Golf world still dealing with Palmer demise

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STILL-MOURNING US and European Ryder Cup teams began planning Tuesday to attend Arnold Palmer’s memorial service while Sergio Garcia pondered Palmer spiritually joining Seve Ballesteros to watch over them.

Palmer, the global golf icon who died of heart problems Sunday at age 87, was featured on the practice day’s pairing sheets for spectators even as US flags remained at half staff around Hazeltine in tribute to “The King.”

“I’m sure he will be out there looking down, probably talking to Seve a little bit and seeing who is going to win it,” Garcia said, recalling his Spanish compatriot and friend who died in 2011 of brain cancer.

Palmer won a US record 22 matches with eight lost and two halved in Ryder Cup play from 1961-1973, winning in all six of his Cup appearances as a player, once while also captain. Palmer also served as a US captain in 1975. In the next generation, Ballesteros was 20-12 with five drawn from 1979-1995.

Reeling

“It says it all when the Palmer family decides to wait until Tuesday for the service,” US captain Davis Love said. “Obviously they are saying that’s what Arnold would have wanted, for the matches to go on.

“But that means until Tuesday, we’ll be thinking about the family and what’s upcoming for the world of golf.”

The notion of Palmer and Ballesteros, both beloved for their style on and off the course, cheering their sides from the afterlife was a bright image compared to the harsh realities facing European captain Darren Clarke and Love — preparing for their teams to gather next Tuesday at Latrobe, Pennsylvania, for Palmer’s public tribute event.

“We’re planning cars and flights to a funeral that we don’t really want to go to,” Love said. “It will always be in the back of our minds.”

It’s not that Love and both teams don’t want to honor Palmer and his unmatched golf legacy. It’s that funerals bring a sense of finality for one who had seemed immortal.

Heavy hearts

“We’re still dealing with it, like the golf world. We are all playing with heavy hearts,” Love said. “I’ve got to rewrite a speech, still, because I’ve got to change the tone, and add Arnold in there.”

Garcia noted that Palmer’s death hangs over the European side as well as the American one.

“It definitely affects both teams,” Garcia said. “Arnie was a legend, was a great man. He helped our game not only in the US but all over the world.

Will be missed

“We also feel very sad for his loss and we miss him very much. I don’t know how it will affect the teams or if the US will push on a bit more or we will — that will happen as the week goes on.”

Love has already seen more and larger photos of Palmer appear in the US locker room.

“We had some pictures of Arnold. He’s obviously a captain and great player for our team,” Love said. “But all of a sudden last night, a couple more big pictures popped up.”

—  Agence France-Presse

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