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  • Alistair Tait

Arnold Palmer deserves more respect

Lot of talk this week about Tiger Woods and Arnold Palmer for obvious reasons. Woods would love to be playing in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill instead of lying in a hospital bed worrying about his career after his recent car accident.

Too bad some other top players aren’t paying Palmer the same respect this week.

It’s a moot point on who helped make golf more popular – Palmer or Woods. One thing’s for sure, eight-time Bay Hill winner Woods wouldn’t have accrued the huge financial wealth if not for Palmer taking the game to the masses in the late 1950s and 60s. Today’s other name players wouldn’t be cashing eye-watering cheques either if not for Palmer.

That’s why it’s disappointing to see a so-so field for the only PGA Tour event with Palmer’s name attached to it.

World number six and defending champion Tyrrell Hatton is the highest ranked player in the field. The five players above him – Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, and Xander Schauffle – are all taking a pass. So are world number seven Patrick Cantlay and 10th ranked Webb Simpson. That leaves just three of the world top 10 teeing it up. Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed, ranked eighth and ninth respectively, are in the field.

Other missing notables include world number 12 Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau (14), Daniel Berger (15), and Matthew Wolff (20). Eleven of the world’s top 20 are missing in action.

Choosing a schedule is obviously personal for today’s top stars. Horses for courses and that sort of thing. Players also need to calibrate what’s best preparation leading up to the Masters, especially considering the Players Championship takes place next week. The PGA Tour is also in the middle of a decent run of tournaments, and it’s unfair to expect players to tee it up every single week.

Some even have to factor in appearance money they've already banked this year.

Johnson and Finau played in the Saudi International. Thomas competed in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. Morikawa teed it up in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. You can bet they weren’t in the Middle East to further their knowledge of Arabian culture. There might have been a few readies stuffed into back pockets to get them to fly to halfway across the world in private jets, even for Johnson to defend his Saudi crown. How much? Wish I knew the exact figure, but bet the cheque had seven figures written on it.

The irony is the above players probably wouldn’t be able to command such appearance fees if not for the groundwork Palmer laid out all those years ago.

Moreover, what does it say for the state of the game when players not only can’t honour the memory of the man who helped make them the rich, but can’t be bothered to get out of bed for a $9.3 million purse with a winner’s cheque of $1.67 million? What chance do smaller tournaments have when players can snub their noses at such prizes?

Surely Arnie’s tournament deserves a wee bit better than less than half of the world’s top 20 players, after what he did for the earnings of today’s stars? Every modern player should pay silent homage to Arnold Palmer every time another fat deposit drops into their bank account.

It’s not unreasonable to suggest Palmer's tournament deserves a stronger field.

#JustSaying: “Thank God for the game of golf.” Arnold Palmer


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