Thursday, April 10, 2008

April10_arniefog2_372x400 With the protests surrounding the Olympic torch, you wonder if the Beijing Olympics should take a tip from the Masters and ask Arnold Palmer to start the games.
On this foggy morning, Palmer opened the 2008 Masters with a nice drive that might have been OK when he won his first Masters tournament 50 years ago: straight down the middle, about 200 yards. (Update: A gallery of Arnie's first shot and the foggy morning, from SI photographers.)
"Fifty years ago it would have been a lot longer," Palmer said. "Then again, this hole (the now 455-yard first) would have been a lot shorter."
Still the icon who once convinced American men to wear pink shirts, Palmer wore a pale yellow Masters-logo shirt and dark blue slacks with more style than we'll likely see the rest of the week. He hasn't lost his sense of the moment either, acknowledging the crown with a wave, teeing his ball and letting it rip.
Palmer planned to return to Latrobe, Pa., later today because his wife wasn't feeling well (an infected ankle, he explained). He's been leaving the tournament early since he last played competitively in 2004. This year, Gary Player will pass Palmer's record of 50 consecutive Masters.
"I'm kind of resigned to it," Palmer said. "I kidded Gary about it. I hope he plays well."
Palmer was clearly happy with his drive, which was much better than his tee shot into the left rough when he opened the Masters last year. Asked to rate the shot on a scale of 1 to 10, Palmer feigned an incredulous look.
"Did you see that shot?!" he asked. (Photo: Fred Vuich/SI)

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