Arnold Palmer Says He Regrets Rift With Ken Venturi Over Ruling at 1958 Masters

December 29, 2013

Arnold Palmer and Ken Venturi in 1967 (NBC/Universal). Arnold Palmer and Ken Venturi in 1967 (NBC/Universal).

Arnold Palmer filed a remarkable column for Golf Channel about the people golf lost in 2013 — including Bill Campbell, Frank Stranahan, Miller Barber, Pat Summerall and Ken Venturi. In the column Palmer said he regrets the rift that existed between him and Venturi after a controversial ruling at the 1958 Masters, the first of Palmer’s four Masters championships.
Here’s how it happened in 1958: Palmer was leading the Masters by one stroke on the tee at the par-3 12th. Playing with Palmer, Venturi was one stroke back. According to Herbert Warren Wind, who covered that Masters for Sports Illustrated, “Venturi and Palmer both hit their tee shots over the green and into the bank. Venturi’s ball kicked down onto the far side of the green, presenting him with a probable 3 (which he went on to make). Palmer’s ball struck low on the bank about a foot or so below the bottom rim of a bank-side trap and embedded itself. It had rained heavily during the night and early morning, and parts of the course were soggy.”

Palmer maintained he was entitled to lift, clean and place his ball without penalty under a local rule addressing embedded balls that week. The rules official told Palmer he had to play the embedded ball. What Palmer did was play the embedded ball first — he made a double — then played second ball — and made par. After Augusta officials — including Bobby Jones — talked to Palmer and Venturi, Palmer’s official score on the hole was a ‘3’ and he beat Venturi by one. However, the ruling didn’t sit well with Venturi, who thought Palmer had to notify him that Palmer was playing a second ball. Here’s Palmer on the ruling, 55 year later:
That incident affected our relationship. We both wrote about it in subsequent books, each of us insisting that we were right. I think the whole episode says more about the confusion built into the Rules of Golf than it does about me or Ken. I regret that the incident affected our relationship. Ken was a remarkable human being, and a warm and true friend to thousands of people in and out of the game.

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