Posted December 31, 2013

Arnold Palmer Says He Regrets Rift With Ken Venturi Over Ruling at 1958 Masters

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Arnold Palmer and Ken Venturi in 1967 (NBC/Universal).

Arnold Palmer and Ken Venturi in 1967 (NBC/Universal).

Arnold Palmer filed a remarkable column for Golf Channel about the people golf lost in 2013 — including Bill Campbell, Frank Stranahan, Miller Barber, Pat Summerall and Ken Venturi. In the column Palmer said he regrets the rift that existed between him and Venturi after a controversial ruling at the 1958 Masters, the first of Palmer’s four Masters championships.

Here’s how it happened in 1958: Palmer was leading the Masters by one stroke on the tee at the par-3 12th. Playing with Palmer, Venturi was one stroke back. According to Herbert Warren Wind, who covered that Masters for Sports Illustrated, “Venturi and Palmer both hit their tee shots over the green and into the bank. Venturi’s ball kicked down onto the far side of the green, presenting him with a probable 3 (which he went on to make). Palmer’s ball struck low on the bank about a foot or so below the bottom rim of a bank-side trap and embedded itself. It had rained heavily during the night and early morning, and parts of the course were soggy.”

Palmer maintained he was entitled to lift, clean and place his ball without penalty under a local rule addressing embedded balls that week. The rules official told Palmer he had to play the embedded ball. What Palmer did was play the embedded ball first — he made a double — then played second ball — and made par. After Augusta officials — including Bobby Jones — talked to Palmer and Venturi, Palmer’s official score on the hole was a ‘3’ and he beat Venturi by one. However, the ruling didn’t sit well with Venturi, who thought Palmer had to notify him that Palmer was playing a second ball. Here’s Palmer on the ruling, 55 year later:
That incident affected our relationship. We both wrote about it in subsequent books, each of us insisting that we were right. I think the whole episode says more about the confusion built into the Rules of Golf than it does about me or Ken. I regret that the incident affected our relationship. Ken was a remarkable human being, and a warm and true friend to thousands of people in and out of the game.

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17 comments
arthur3
arthur3

On what basis do you level that charge at Jones? When the ruling was made Palmer was on 13. How could Jones know he would win? That seems wholly unjustified. As for the story, if I'm reading it correctly, Palmer announced to the rules official that he intended to play a provisional. Venturi was there. The "violation", as I understand it, is that Palmer did not direct his remark specifically to Venturi's face, Venturi only heard what he told the official. I haven't studied the decisions under that rule, but I have to say that if Venturi heard him tell this to the official, I do not see how Palmer broke the rule.

juderyan2
juderyan2

It continues to amaze me the esteem in which Bobby Jones is held. He picked whom he wanted to win his tournament. The rules are always interpreted differently for superstars in every sport. I wish Palmer had written nothing instead of this empty gesture after Venturi is gone.

DavidKaplan1
DavidKaplan1

It's hard to believe Venturi didn't notice that Palmer played 2 balls.  That said, Palmer should have informed him.  That knowledge could have affected Venturi's strategy for the rest of the round.  I do think Palmer's "regrets" statement is kind of lame.  He doesn't acknowledge he was wrong, only that the incident affected their relationship.  Duh.  Of course it affected their relationship.  Palmer arguably did not abide by the rules  to win the Masters.  I'm not saying he cheated but he would have to acknowledge that his opponent might reasonably come to that conclusion.  At a minimum, it seems to me that Palmer should have acknowledged the ambiguity of his position and apologized at the time or soon after to Venturi.  His statement strikes as too little and too late.  


I do think Arnold Palmer and Ken Venturi were honourable players so I don't think there is a bad guy here.  But Palmer should have recognized that the onus was on him to make amends. Perhaps Palmer should put an asterisk pin on the lapel of that jacket.

fromperpig
fromperpig

I'm still confused...did Palmer actually play out until holed, 2 separate balls?  Or, did he simultaneously play 2 balls until holed?  If he did play the embedded ball to completion, first, then place a second ball and proceed to play that ball until holed, what a weird scene that had to be?  


Amazing that this story has been told and retold numerous times, yet, it's still unclear in the telling.   Either case, if I was Venturi, I'd have blown a head gasket just watching this weird sequence of events.  The official, though, appears to have clearly blown the ruling and had he not done so, Palmer and Venturi would have likely remained friends for life.   

prideventures
prideventures

There are thousands of examples like this which depict how idiotic some of the rules of golf are.  I know they mean well and have played the game since 1978 but find many things around the rules just plan idiotic. 


Then we move forward to the present day and the comments about Tiger Woods and the rules.  He plays the hardest courses with the toughest fields and wins a 1/4 of the events he entered this year but it is implied that he was intentionally trying to skirt the rules.  I have seen rule infractions all the time in my many years of watching golf on TV, being at the 13 tournaments I have attended, including 5 majors, but everyone of them was almost obviously unintentional, or due to the confusion about the ruling.  


Palmer was obvious in his attempt to get a better outcome from the shot. He wanted to win the tournament of course.  Does that mean he was trying to cheat.  No, he was using the rules for his advantage.  You hear people talking about Tiger having people move the huge rock at a tournament and trying to relate that to the situation with the rulings this year. Tiger knew the rule and used it with the rock situation, and maybe made a mistake on the rules at some tournaments this year. None of them allowed him to win the tournaments he won.  None of his actions gave him an advantage.Most player could move their ball on their home course and still not score better than they have in the past.


What about the many divots with sand in them from a tournament and it is not considered ground under repair? Then what are the grounds keepers doing but repairing it.  What will happen at Pinehurst when the men play one week and the women play their major the very next week? Will they not repair the multitude of divots created by  well played shots? I saw a stupid rule recently where they spent a great deal of time determining if a indention was made by a person leaning on a putter or banging a putter into the ground. As if this made a difference in the put really.  You still have to make a great stroke and get the line right.


You can stick a putter into your chest and navel now to steady it, but you can't make the same type of "adjustments" with a swinging club?  There were a number of calls by baseball and football refs which were questionable but I could not call in and have them change the outcome of the game like in golf.  


People started to step away from golf due to the cost, stupid rules which created cheats out of people who were not trying to do so, and hypocrisy of it being called a gentleman sport but at the same time being hostile to minorities and women.  Then Tiger Woods comes along and revives the sport making many people who play professionally millionaires and those who work selling equipment and other things related  a lot of money.  Then people who do not like him, for many reasons, (jealously, race, the way he changed the way golf was played and made it less stoic, etc), say he does not represent the game as a gentleman.  Say he throws clubs, curses, etc.  But people like Craig Stadler, (who I really love), do more in a single round than Tiger has done in his career which would cause you to say it is not gentlemanly, but nothing is said because Tiger gets the spotlight because all those involved want  to make money.  


Was it being a gentleman for Palmer and Venturi to have a spat about rules? Was it being a gentleman for Nicklaus to say that black people's muscle structure was not good for golf, (he was not being racist just ignorant)? Was it being a gentleman to be a member of the PGA when they had a Caucasian only rule?  Was Cliff Roberts a gentleman with his views about blacks playing in his tournament?  (which I think is one of the best tournaments ever)


If golf is going to survive and thrive it will have to move past it's history of hypocrisy and arcane rules and become more accessible.  Most people who play golf and cite the importance of the rules could not pass a test on them because they just don't make sense in many cases.

superjamespond
superjamespond

venturi was right.one must always inform the other when playing a provisional ball  and maybe tell what type of ball? at the end you can play 2 provisionals  and just pick the best one??too easy

GeoffreyHolland
GeoffreyHolland

When playing a provisional, the player MUST inform the other members of his group prior to doing so. That's a rule I learned when I was 10. Now this was a very unusual situation to play a provisional in, as it was because of a ruling that Arnie didn't agree with, instead of a potentially lost ball. But, as the only rule in the rule book about provisional's states that you must:


"1. The player must inform his opponent in match play or his marker or a fellow-competitor in stroke play that he intends to play a provisional ball, "


Since Venturi was both his only fellow competitor, and therefore also his marker, if Arnie didn't inform Venturi that the 2nd ball was a provisional, Ken had good reason to be upset that the par was allowed to stand.


The article is wrong about one thing. "Palmer’s official score on the hole was a ’3′ and he beat Venturi by one. "


Palmer beat Venturi by TWO, both Doug Ford and Fred Hawkins finished one back of Palmer and one ahead of Venturi.


Another interesting piece of the story is that Venturi agreed that Palmer SHOULD have got relief from the embedded ball. But once the official made the ruling, he felt it should have stood.


jhernan
jhernan

I hope that Palmer was able to convey these feelings to Venturi at some point after the incident, even if it was decades later.

MarkWilson1
MarkWilson1

Is Chamblee going to weigh in on this one?

GeoffreyHolland
GeoffreyHolland

@DavidKaplan1 Venturi knew Palmer played 2 balls. That was never in question. Palmer played the provisional ball without informing Venturi of his intentions. That was the issue.

GeoffreyHolland
GeoffreyHolland

@fromperpig Yes, Palmer played out the 1st ball, then went back, took the drop he felt he deserved (and that was a fact that Venturi agreed on), and played the 2nd ball.

MorphySmith
MorphySmith

@prideventures 

didn't realize the article was about little tiger. can't you sycophants leave him out of a single article?

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