Palmer looking forward to his 50th Masters
The Masters is never far from Arnold Palmer's thoughts even though his attention may well be fixed firmly on the Bay Hill Invitational, which he is hosting this week.
The event tees off on Thursday with world number one Tiger Woods searching for a fifth consecutive title but on the eve of the tournament, Palmer was talking about next month's Masters, his last as a player.
The 64-year-old has played at Augusta on 49 consecutive occasions, winning four times in a span of seven years -- 1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964.
However, he has not finished in the top 10 since 1967, when he placed fourth, and he has not made the cut since his tie for 36th in 1983.
"I think it's going to be exciting for me and it's going to be somewhat sentimental," Palmer said.
"Kind of an opportunity to say goodbye to all of the fans who have been so supportive over the last 50 years and have been the reason that I have played as long as I have."
Palmer admits that the days of his being competitive at Augusta are far behind him, but he feels a bond with the course and the club.
He was the first professional to be offered a membership in 1999 and is also the only Augusta National member to have a plaque in his honour on the course.
In 1995, on the 40th anniversary of his first appearance, Arnold Palmer Day was declared on Tuesday of Masters Week and a plaque was dedicated to him.
It is located on a water fountain behind the 16th tee.
"Augusta was kind of built on the fact that the players kept coming back year after year ... that was one of the things that I think make the Masters what it is," Palmer said.
"I can remember when I first started playing and went there to win, but saw people like Craig Wood, Gordon Smith, Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson, (Ben) Hogan and (Sam) Snead ... that was important to me as a player.
"It was something that made Augusta different.
"And the fact that those people thought enough of the tournament and what was happening there to come long after their playing days were over."
Mark O'Meara won his first and only Masters in 1998, but every year he looks forward to his return to the tournament and to the perks of being a former champion.
"Listen, it's a dream come true," O'Meara said.
"When I get to go to the Masters dinner as a former champion and get to see Palmer, Nicklaus all of the greats.
"In the year after I won, all the past champions were there at the dinner. It was unbelievable. I would never have dreamed that could have happened to me."
When Palmer tees off for the last time at Augusta, it will clearly not end his trips to the Masters. Nor will it diminish his enjoyment of the event.
Palmer will continue make the trip to the sleepy hamlet on the Georgia and South Carolina border and enjoy each future tournament as much as he has enjoyed those in the past.
"The remarks that were made at the club dinner were remarks they'll remember forever and I won't repeat them," Palmer mused. "But they were fun and it was fun listening.
"In those days, the guys used to badger each other, Snead, Nelson and Hogan would make remarks to each other and there would be a little rebuttal.
"As a young player, that was one of the greatest things I ever found and enjoyed very, very much."