ORLANDO, Florida – Arnold Palmer enjoyed a certain behavior such as men taking their hats off when they went inside. Rory McIlroy, born in 1989, played in the famous Arnold Palmer Invitational for the first time in 2015 and watched with a little amazement as the hat protocol was politely enforced in the players’ dining room, sometimes by a smiling Palmer.
“I enjoyed it very much,” said McIlroy of the etiquette that was still practiced at the event in honor of Palmer died in 2016. “It’s one of the ways you still feel Arnie’s legacy and presence.”
A week ago after Tiger Woods shored up serious injuries in a car accidentTalk of Wood’s legacy and presence was ubiquitous on the PGA Tour. This week at Arnold Palmer’s tournament, which Woods has won eight times, the connection between the two golf legends seems stronger than ever, perhaps in ways that could affect Woods’ future standing in the game.
After the first round on Thursday, Mcllroy and Corey Conners were at the top by six under par.
With Woods in mind, numerous players have made the connection and are well aware that the impact Palmer had on golf and international culture was replicated by Woods 40 years later. “Of course, Arnie was and should be the role model for all professional golfers,” said Jordan Spieth on Wednesday.
Sam SaundersPalmer’s grandson, who played on the PGA Tour, said he believed that his grandfather laid the foundation for what Woods would later achieve and that the annual appearances of today’s top golfers At the Palmer Invitational, it had become a way for her to “remember that Arnold Palmer started it.”
Saunders added, “We wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing now if he hadn’t put the game on TV and popularized it to make it a game for everyone. He started it, Tiger went on, and so many great players along the way contributed to it. “
A younger generation of professional golfers seems to be enjoying the Palmer lore at Bay Hill, the tournament site. Near the first tee, they take photos next to the bronze statue of the golfer, which holds his striking, powerful successor. Spieth made a tour of Palmer’s museum office on Wednesday. Two years ago, Viktor Hovland, then 21 years old, was shown around the site by Palmer’s long-time assistant Doc Giffin.
If Hovland had more time, he might have learned how Palmer, also with his roots in western Pennsylvania, brought golf out of the early days of country club and made the sport cool for the first time. Palmer was charismatic, dressed in pizazz, played with incandescent emotions, and struck striking poses that seemed made for a television camera. Palmer’s life became a mid-20th century American story as he started several prosperous companies, received numerous company recommendations, and made himself a global brand – all as a golfer who last won a PGA Tour event in 1973.
Palmer also magnanimously strayed from his intended trail. More than a dozen PGA Tour players who live near Orlando this week noted that their children were born at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies, named after Arnold’s wife of nearly 50. It is across from the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.
It is likely that millions of people around the world know Arnold Palmer not because of his golf, but because of him popular soft drink, Iced tea combined with lemonade that bears his name. In the end, perhaps what he enjoyed most was his status as a beloved, wise elder who was constantly approached by professional golfers seeking advice – young and experienced – who knew that no one like Arnold Palmer had persevered and played golf successfully.
In all of these ways, Palmer’s life after his playing career could serve as an example of how Tiger Woods could, if he so chose, profoundly influence the game of golf for decades. Woods has already taken several steps to do this in a modern way that is tailored to his specific interests and concerns.
But when Woods sees this weekend’s Palmer Invitational – and his social media accounts have made it clear he saw the PGA Tour last weekend – it will be easy to notice the tribute to Palmer’s almost lifelong leadership in golf. Woods, an idol for the current generation of players as Palmer was for the golfers who came after him, has the platform to forge a similar legacy. The two had a warm relationship, and Woods knows a lot about the path that Palmer deliberately chose.
And apparently he already knows his manners. Of Wood’s eight wins at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, one of the most notable came when he pocketed a turn 24-foot putt on the final hole to win the 2008 tournament. What made the moment most memorable was Wood’s reaction to that clinch putt: maybe expecting a walk back to the clubhouse, grabbing his hat, and throwing it to the ground.