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Palmer celebrates landmark Green Jacket

Arnold Palmer of the U.S. reacts after hitting his tee shot during the ceremonial start for the 2013 Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club on April 11, 2013. (REUTERS: Phil Noble)

Arnold Palmer of the U.S. reacts after hitting his tee shot during the ceremonial start for the 2013 Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club on April 11, 2013. (REUTERS: Phil Noble)

When Arnold Palmer hits one of the ceremonial opening tee shots on the first hole at Augusta National to kick off the Masters, he will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of claiming his fourth and final Green Jacket.

Those watching that day at Augusta would never dream that would be his last Masters title. Palmer blew away the field, beating Jack Nicklaus and Dave Marr by six strokes.

“Well, of course you never think you’re going to be at your last stop, but it was great,” Palmer told Golfweek. “I suppose that psychologically I had accomplished maybe more than I even realized by winning the Masters and walking up the 18th hole comfortably.

“That was something that was truly great for me.”

Palmer, who will hit the ceremonial tee shots Thursday along with the other two members of what was known as “The Big Three,” Nicklaus and Gary Player, said last month that he will undergo a back procedure after the Masters.

He said that back pain has not allowed him to play as much golf as he would like recently.

“I’ve been practicing and I’m a little sore,” Palmer said. “For one swing (at the Masters) it will be all right.”

Palmer’s 1964 victory at Augusta also was the last of his seven victories in the majors.

—Tom Watson has criticized Tiger Woods’ behavior on and off the course in the past, but said he would make Woods a Captain’s Pick for the 40th Ryder Cup in September at Gleneagles in Scotland if he does not make the United States team on points, as long as he is healthy.

Woods is recovering from back surgery last week to repair a pinched nerve and is out indefinitely.

“I’ve been asked a little bit about, ‘What if he doesn’t make the team?’” Watson said in an interview with Golfchannel.com. “I’ll pick him for the team. I just hope he gets well and starts to play again without pain. That’s all that matters.

” … Everybody’s been in pain before, every golfer. For some, it’s ended their careers. For others, they’ve beat it and corrected with surgery. Obviously, I hope this is corrected with surgery. Obviously, I hope that he can recover and again swing the club without any pain.”

Watson, when asked about his previous problems with Woods, indicated they are in the past, saying simply: “We all change.”

Both Watson and Woods played college golf at Stanford.