You can’t play every week. We get it. Sure, it’s golf, not football or rugby or bull riding (although professional bull riders will be competing for their 11th consecutive week this Saturday and Sunday in Albuquerque, N.M.), but everybody needs time off, right?
So, with the Valspar Championship and the Arnold Palmer Invitational bracketed by two WGC events, the Cadillac and the match play, followed by Houston and then The Masters, players who gear their schedules around the majors have to make some tough choices.
The problem is, too many of them are choosing poorly.
Here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter if you don’t like the golf course; it doesn’t matter if you don’t like the city; it doesn’t matter if your wife would like to have you home for a few days; and it doesn’t matter if you’re “exhausted.” As long as Arnold Palmer is alive, lucid, and on site, you play in his event. Period.
For the youngsters who might not know, they don’t call Arnold “The King” because they ran out of nicknames. He was and remains one of the most iconic athletes in American sports history, and the only golfer worthy of the crown.
Do you really think non-golfers born 10 years from now will know Tiger Woods’ name when they reach adulthood? Today’s 30-year-olds whose only connection to the game are corporate outings at TopGolf, know and recognize Arnold Palmer, even though his last tour victory came in 1973, 13 years before those same 30-year-olds drew their first baby breaths.
Yes, he’s an old man now. He’s stooped and shuffling, slower in speech and frail in appearance. But he is still The King. And when he invites you to his court, you show up.
Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler are great, great people, wonderful for the sport and likely to put golf on a good track for the next decade. But they whiffed on skipping Bay Hill. So did Patrick Reed, Dustin Johnson, Bill Haas, Justin Thomas, Jimmy Walker and Phil Mickelson (who is old enough to know better).
There really is no sporting comparison to getting the invite from Arnie – maybe a pitcher getting asked to a workout with Cy Young or Richard Petty inviting you to an invitation-only NASCAR race. Going back to bull riding, that event in Albuquerque this weekend is an invitational hosted by Ty Murray, a nine-time world champion and founder of the Professional Bull Riders circuit who is known as the King of the Cowboys. Every competitor who can stand upright will be there, including a few with torn ligaments and broken bones.
Those golfers who took a pass from Arnie should pray that Mr. Palmer lives several more years so you can rectify this oversight. You need a mulligan on this one. You don’t want to be the guy who says “no thanks” to the last personal invitation you will ever get from The King.