This will be its first running since Arnold’s passing and these stars, perhaps for reasons of scheduling conflicts, an aversion to the course, or other tribulations, well, let’s hope they rue and regret their decisions – once they think, for a moment, or for a year, what “The King’s” overall impact on the game of golf has been.
Spieth, Johnson, and Mickelson wouldn’t be playing for the purses they do, if not for Arnie, and heck, might not have even taken up the sport if not for Arnie’s army – and Palmer, plus Gary Player, and Jack Nicklaus put the game on the map – so guys, you should have connected the dots and shown up on the spot on Thursday March 16th at Bay Hill.
Arnold’s death was world news. Tributes flowed and deservedly so for Palmer, and though he wasn’t as great as the Golden Bear or Tiger were – he was undoubtedly, thanks to his charisma, thoughtfulness, and bold play – making golf known, and popular, to the masses.
Look, it’s hard to cite and call out Spieth and Mickelson – they’re good guys. And Dustin Johnson, the current number one, while perhaps not as media friendly and likeable as even-keel Jordan and ever-smiling Phil, does give back to the game with his foundation, which backs kids and teens in their quest to learn and play the game.
Yet, guys come on, where was your perspective?
This is Arnold we are talking here.
Spieth is a student of the game, knows its roots and historical impact – witness him playing in garb and gear worn by one Scot, Mr. Tommy Morris to celebrate that golfing prodigy from the 1800’s... Jordan, couldn't you have juggled the difficult tour schedule – one that Ernie Els, who will appear for the 22nd time in Arnie’s tournament, feels was THE culprit for the no shows – and played?
Defending champion, Jason Day, not surprisingly, will play...Rory McIlroy will too, and John Daly, thanks to a sponsor exemption, is also confirmed to play - or put on some kind of show!
Tiger also wanted to play, regrets that he can’t, but he’s got a legitimate reason – his body (back) won’t let him.
The biggest excuse is that these professionals might be playing four to five weeks in a row – and that grind may chew them up. Thus the API loses top players.
Folks - top players - this isn’t mixed martial arts, it's GOLF.
For the big and best kids on the block it’s not like they’re living out of suitcases, sleeping in the back seat of their hand-me-down-A-to-B beater, scratching and scraping to qualify. Surely they could have found the inner fortitude to tough it out and play for Arnie and yes, even if that screwed up their preparation for the Masters – the year’s first major – they should have taken the chance and respected Mr. Palmer as the MAJOR factor in golf’s popularity.
Spieth, however, marches to his own drummer. He declined to play for the USA in the Rio Olympics. (By the way, 9-time Major winner, Gary Player, with his killer 15 million miles world-travel touring schedule in his heyday up until now, has gotta be shaking his head at tour scheduling potential problems.)
Of the three perhaps Mickelson, assuming there was no dire family, personal, or caddy (Jim Mackay - “Bones” - had to quickly withdraw from the bag in Mexico leaving brother, Tim Mickelson, to pick up the slack and clubs) reasons to not play - - - should have played.
Unlike Johnson, who has won the Genesis Open this February and the WGC-Mexico this early March, and who wants a second major...and unlike Spieth, who has carved himself out an almost approaching Tiger-like comparable extraordinary career at 23 – they are the only two to have won 9 PGA tournaments before turning 24 (post 2nd World War) - and who probably wants to focus on Augusta to make up for his back nine catastrophic collapse leading to Danny Willett’s win last year – Phil is past his prime. He’s still great, he finished in T7th in Mexico, but he’s basically, for the most part, shot his bolt. Could have bit the bullet and done it for Arnie...
Besides, Phil, you need to focus on winning the US Open to get your majors grand slam. So you could have played the API and worried not how it would have affected your game at Augusta in April.
As for Arnold Palmer, named THE ATHLETE of the DECADE for the ‘60’s in a national Associated Press survey, and whose swing from the tee was never pretty but whose stance on, and for, the game was as sweet and strong as it gets - would probably be peeved, but would have risen above that and shown the public that genial, classy outlook that his followers recognize and love.
But he’s not here to defend his name and his tournament – wherein he INVITES the players to participate. The top pros, in missing this event, didn't stick up for Palmer, and didn't support by attending, recognition and respect for all he’s done for the game.
Should have been an easy decision. For each player, this shouldn’t have been about them; it should have been about putting their problems, peccadilloes, and particulars aside and properly putting Arnie on a pedestal while playing. You know he’s, for now and ever, golf’s greatest attribute.
Those missing stars: get a grip.