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2014 Masters

2014 Masters

Fifty years after his last Masters win, Arnold Palmer as relevant as ever at Augusta

Arnold Palmer, Masters 2014
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Arnold Palmer during his Masters press conference.

When Arnold Palmer talks, people stop what they are doing and listen.

This year's tournament marks the 50th anniversary of Palmer's victory at the 1964 Masters, and he stopped by the media center to reflect on the final major victory of his career. The place was nearly packed.

A smattering of reporters sat and waited for Palmer to emerge from the closed door behind the podium, and even more rushed in to find a seat once the 84-year-old walked out onto the stage. The low murmur of the crowd stopped and men and women of varying ages all eagerly leaned in.

Because when Arnold Palmer talks, people stop and listen.

It's easy to slip into hagiography when writing about literal living legends like Arnold whose relevancy spans 60 years. But like someone whispered before Palmer walked onto stage: "Arnold is golf."

And he's right. He's still the King even more than 40 years after his last PGA Tour victory. We still care what he has to say. We want to know what he thinks about the crop of young guns emerging on Tour ("I'm startled, surprised and pleased.") We want to know if this Tiger-less Masters will still be compelling ("Lately, I've heard so much about Tiger and opinions. Opinions are about what you pay for them, and most of us don't pay much.) We want to know about his relationship with Bobby Jones ("A lot of you people in this room have no idea how much I know about him. It was all written. You could read it if you took the time.")

For all of Palmer's successes, this year also marks his final triumph at a major.

In '57, Palmer finished tied for seventh at the Masters. The year after, he won it. In '59, he finished third. The year after, he won. In '61, he tied for second. The year after, he won. In '63, he finished in ninth. The year after, he won. Not bad.

Palmer's four green jackets place him tied for the second-most in history, tied with Tiger Woods and trailing Jack Nicklaus by two. But his victory in 1964 would be his last green jacket and last major win.

"I played some of the best golf I ever played in the majors after the '64 Masters," Palmer said. "It was disappointing. I kind of figured out why those things happened to a degree, and I looked at it more as a psychological downfall as anything. It was like winning the U.S. Open at Cherry Hills. It had something to do with the fact that I got over a hump. I climbed over the hill, and I satisfied some of the deep desires and ambitions that I had."

Palmer wouldn't make a top 10 at the Masters from '68 to his final Masters in 2004.

"And again, I use the word "psychological" because it may have caused a letdown and caused me more than I had anticipated," Palmer said. "Had the same driving desire to win before, I might have won a few more Masters."

He might have won a few more Masters, maybe another British Open or a PGA. But the media room wouldn't have been more rapt or attentive.

Because when Arnold Palmer talks, people stop and listen.

He left to a standing ovation.
 

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