When he was shown the statistics charted on the opposite page, Arnold Palmer, the man who has won two of the last four Masters championships, said: "Well, it certainly proves one thing, my short irons and my putting are the weakest part of my game. It's always been that way, and this shows it. When I play the 3s at Augusta in even par, I'm in good shape. The short par 4s always give me trouble because of my short irons. But the long par 4s and the par 5s are where I can make up ground because of my fairway woods and my long irons, which are my strong point.
"The trouble is," he went on with a faintly worried look, "right now I'm not hitting my fairway woods the way I should. I don't know what it is exactly, because I seem to be swinging the way I always have. Maybe I just need more practice. My short irons are way off, too, and I don't know what's happened to my putting, but I'm sure using a funny stroke."
"What are you going to do about all that between now and the Masters?" Palmer was asked. "After all, you've got only three weeks to get ready."
"I've just got to practice and play my way into shape," Palmer replied. "I'm out there on the practice tee as much as possible every day, and I'm hitting hundreds of short irons, and I also try to get in at least nine holes of actual play. I'll go up to Augusta early and get in as much practice there as I can. If 1 feel I need still another tournament, I'll play at Wilmington. That's about all I can do."
To indicate that finding time for the necessary practice would not be easy, Arnold Palmer, the most successful golfer of the last few years, gestured expressively at the litter in his office at the newly organized Country Club of Miami. Leaning helter-skelter against the walls were several dozen golf clubs—new and old, woods, putters and irons in every state of repair and disrepair. On a shelf in the corner was a pile of new Arnold Palmer hats and caps in many hues and styles. Arnold is anything but a clean-desk man, and that piece of furniture was buried under a jumble of correspondence, checkbooks, old magazines, telephone messages and just plain office miscellany.
The human traffic in and out of the office that is GHQ for the $400,000-a-year big business that is Arnold Palmer was characteristically heavy—a secretary, the club manager, somebody's cousin from Keokuk, one of the teaching pros on Palmer's club staff, interviewers from the press and George Low, a skillful golf-club fabricator who is helping Palmer prepare his clubs for competition. All of these people bring questions that Palmer must deal with.
In spite of the huge demands on his attention, Arnold Palmer is the kind of person who always has plenty of time to tell stories or listen to someone's latest joke. When he got to reminiscing about the Masters, the conversation turned to that horrendous final hole of last year's tournament, the hole that cost him a third championship by a single stroke.
"What really happened there, Arnie?" he was asked.
"I just went to sleep on my second shot," he said with the candor that always makes this particular champion a delight to talk to. "It was a perfectly easy one, just an ordinary seven-iron to the green, but I came up off it a little when I hit and pushed it into that bunker on the right. If it had just been a couple of inches more to the left, it wouldn't have rolled in the way it did.
"Before I hit that shot," said Palmer, in sudden self-reproof, "I remember standing there thinking that all I needed was a 4 to win—just get it up there on the green and then down in two putts. That's where I made my mistake, thinking about something besides hitting the ball. If I'd just kept my mind on swinging the club properly, there wouldn't have been any problem."