Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Arnold Palmer may be back at Augusta

Maybe Arnold Palmer hasn’t played his last golf at Augusta during Masters week.

Palmer acknowledged Wednesday morning that he is considering – and stressed the considering part – becoming the tournament’s honorary starter as early as this year.

It sounded like Palmer may be on the first tee at Augusta National at 8:15 Thursday morning of tournament week.

He should.

And if he wants to play the first hole, great. It’s not unprecedented for the honorary starters to play nine but Arnie may not want to do that.

Palmer, 77, has been reluctant to take the role because he feels it’s for legends who can no longer play competitively. He has grudgingly conceded his game is failing him and it’s no secret he has always loved the stage.

There’s no better stage than Augusta National in April and no warmer way to welcome the start of the Masters than with the King striking the first shot. The Masters hasn’t had an honorary starter since Sam Snead conked a spectator in the head hitting the shot in 2002.

Arnie was playing in the pro-am Wednesday at his beloved Bay Hill in the tournament now named for him – the Arnold Palmer Invitational – and said he’s “embarrassed” at how he plays now. It only matters to him.

He has toughened up Bay Hill again, growing thick rough, dropping the par two strokes to 70 and attracting one of the best fields of this season with eight of the top 10 players in the world on site.

As for this week’s winner, there’s an obvious choice. Tiger Woods has won the event four times. This week will make it five.