Mar 28

Interview: Arnold Palmer talks Bay Hill, Rory McIlroy and the Masters

This week, we had an opportunity to interview Arnold Palmer. Over email, Palmer discussed a variety of subjects, including the Masters, Rory McIlroy, his Arnold Palmer Invitational and a health issue he's faced with the help of Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

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Ryan Ballengee: Given all you've accomplished in your professional life, what are the goals and challenges that motivate you today?

Arnold Palmer: I still enjoy what I do. I haven’t been playing much golf and none since I dislocated my shoulder in December, but I come to the office every day. We have a lot going on right now and we’re working on some exciting projects in our businesses and charities.

Ed. Note: Last week, Palmer's golf-course design company announced plans for its first-ever Scottish course at Castle Stuart.

RB: Did you have a chance to speak with your grandson after his run at the Puerto Rico Open? If so, would you share what you said to Sam?

AP: I was disappointed that Sam could not pull out his first win there, but also proud of his playing. He was doing something right to get himself into the playoff and I’m pleased by the progress he is showing.

RB: The reaction has been mixed to Rory McIlroy's club-throwing incident at Doral. When you were in your 20s, did you ever have an incident that made you that visibly frustrated?

AP: When I was playing in a junior tournament one time, I missed a short putt and threw my putter into the trees. I went on to win the tournament and later, instead of my dad congratulating me, he told me that if I ever threw a club again, I’d never play in another golf tournament. I haven’t thrown a club since.

RB: The PGA Tour recognized the importance of the Arnold Palmer Invitational by now offering a 3-year exemption to the winner. What does that mean to you and what do you think it will mean for the long-term future of the event?

AP: Of course I’m very pleased that the PGA Tour has recognized our event in this way. I think players will give it a second look when planning their golf schedule and it will help our event remain relevant and a place where the guys want to play every year.

RB: How did you learn of the blood clot in your leg, and how were Janssen Pharmaceuticals products instrumental in your treatment?

AP: Many people don’t know that I experienced a blood clot caused by deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, which is when a blood clot forms in a deep vein in the body, often the leg or thigh. I’m fortunate that my DVT was diagnosed and treated before it led to something even more serious and that’s why I encourage people to talk to their doctor if they think something is wrong. I’ve teamed up with Janssen Pharmaceuticals to raise awareness about blood clot prevention and treatment. My story is on www.Drive4Clots.com.

RB: What was your first Masters Champions dinner like, and do you think it has evolved in the spirit Ben Hogan intended back in '52?

AP: I remember what a thrill it was to attend my first Champions Dinner. Just being in the same room with some of the guys I had admired growing up and to be there because I had won The Masters was quite an honor. I still attend the dinner every year and it is one of the highlights of my time at Augusta during Masters week.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Mar 28

Harmon: Rory McIlroy may be bulking up too much

Butch Harmon has seen this before: A top player falling so in love with the gym that his golf game suffers.

Harmon saw that with Tiger Woods, and now he thinks he's seeing it again with world No. 1 Rory McIlroy.

"If you look at Tiger and how much stronger he got as he went on, you look at Rory the way he is now," Harmon said on the Irish radio program "Off the Ball."

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"The only caution I would give Rory is, I see a lot of pictures of him lifting a lot of very heavy weights and I think, in a way, you can almost hurt yourself in the gym if you get too bulky. Hopefully, he will keep his body tone down, more like a Dustin Johnson (a Harmon client), who’s in absolutely perfect physical shape to play golf."

McIlroy, with the help of sponsor Nike, posted a video this week of the four-time major winner's workout routine. In it, McIlroy talked about how he became dedicated to work in the gym, including using a workout as a reward for a good round on the course.

Harmon doesn't dismiss strength-training. However, Harmon, believes that training should focus on core strength -- particularly for someone like McIlroy who hits the ball so far.

He said, "That helps support your back and your back is not geared for making a golf swing thousands and thousands of times and you have to have the strength in your core to handle that."


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Mar 28

Tiger Woods isn’t playing the Houston Open, but how about the Masters?

We at least know one thing about Tiger Woods' schedule: It won't include the Shell Houston Open.

The Friday deadline for players to commit to next week's last tournament before the Masters came and went without Woods joining the field. A rumor, albeit not a strong one, had been started suggesting Woods, seeking some kind of tournament experience before heading down Magnolia Lane, might pick the Houston Open. No dice. After all, Woods has never played in the Houston Open as a pro.

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Earlier in the week, Woods' friend Notah Begay III told 120 Sports that Woods is "50-50" to play the Masters, but that was an improvement from a 1-in-10 shot just three weeks ago. Most seem to read the tea leaves to suggest Woods won't play for a second consecutive years.

However, Woods doesn't have a specific deadline to commit to the Masters. Since a player can only get in the tournament by invitation, there are no alternates. That means Woods has until his issued tee time on Thursday to show up and register. Out of professional courtesy, Woods is expected to reveal his plans late next week.

If Woods chooses not to play at Augusta National, then, golf cannot go through this will-he-won't-he exercise every week. Rule the rest of April out if Woods is a no-show for the Masters. The next time we could expect to see Woods, who will drop out of the top 100 in the Official World Golf Ranking, is The Players Championship in early May.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Mar 28

The 19th Hole Golf Show: A day with Bernhard Langer; when will Tiger play again?

A couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to spend a day with two-time Masters winner Bernhard Langer. The first 20 minutes of this week's "The 19th Hole Golf Show" is dedicated to that experience and Langer, his approach to the game and some additional tidbits about the German, including the calls he had with 2014 Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley last summer.

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The final fourth of the program is dedicated to the conundrum Tiger Woods faces about playing in the Masters. Woods' friend Notah Begay III said this week Woods is "50-50" to play in the year's first major, but if he chooses not to play, when could Woods conceivably play again with confidence?

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast on iTunesTuneIn or Stitcher.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Mar 27

My Shot: Lucy Li

At 11, Lucy Li had won at Augusta, played the Open at Pinehurst, and learned the art of balancing ice cream and veggies. Now 12, she's just getting started.
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Mar 27

Aaron Baddeley had the craziest ace* of all time

Aaron Baddeley's tee shot the drivable par-4 17th at TPC San Antonio on Thursday had flown into an unplayable lie. The Aussie decided he would re-tee, hitting 3 from the tee box.

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Well, Baddeley put a 3 on his scorecard. 

That's because Baddeley holed his second tee ball, dropping in the cup from 336 yards away for the most incredible birdie ever.

"I hit the second one, man, why didn't I do that the first time? And it rolls up and goes in," said Baddeley after the round.

The birdie got Baddeley to 4 under on a difficult scoring day in Round 1 of the Valero Texas Open. He capped off the round with a closing par to shoot 68 on the par-72 track to trail Charley Hoffman by a shot. The incredible escape could prove huge in Baddeley's quest for a fourth PGA Tour win and first since the 2011 Northern Trust Open.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Mar 27

Stacy Lewis hosted a special junior player ahead of the Kia Classic

World No. 3 Stacy Lewis went several extra miles this week for one of her biggest fans she met last fall.

Last October, producers from the syndicated TV show "The Doctors" contacted Lewis to see if she would help them for a segment they were doing on 10-year-old Marley Franklin, a young girl who fell in love with golf after receiving bone-marrow transparents to treat sickle-cell anemia. Franklin said Lewis was her favorite player. Lewis was more than happy to connect with Franklin, doing so over Skype.

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But it didn't stop there. Through her sponsor Bridgestone, Lewis sent some equipment and apparel to Franklin. Lewis also invited Franklin and her family to this week's Kia Classic.

However, Lewis went even further, hosting Franklin and her family, as well as teeing it up with Franklin during the pro-am. Franklin got to shadow the two-time major winner, including attending the pro-am party and having a seat on stage for Lewis' pre-tournament news conference.

"Golf is very important to me," Franklin said on stage. "I love how it just makes me feel. I play almost like every day."

Franklin has been playing for two years now and is ranked 55th in the world in the Girls 10-11 age group -- quite an achievement for any player.

Even better, Marley's sister Maya, who donated the bone marrow used in the transplant, is starting to take up the game.

"Sometimes she'll mimic me putt," Franklin said, "and she'll be like, 'I made it. I'm going to beat sissy some day.'"


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Mar 26

Phil Mickelson lost a club head at the Valero Texas Open

Phil Mickelson hit his tee shot to the par-4 12th at TPC San Antontio in Round 1 of of the Valero Texas Open into a fairway bunker. After a short conversation with caddie Jim Mackay, Mickelson settled on an 8-iron for the 154-yard approach. 

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Mickelson took the club back and through the ball. After impact, the club suddenly felt a whole lot lighter. That's because the club head had come off the iron and flown just outside the bunker. 

Naturally, Mickelson was befuddled as his ball didn't land even close to his target.

Unfortunately, Mickelson went on to make bogey on the hole. However, he did shoot 2-under 70 in tough conditions.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Mar 26

It’s tough sledding on Thursday at the Valero Texas Open

It's ugly out there on Day 1 of the Valero Texas Open.

Combine a tough TPC San Antonio course with up to 35 mph winds, and scores ballooned for the entire field. Among the morning wave of 72 players, three withdrew and 22 shot 80 or higher on the par-72 layout. By comparison, entering Thursday, there had been just 57 total rounds of 80 or higher to date on the 2014-15 PGA Tour season.

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Johnson Wagner shot 15-over 87. Major champions Geoff Ogilvy and Martin Kaymer each shot 82 -- a career-worst round for the reigning U.S. Open champion. Past Valero Texas Open winner Ben Curtis shot 80.

A year ago, the scoring average for Round 1 was 73. Through the morning wave, it was trending toward 79. By comparison, the scoring average during the nearly impossible final round of the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills was 78.73.

The winner among the morning players was Matt Kuchar, whose 72 was astounding considering the conditions and what he did relative to the field.

When asked what he thought of the day and the round, Kuchar said he was just happy it was over.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.