Late on Tuesday evening, Jack Nicklaus issued a statement regarding Palmer’s decision not to tee off in the honorary first group in the Masters Tournament:
“I actually heard the news while I was at Augusta National today, and like any friend and fan of Arnold Palmer, I was disappointed for him. I know how much Augusta National and the Masters Tournament have meant to Arnold throughout his career and life, so I know this wasn’t an easy decision for him.
“But I have been communicating with Arnold in recent weeks, and I know he is doing what is in the best interest of his health and for future opportunities to get back up on that tee with driver in hand. What is wonderful is that Arnold will be there on Tuesday night at the Champions Dinner to regale us with stories, and hopefully on the first tee with Gary and me on Thursday morning.
“Whether he is swinging a club or not makes no difference, because no Masters Tournament will ever start without fond memories of the impact Arnold has made there.”
I think this is typical of Jack Nicklaus showing his respect for “The King” and all he has done for the game. Nicklaus is definitely a class act unlike some other folks who aren’t showing up to play in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose, none of whom are American will be there to show their respect, but the top 5 American golfers are skipping it. I do give Bubba Watson a pass for having the class to show up and tell Palmer in person why he can’t make it.
Peter Jacobsen, 62, a regular here for years and joining the NBC Sports broadcast team, wonderfully states a veteran’s point of view:
“If I had the opportunity to play in a tournament with the name of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus or Byron Nelson, the men who made the Tour what it is, I’d be there whether I liked the course or not,” he said. “Heck if Gary Player had a tournament I’d play that too.”
Maybe it is because I got to see him play in his prime that I feel so strongly about this and the younger players just don’t understand what they owe him.