Palmer leads Champions Challenge triumph
A legend among legends, Arnold Palmer led his four-man team to victory in yesterday’s Champion Golfers’ Challenge on the Old Course at St Andrews, a four-hole exhibition staged on the eve of the 2015 [British] Open.
Seven teams of four made up the 28-man field of past Open champions yesterday, with the most senior player in each group appointed team captain. Tom Watson was a skipper, as was Gary Player, and Palmer—the Open champ of 1961 and 1962—led the final team that also featured Bill Rogers (champion in 1981), Paul Lawrie (1999) and Darren Clarke (2011).
Palmer teed off on the first, in front of the R&A Clubhouse, which he later admitted to be only the second golf shot he has played this year—after his honorary strike to start the 2015 Masters at Augusta—as he continues his recovery from a dislocated shoulder suffered over the winter.
Palmer played two shots over the four-hole challenge, but he enjoyed seeing his team-mates take the initiative as he walked the four-hole event, particularly when Paul Lawrie holed his approach into the par-four second hole to snare an eagle for the team.
Ultimately, four teams tied for the winning score, with Palmer’s team crowned winners due to their highest average age. At 85, Palmer’s seniority proved his team’s hidden ace.
“It was unbelievably cool to play with Arnold Palmer yesterday,” said Paul Lawrie after shooting a first-round 66 today. “Just to be out there with him, I absolutely loved it. He gave me a wee hug at the last and he said, ‘fantastic playing’ when I holed the putt on 18. That was a nice moment.”
“Arnold is the man who really changed the Open,” said Tom Watson, who is likely to be making his final Open appearance this week, here at the ‘Home of Golf’, as Palmer did in 1995.
The warmest applause of the afternoon was reserved for Palmer, as he joined his group on the 18th green. With emotions rising, an appreciative Palmer simply said, “They all remember.”
And they will never forget.