Arnold Palmer reflects on his game, the Tour and his friendship with Jack
So, how's your game these days?
I don't play very often, but I still enjoy it. My game is not so good.
How far do you think you could hit the ball if you were in your prime and had today's equipment?
I don't know. I know one thing— right now I hit it so far, and so hard, I can hear it land [laughs].
What's the best swing tip you ever received?
I've never worried too much about the swing. I've worried more about the things my father taught me when I was growing up. I remember he put my hands on the golf club when I was a young boy and showed me exactly how he wanted me to hold it. He gave me a stern look and said, "Now, don't you ever change that." I tried not to.
Which of today's players most reminds you of yourself?
A lot of people through the years have compared Phil Mickelson to my style a little bit. I see a few guys coming along who are somewhat similar, but I can't find someone that makes me say, "Hey, boy, that's the way I used to play."
I've always wondered, what's the proper way to make an Arnold Palmer drink?
(motions to a nearby table) There are cans of it all over the world.
But I want to make mine from scratch.
First you get some good tea — some tea that you like, and then you get some good lemonade. I use about three-quarters tea and one-quarter lemonade. Then sweeten it to your likes.
Besides the drinks, you're heavily involved in a number of outside projects, including two charities for prostate cancer, which you have battled and survived. What advancements have been made?
There are a lot of advancements being made constantly. A lot guys, like I was when I had prostate cancer, are afraid to even say the word 'cancer.' You've gotta get over that and start doing something about it. I will always thank my doctor for making me take a PSA and detecting it early. That's one of the reasons I'm here talking to you right now.
Any advice for guys?
The most important single thing I can say is to get checked up. Do it annually. Everybody asks, 'What age should you start?' I can't find an age. I've run into people who are 30 years old who've had prostate cancer, and I've run into people who are 85 years old who've had it. Take a physical, annually. Make checking prostate part of it. And you can also go to myprostatecancerroadmap.com. Every man should be checking it out.
How's your health today?
I feel great. When I get a little older, and get a little more experience I'll get even better. But I feel fine.
Recently we've seen some young Americans with loads of talent, like Dustin Johnson and Nick Watney, fail to close out victories on Sunday in majors. You won seven majors in your career. How were you able to close them out?
I think it's just hard work, and concentration. I think one of the problems these young players have is they lose their concentration in the heat of the battle. For me, good concentration was the key to getting over the hump. The players you mention, I think they will get there, it's just a matter of time until they do.
In your prime you were the game's most popular player and drew huge crowds and media interest. Was concentration something you struggled with?
Well, certainly I've lost tournaments that I've had every right to win. Part of the reason was that I lost my concentration. That was one of the lessons I learned early in my career. But the more times you're there, the better your concentration, the more times you're going to come out a winner -- particularly in major tournaments.
How did being a fan favorite help you in competition?
Well, I enjoy the crowds, and I enjoyed playing to them. I suppose that was one thing that helped me as much as anything. People say I looked into the crowds -- well, I did. I looked at everybody in the crowd. But it still goes back to concentration. One time after a round my mother said to me, "Did you see me over there, Arnie?" And I had looked right at her, but I didn't remember seeing her. That's concentration. That's what you have to keep to get by those obstacles that jump up in your way.
Which of your titles is the most special?
I actually go back to my amateur championships. I think they really gave me a springboard to my career. When you think about it, I was pretty old when I won the U.S. Amateur. I was 24, and turned pro when I was 25. These young people today have been playing competitive golf long before that. The Amateur gave me the impetus and the confidence I needed to go out and play. It was something I felt, and something I referred to a lot, particularly in my early years on Tour.
How close are you and Jack today?
We're very close. We talk about golf, or fishing, or just the things we do now. We both still design golf courses, and we're both still very competitive. That keeps our friendship intact.
What's your favorite memory with Jack?
I like to think of the times when he put a green jacket on me, or when I put one on him. Those are always nice things to remember [laughs]. We also played a lot of games on the course. We'd both bring amateur friends, and we'd go at it. But we've had a lot of fun outside of golf, too. Jack fishes a lot, so that's good. And I fly a lot, and I had a lot to do with Jack getting into that. Now we both have our own airplanes and do our own thing.
Do you still fly?
I just gave up flying—I had over 20,000 hours, and I thought maybe I'd just [not fly and] poke around a bit. But I miss it. I may start back up again.
Do you and Jack still play games out on the course? When you play the Masters Par 3 Contest, are there stakes?
We always have a little game going at the Par 3. But just a little one.
Like a $5 Nassau?
[Smiles] Yeah, that's it.
Will Tiger break Jack's record?
It's going to be difficult, but the opportunity is there. The biggest challenge will be his attitude—his positive thinking. He has to get that back. I don't think there's any question about his physical ability as long as he's healthy. He just has to tie that ability back in to the mental aspect. I think he'll do it. He'll be back.
I hear you have an iPad. Why aren't you on Twitter?
I do have an iPad, but I don't think I'm going to do Twitter. I'm already learning too much from my iPad.
[Laughs] Oh, I'm not going to reveal that.
Do you still spend time in your workshop?
Yep, I still enjoy that. When I have a problem, and I can't get it on the iPad, I go back to the shop and work it out back there fixing golf clubs.
I'm making you PGA Tour commissioner for a day. What do you change?
First would be speed of play, but the most important thing is to slow down the ball. I'm very concerned about preserving our great golf courses. The Oakmonts, the Winged Foots, the courses that were great in the years gone by. I'd like to keep them great without making so many changes to the golf courses themselves.
You've just come in from a long day on the course. What are you drinking?
Ketel One on the rocks [laughs].
Wait, what happened to the "Arnold Palmer"?
I have one of those before I start.