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March 21 2012

5:24 PM

Palmer on belly putters and more

Interview: Arnold Palmer

The host of the Arnold Palmer Invitational meets the media Wednesday at Bay Hill.

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

ORLANDO -- Years ago at a now-defunct Champions Tour event in Charlotte, Arnold Palmer stood behind his car chatting with a young reporter.

The trunk was open, and there must have been 50 golf clubs laying inside. As he talked, Palmer kept picking different ones up and wrapping his tanned fingers around the grip like he was sampling dishes at a buffet.

Palmer said Wednesday there's probably never been a club made that didn't find its way into his bag at some point during his career. Not that it necessarily stayed there very long -- and that includes the belly putter.

Therein lies the conundrum. Palmer isn't a "fan" of the long putter but he wouldn't go so far as to rule out using one.

"I suppose that if I were playing, and a long putter, being totally legal, and would help my game, I might use it," Palmer said. "But I'm opposed to it personally. I just think that there shouldn't be a place in the game for anchoring a club against the body, which is what the long putter does.
   
"So, technically, and principally, I am against it. But would I use it if it were going to enhance my game in the competition? I might."

Here are some other nuggets from his annual press conference at Bay Hill in advance of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

ON TIGER WOODS: "I'm watching him swing and I'm watching him play, and I see some moments of the old fashioned Tiger that is very good. ... So you know, if I were making a prediction, I would say, look out, because one of these days, he's going to come back and play pretty good golf."

ON BUBBA WATSON: "I think he brings back some of the memories that I've had of people like (Seve) Ballesteros and some of those people that were kind of loose and wild, but good, great players. I think that that is a very exciting thing, and I think we need more of that excitement. Phil Mickelson gave us a little of that style of play over the years. I feel that that's good stuff. Even the ... Gene Littler style of down the fairway, on the green and a putt; we have them, but that's part of the game. That's what it's all about; the excitement of seeing a guy miss a shot and make a comeback shot, I think that's the fun of the game."

ON CADDIES PICKING UP SHAG BALLS IN THE OLD DAYS: "Well, you have the same thing now, but you have it in the form of a flagstick out there or a target. But in the older days, we had caddies with the bag out there and they picked up the balls. So we were hitting to a target all the time. I had a caddie that caught the ball with a baseball glove all the time. Gary Player used to tell the story about, he says, 'Arnie hits it so good, the caddie hits it here with the glove, here with the glove. Sometimes it hits him right on the head, and before he gets up, he hits him again.'"

ON HITTING THE CEREMONIAL FIRST TEE SHOT AT THE MASTERS: "I don't think that everybody understands what it's like to stand on the first tee at Augusta and hit the beginning shot. That is something that other than winning the Masters or being there when it's counting, that's one of the big thrills of all time; to see the people; to have the Chairman introduce us all; and get into it and start the Tournament is something that I've enjoyed. I didn't think I ever would when they talked about it in the beginning, but I guess age has a lot to do with that."

ON THE CHEERS AT AUGUSTA NATIONAL: "I think one of the biggest cheers I ever heard was when I've hit it over the green at 16 and I was under the TV tower and (Jimmy) Demaret was talking up on top of the tower, and he was describing what my shot was going down the hill. ... And I waited a little bit, and he kept talking ... and finally I decided, oh, well, what the hell, I'll just go ahead and play the shot. But what he had said was, 'He has no chance from here. If he gets it up and down, it will be a small miracle.' Well, when I hit it, it rolled down and went in the hole. That cheer, people seemed to know what was going on.  They couldn't hear him, but they just seemed to have a feeling for the tenseness that was going on. And when it rolled in the hole, that was one of the big cheers I've ever heard."

ON RORY McILROY: "I think he has done a wonderful job with 22 years old and starting a career like he has just gotten launched onto. I had a letter from him as I mentioned earlier, and talking about coming up and having a talk with me. I'm not sure that I know exactly what he wants me to tell him or what he wants to hear from me, but I look forward to seeing him and talking to him. And of course, as I said, I'm sorry that he isn't here. But he also mentioned in the letter that he will be here to play in the years to come."

Click here to read the full transcript.

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