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Published: Saturday, 6/29/2002

U.S. Senior Open notebook: Palmer nearly tossed in towel

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Arnold Palmer looks weary as he waves to the crowd after shooting an 85 in the second round. Arnold Palmer looks weary as he waves to the crowd after shooting an 85 in the second round.
AP Enlarge

OWINGS MILLS, Md. - He calls himself the eternal optimist, but it was a pessimistic, discouraged Arnold Palmer who finished play yesterday in the U.S. Senior Open and then came as close as he ever has to calling it quits.

After a round which included three lost balls and as many triple-bogeys, Palmer said, “If not for the fans and some of my own principles, I wouldn't have finished.”

The 72-year-old legend, who missed the cut after rounds of 82-85, said he has made commitments to play Senior PGA Tour events in Boston; Park City, Utah; and Cincinnati.

“That'll be it, I'm afraid, unless something strikes,” Palmer said. “I've always enjoyed it, but these last two days have been tough. I'm the eternal optimist, but it's just not good.”

It now seems possible that Palmer will end his storied career in Ohio, but not at the site - Toledo's Inverness Club - where 2003 Senior Open tournament officials were hoping.

The Kroger Senior Classic will be played Sept. 6-8 at the TPC at River's Bend, a course Palmer designed in the Cincinnati suburb of Maineville.

GAME'S A SNAP: Maybe all Fred Gibson needed was a new driver. He made the turn in 3-over 38 yesterday, changed drivers and had five birdies on the front side to rally for a 69 and a 4-under 138 total.

Gibson, who began his round on the back nine, said his driver sounded funny when he hit his tee shot on No. 17.

“I could hear something cracking,” he said. “Then I put the club [down] on the ground, leaned on it a little to see if I could hear any noise, and the head snapped off.

“I was lucky. If I had made one more swing with the club it could have killed me or run up and hit somebody in the crowd. It would have definitely come off on No. 18.”

Because the equipment was damaged in the normal course of play, golf rules allowed the player to replace it during mid-round.

“As long as you don't do it in anger or frustration,” Gibson said. “There was a USGA guy standing right there when it happened, so there was never any question. I was allowed to replace it.”

PLUGGED IN: Tom Kite experienced a first yesterday while firing a 67 that put him in solid contention at the Senior Open.

“That little bit of rain we had [Thursday night] really softened up the course,” he said. “I actually had one thing happen that I've never seen in a USGA event. I had a ball embed in a green. It was on the eighth hole where you're hitting down the hill, so it was coming straight down. Still, you usually see them bounce a little bit.”

PHONED IT IN: George Allen, a Californian, scored an amazing turnaround, shooting 76 yesterday after an opening-round 96.

“I had just a horrible round, but I got a phone call from a friend back home [Thursday night] and that really helped,” Allen said. “He told me to just go out and have fun, to play like I was at home. It settled me down and my game sort of clicked and I was able to keep the ball in the fairway.”



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