The death of Sam Snead has left the Masters without an honorary
starter this year, a role that eventually could be filled by Arnold
Just not this year.
``Maybe in the future,'' Palmer said Tuesday from his office at
The Masters tradition of an honorary starter began in 1963 with
Jock Hutchinson and Fred McLeod, and it has carried on except for
a four-year period ending in 1980.
A year later, Byron Nelson and Gene Sarazen hit the ceremonial
tee shot to officially start the Masters, and Snead joined them
Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson recently asked Palmer,
a four-time champion and club member, if he would be interested.
``He said he was not ready for a ceremonial position, but that
he would be honored to have that role sometime in the future,''
He did not say if anyone else was asked, or if an honorary starter
had to be a past champion. Ken Venturi was an honorary starter in
1983, and neither Hutchinson nor McLeod ever won a Masters.
``Obviously, I'd like to see Arnold Palmer be an honorary starter,''
Johnson said. ``There could be others. We'll have to cross that
bridge when we get to it.''
Palmer played his final Masters last year, and for the last several
years has shown no interest in hitting one tee shot and calling
it a day.
What might change his mind?
``When I'm not playing any more is probably my criteria for that,
or at least not playing regular tour events,'' he said. ``That may
be sooner than later. At the moment, I'd just like to hold off for
REGAL RETURN?: Arnold Palmer began the streak playing against Ben
Hogan. He could end it next month against Tiger Woods.
The King wasn't planning to return to the PGA Tour until he was
reminded of a golden anniversary: This would be his 50th consecutive
year playing at least one tour event.
``I may play for that reason, to complete the circle,'' Palmer
Palmer said he will play a Champions Tour event in two weeks at
Tampa, Fla., then decide whether he wants to return at Bay Hill.
``My people are pushing hard for me to play, but my golf has been
pretty poor,'' he said. ``The main thing is I can't hit it far enough
any more, and that's kind of holding me back.''
Palmer, 73, said he is averaging about 260 yards off the tee.
``It's not how far I'm hitting it,'' he said. ``It's how far the
guys I'm playing with are hitting it. It's demoralizing.''
Palmer's streak began as an amateur in the 1953 U.S. Open, which
Hogan won at Oakmont. Woods is the three-time defending champion
at Bay Hill.
TIGER & PHIL: Whatever warm and fuzzy feelings existed between
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson might not be around when Woods returns
to the PGA Tour.
In an interview with Golf Magazine, Mickelson said he and Woods
get along better than people believe and they don't have any issues.
``Well, maybe one,'' Mickelson said. ``He hates that I can fly
it past him now. He has a faster swing speed than I do, but he has
inferior equipment. Tiger is the only player who is good enough
to overcome the equipment he's stuck with.''
Mickelson is hitting the ball longer than ever. Two weeks ago at
the Phoenix Open, he drove to the fringe of a 400-yard hole.
Still, it's a bold comment considering Woods has won 34 times,
including eight majors, since he turned pro, compared with 12 victories
and no majors for Mickelson in the same period.
Even more peculiar is that Mickelson gave the interview to Golf
Magazine -- he has a deal with rival Golf Digest as a playing editor.
THE GREAT PRANKSTER: Wayne Gretzky is playing with fellow Canadian
Mike Weir in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am this week, and the
Great One might need reminding that they're on the same team.
In other words, no pranks like the one he pulled two years ago
Gretzky, Brett Hull and Joe Sakic played their best ball against
Weir at an annual charity event two years in Nova Scotia. Weir was
tired from his flight, and went to bed early the night before the
``I called the front desk and told them I was Mike Weir's doctor,''
Gretzky said. ``I said Mike had hit his head and suffered a concussion,
and that we're worried about him falling into a deep sleep. I asked
if they could they ring his room every hour.''
He said Weir showed up the next morning groggy and irritated.
Gretzky & Co. cruised to a six-stroke victory.
QUIET WEEK: Phil Mickelson caused quite a stir last week when he
asked out of the celebrity rotation at the Bob Hope Classic.
Tee times were changed the day before the tournament, and Joey
Sindelar and Mickelson swapped their spots. Henry Hughes, chief
of operations for the PGA Tour, said there is no written policy
that tee times cannot be changed once posted.
``Typically, they're not changed except for withdraws,'' he said,
adding there were extenuating circumstances with Mickelson.
It's nothing new for players to ask out of the celebrity rotation.
Distractions are high when playing four days with the likes of Joe
Pesci and Ken Griffey Jr.
DIVOTS: Media training isn't just for the players. A couple of
PGA Tour officials are going out to Pebble Beach this week to work
with Tour wives, who are getting more media exposure through their
charitable works. ... Newport Country Club in Rhode Island, one
of the five founding clubs of the U.S. Golf Association, has been
chosen to host the 2006 U.S. Women's Open. ... Nick Faldo has reason
to celebrate. Along with moving up to No. 53 in the world ranking
and virtually assuring a spot in the Match Play Championship, he
and wife Valerie are expecting their first child in July.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Two of Mike Weir's four career PGA Tour victories
have come at tournaments where the defending champion was the more
famous lefty, Phil Mickelson.
FINAL WORD: ``I'm playing Doral even if my arm falls off. I'm getting
bored.'' -- Curtis Strange, who is recovering from surgery on his
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