiting this Hall of Famer's winning ways

The best 1970s/1980s counterpart to the 1960s Billy Casper is Hale Irwin. He didn't have the Big Three in his way as the late Casper did, but there were Nicklaus, Watson, Miller and Trevino, among many others, at various competitive stages of their hall-of-fame careers to battle. Like Casper, Irwin won three majors, all U.S. Opens, including the brutal 1974 Massacre at Winged Foot. The Missourian won two World Match Plays and an NCAA individual title in 1967.

Known for winning on tough golf courses, Irwin was a tenacious player, who, like Tom Kite in their 1970s-style glasses, had that studious look that accentuated a tactical game rather than the heroic he could play to. Irwin's substantial talents carried onto the Senior PGA Tour/Champions Tour, where his 45 victories rank No. 1 in career wins.

Wednesday marked Irwin's 70th birthday. As a major Golf Digest contributor during his prime, we salute the supreme player of the fairway wood and long iron, clubs that were part of the repertoire that had to be mastered in Irwin's era. Here are two condensed pieces of instruction from his 22 articles.


From September 1981: In the article "10 Ways to KO Your Opponents," Irwin threw a jab at the camera as he revealed how to become more competitive "for the golfer whose competitive fires burn low, but whose desire for improvement is high." 1. Approach each round with a fresh mind. 2. Make every shot the critical one and handle it as a separate challenge. 3. Consider difficult conditions an advantage since they eliminate quitters. 4. Keep moving forward; always go for the bigger winning margin. 5. Give yourself shotmaking alternatives; every situation presents you with more than one way to play the shot. 6. Practice your weakness. 7. Use your warm-up for "housecleaning," pay particular attention to tempo and fundamentals. 8. Keep your emotions on an even keel. 9. When shot and club indecision creep in, go back to Square 1 and start your decision-making again. 10. Above all, keep it fun.

From June 1980: In "How to Play Fairway Woods," Irwin had a great tip that still applies to today's modern fairway clubs used for long plays. In describing fairway woods in his game as falling "into a buffer zone between the power of the driver and the accuracy of the irons," he said to maintain your tempo with a "backplace." For smooth tempo, he wrote, "I find it helpful to forget about the backswing, as such, and think of it instead as a 'backplace.' In other words, just place the club at the top of the swing. That's where the real swing begins. In 'swinging' the club to the top there is a tendency to rush. By simply placing the club at the top, you eliminate a lot of apprehension that accompanies a long shot."


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Throwback Thursday

Arnie started cashing tour checks 60 years ago, and tour players are still cashing in today

Forget Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. A better example of connectedness, at least in the game of golf, is Arnold Palmer, who has millions of fans feeling part of the Arnie's Army, as well as thousands of tour pros, including Tiger Woods, who can trace their personal largesse to A.P.

loop-arnold-palmer-1955-canada-300.jpgIn fact, the big money machine that benefits the PGA Tour and its players can celebrate an anniversary this week. Sixty years ago on Friday marks the day Arnold Palmer started making money as a tour player. On May 29, 1955, after finishing his fourth round at the Fort Wayne Invitational, Palmer pocketed $145 for finishing T-25. It was the first official PGA Tour payday Palmer was allowed to keep, having served the long-since abandoned, six-month probation against earning money in tour events after turning pro. (Imagine a tour pro today being told he had to wait a half-year to take home money he earned.) 

Prior to Fort Wayne, Palmer had played 10 tour-run events in 1955, having turned pro at the end of 1954. He finished "out of the money" in five, missed the cut in one and had to pass on $1,144.86 he would have gone home with in the other four. (He was allowed to take home the $695.83 he earned for a T-10 finish at the Masters in April 1955 because it was not run by the tour.) Three months later in August, Palmer won the Canadian Open (shown) for his first tour title and a top prize of $2,400. 

The 145 simoleons from Fort Wayne were the start of Palmer's launch into making golf in general -- and the tour specifically -- financially lucrative. His star power helped the tour grow in popularity, which in turn increased prize money substantially. He was the first to make $100,000 in a season, first to $1 million in career earnings and the first to make advertising marketability an art form, something he still excels at today at age 85. The huge tour purses he helped grow came much after Palmer was capable of winning on tour, but the money he was able to keep at the Fort Wayne Invitational 60 years ago must have felt like a fortune at the time, which is what he turned it into.

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News & Tours

That time I made a complete ass of myself to Loren Roberts at Colonial

Do you remember that Kenny Perry won the 2003 Colonial? I didn't until I looked it up this morning. I was at that tournament, and in hindsight, I vaguely recall Perry winning in what was a resurgent season for the veteran. But 12 years later, I think we all more likely recall that year's Colonial for Annika Sorenstam's historic two rounds playing on the PGA Tour

The concept of a player other than the event winner hijacking a tournament storyline isn't uncommon in golf. We remember that tournament where Michelle Wie made her professional debut and got DQed because of a bad drop, but we don't remember that (fittingly) Sorenstam was the winner. We remember the time Jean Van de Velde coughed up the Open Championship, but you might need a moment to recall that Paul Lawrie was the benefactor.

But back to that year's Colonial. There was no bigger story in golf in 2003 than Sorenstam, the unequivocal star of the LPGA, testing herself against the men. And as reporters on the scene, our job that week was to try to put it all in its proper perspective.

So there I was, and there was then 47-year-old Loren Roberts. Nice guy, thoughtful quote. Great putter. Roberts was one of more than a dozen players I interviewed that week about Sorenstam, how she might fare and the historical implications of her appearance.

We were standing by the practice green and at some point I introduced the premise (a prescient one, it turns out) that years from now, all we'd remember about this tournament is Sorenstam playing in it. Then to underscore my point, I continued.

"It's really like when Tiger made his pro debut at the Greater Milwaukee Open in '96," I said.

Roberts nodded.

"I mean, everyone remembers Tiger that week. But does anyone even remember who won?" I said. "Do YOU?"

"Yes," Roberts said. Then he smiled. "I did."

"Oh," I said, blood rushing to my face. "Right."

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