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Venturi says Palmer broke rules in 58 Masters

In a book that will be released as Arnold Palmer prepares for his 50th and final Masters, Ken Venturi claims Palmer broke the rules when he won the first of his four Masters titles in 1958.

``Nobody, not even Palmer, is bigger than the game,'' Venturi says in ``Getting Up & Down: My 60 Years in Golf.''

``I firmly believe that he did wrong and that he knows that I know he did wrong.''

Venturi, the 1964 U.S. Open champion who spent 35 years as a golf analyst for CBS Sports, declined an interview request Friday. His agent said Triumph Books, the publisher, does not want him to talk about the book until it is released March 17.

An excerpt from the book is in the April edition of Golf magazine.

Palmer was playing golf Friday and not immediately available for comment.

The allegation is a drop Palmer took behind the par-3 12th green in the final round of the '58 Masters, a ruling that has been well-documented.

Palmer wanted relief from an imbedded ball, but the rules official, Arthur Lacey, declined his request.

Believing he was entitled to the free drop, Palmer announced he would be playing two balls. He made double bogey playing the imbedded ball, then returned to the location, took a drop and saved par.

Tournament officials told Palmer three holes later that he was entitled to relief and that the par would count on his scorecard.

Palmer went on to win the Masters by one shot over Doug Ford and Fred Hawkins.

Venturi, playing with Palmer in the final round, finished two shots behind.

Rule 3-3a allows golfers to play a second ball when a dispute arises, but they are to announce their intentions before ``taking further action.''

Venturi says Palmer decided to play a second ball only after he made double bogey.

In his book, Venturi writes:

``Only Palmer wasn't ready to give up on the 12th hole just yet.

``I didn't like your ruling,'' he said, glaring at Lacey. ``I'm going to play a provisional ball.'' (He was really playing what is called a ``second ball.'')

``You can't do that,'' I told him. ``You have to declare a second before you hit your first one. Suppose you had chipped in with the other ball? Would you still be playing a second?''

Venturi says he confronted Palmer again in the scoring tent.

``You're signing an incorrect card,'' I told him.

``No, I'm not,'' he said. ``The ruling was made.''

Venturi said that Augusta National co-founders Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts told him years later that Palmer should not have received the favorable ruling. That cannot be confirmed because both men have been dead for more than 25 years.

Venturi says he never made an issue out of the ruling with the media because ``if anything, going public would damage my fragile image even further.''

Two years earlier, Venturi blew a chance to win the Masters with an 80 in the final round.

Venturi wrote that he waited to tell his side of the story because of his ``responsibilities and loyalties to CBS.

``The network needed to maintain a good relationship with Augusta National,'' he wrote.

Venturi retired from CBS Sports two years ago.

Palmer has mentioned the ruling in two of his books -- ``A Golfer's Life'' and ``Playing by the Rules.''

In the latter, he writes about his dispute with Lacey and that he declared he would play two balls and appeal to the tournament committee.

``I later heard that Ken Venturi was particularly upset, feeling like he had been cheated by my second-ball situation at the 12th,'' Palmer wrote. ``But I felt then and I feel now that I did what any other player could and should do: I followed the rules in both letter and spirit, and, as a result, I won my first major championship.''

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