Arnie is a strange guy. He's one of the greatest golfers of all time and he seems to be pretty outgoing with the fans and the press, but he keeps to himself when it comes to the players. I never see Arnie away from the course, never see him or Jack Nicklaus or Billy Casper. They live in their own world, and their world has very little to do with mine. They don't play bridge with the other pros. They don't hang around motels. I know the names of everybody's wife and kids, and I'd bet Arnie doesn't even know how many children I've got or whether they're boys or girls.
Arnie's reached a special status with us, and he knows it. I don't mean he demands that you bow down to him, but you have to let him know, one way or another, that you know he's Arnold Palmer. I dread every round I play with Palmer, Nicklaus, Casper and possibly Gary Player, but playing with Palmer is far and away the worst. It's got nothing to do with Arnie personally. Arnie's easy to play with—he concentrates, he doesn't say much, he's fast, he always knows whose shot it is—but Arnie's Army is impossible. They run and stampede to see Arnie. They knock you down. They know nothing about golf etiquette. They have no regard for anyone who's playing with Palmer. They're center-field-bleacher types. They're just looking for someplace to go. They look at the paper and they say, "Hey, Arnie's in town, let's go see him." They don't understand the game at all. They wouldn't appreciate it if he did the greatest thing in the world. If he pees in the fairway, they're happy.
We had to wait 10 minutes today till a PGA official could be found to rule on whether Arnie was out of bounds or should get a free lift. I was really irritated. I didn't want to lose my momentum, but I just had to sit and wait. Finally, the official showed up and ruled a free lift for Arnie, and then Arnie played a fair chip shot through the crowd to the back fringe of the green. He was just a few inches off the green, maybe 25 feet from the hole, and he stepped up with a putter and stroked the ball into the cup. The crowd started screaming and hollering as if he had brought someone back from the dead.
Meanwhile, before the ruling, I'd hit a good chip shot within 2½ or three feet of the cup, and all I'd gotten was a couple of pitter-patters. It wasn't Arnie's fault—he can't help it if the crowd acts like he's God—but I was so upset after the long wait for the ruling that I missed my little putt and had to settle for a par. The crowd didn't care. They'd already gone stomping off to the next tee.
I read in the papers today that Arnie says his hip has stopped bothering him, that he's cured and ready to go. Arnie's had a bad hip the past year or two, but I think his troubles on the golf course go deeper than that. I'm afraid he's just a little over the hill. When you're a professional athlete and you turn 40, which is what Arnie is this year, you're not at a physical peak anymore. Besides, he's a millionaire many times over by now, and I suppose that when you win everything there is to win, you lose your desire, your hunger. I can't speak with any authority about that, because I haven't been there.
The king was cheerful, considering that he shot a 74 today after setting a course record with a 64 in the pro-am. I don't know why he keeps trying. He's won everything there is, he's got all the money he'll ever need and now, each time he comes out on the course, the fans who don't know any better expect to see him charge. He can't. It must be as embarrassing as hell. If I were Arnie, I'd hang it up and forget it. But let me make one thing plain. When I collect prize money, I mentally thank Arnie for 25¢ out of every dollar. I honestly think that's Arnie's contribution to the tour—25% of every purse—and I'm grateful for it.
The finest golfer on the tour today is Casper. He's ahead of Nicklaus, Palmer, everybody. He's an absolute perfectionist—a beautiful putter, a good thinker. He does everything well.
On the first tee today Cas was his usual pseudojovial self. He used to be a pretty drab fellow, but somebody got hold of him and told him if he was ever going to be a great personality in the sports world he'd have to shape up. So now he throws out corny lines to the crowd and tries to pretend he's a comedian. It just isn't like Billy at all. He's really a serious, mature type, but I guess that isn't a very profitable image.