As the Palmers wound their way along U.S. 30 they ran into heavy fog. Winnie thought it might delay the start of the tournament, but Arnold doubted her. He was wrong. The fog was thick, and officials decided to begin at 9. Palmer had a two-hour delay.
Even under the best of circumstances, it is not easy for a golfer to readjust himself to such a long wait when he is tense and ready. In Palmer's case there were added problems. Shortly after 9, President Eisenhower arrived on the private plane of Roger Firestone, one of the brothers of the rubber family. George Love greeted the General and gave him one of the shocking-pink club blazers that are worn by the members of Laurel Valley. Then Palmer posed for pictures with the General before going out to the practice tee to warm up, followed by Eisenhower and friends.
It was not the best way for a golfer to prepare himself for one of the critical tournaments of his career. Palmer, feeling obligated to make sure Eisenhower was enjoying himself, frequently interrupted his practice shots to chat with the General, who was standing a few feet behind him and making occasional comments. Concentration was difficult. After he had hit a hundred or so practice balls, Palmer followed his ever-present state police escort to the putting green. Autograph hunters swarmed around him, and he said, "I'll sign some of these, but I'll have to keep walking."
It was not until he had hit his first drive of the tournament down the first fairway that Palmer could finally be alone. Not all was well, however. He drove into a large bunker and then pulled a five-iron shot that landed to the left of the green and bounded into thick grass at the bottom of a gully.
There was no way Palmer could hit the ball out without striking his club against some wooden railings that were protecting the sides of a temporary bridge across the gully. After eight minutes had gone by, as he waited for a ruling, two over-zealous marshals took it on themselves to tear down the wooden supports. Palmer stood by, watching and smiling.
Few players know the rules of golf better than Arnold Palmer. If he had not been harried by so many distractions, he would have quickly realized that he was entitled to a free drop within two club lengths of the obstruction but that the obstruction itself could not be removed. Palmer went ahead and played the shot—a most delicate pitch out of the long rough—to within six feet of the hole. He sank the putt for his par 4.
On the 2nd hole Palmer almost put his approach shot into the hole, and he sank the short putt for a birdie 3. He seemed very much on his stick at this point, parring his way through the 5th hole. He was still one under when he stepped onto the 6th tee to drive. It was then that Jack Tuthill, the PGA tournament supervisor, drove up in a cart to advise Palmer that he was being given a two-stroke penalty for his rule infraction at the first hole. Palmer asked Bob McCallister and Al Geiberger, the two other players in his pairing, to drive ahead of him while he collected himself. He then hit a bad drive into the rough on the right, tried to play out of that lie with a wood and missed the shot, skimming it further into the rough on the right, where the ball struck a spectator. He finally got the ball to the green and two-putted for his par 5 on a hole where normally he could expect a birdie.
During the rest of the round Palmer lost two strokes to par, but got them back with birdies on the 11th and 12th holes. He finished with a one-over-par 72. Instead of being tied for eighth, he was tied for 19th. "It was all my fault," he said with customary graciousness. "I knew the rule, but I didn't apply it."
By now it was getting late in the afternoon, so Palmer had to rush home and change into a business suit. George Love was giving a stag dinner that night at the nearby Rolling Rock Club for General Eisenhower and his party. Palmer drove the 13 miles back to Ligonier, stopping at the brand-new Holiday Inn, of which he is part owner, to pick up Nicklaus, Gary Player and Dow Finsterwald, for whom he had arranged invitations to the party.
It was a quiet dinner, with no formal speeches. Palmer was back home by 11 and sat around chatting with his guests until time for bed at 12. It was his first full night's sleep of the week.