A day after Arnold Palmer’s death, captains for both Ryder Cup teams vowed to play on in memory of the man most responsible for everyone on both sides being at Hazeltine National Golf Club this week.
A moment of silence for the man they called “The King” will be held at Thursday afternoon’s opening ceremonies. Players from the U.S. and European team will wear pins — fans will get buttons — presenting a logo created by the PGA Tour and the Palmer family that will mention “Arnie’s Army,” his legion of fans.
“Darren and I have agreed,” U.S. captain Davis Love III said, referring to Europe captain Darren Clarke. “Whatever we do, we are going to do together.”
Palmer, the Americans’ all-time winningest Ryder Cup player who died Sunday at age 87, was such an international star who made golf the colossal industry it is today, both teams can find inspiration in his memory.
“Our sport wouldn’t be where it is without Mr. Palmer,” Clarke said after he flew from London to Minnesota on Monday with the Europeans’ 209-person traveling party. “He was obviously a very proud American, very patriotic toward the Ryder Cup. But more than that, he was a global superstar and he inspired people all over the world to take up our great sport. He was one of the first guys to come over and start playing in the [British] Open Championship and he persuaded all the other top guys in the world to play it. Mr. Palmer did an awful lot for the golf, our golf as we know it these days.”
Palmer’s father and Love’s father both were PGA of America teaching professionals. Love remembers Palmer tousling his hair when he was a child and like players on his U.S. team, considered Palmer an “inspiration” and role model.
“I know everybody on our team was just kind of crushed last night,” Love said. “It’s almost like we are all dealing with the loss of a family member.”
Palmer’s family scheduled a public memorial for next week, so the Ryder Cup can proceed as scheduled.
Love said he is uncertain how Palmer’s death will “play out for an inspiration.” He said the Americans already have photos of him in their team room “and we’ll add a few more.”
“This is a sporting event between two great teams and we’ve had some very sad news last night,” Clarke said Monday.
“We will play the tournament this week with the respect that it commands and deserves.”
Bubba joins the party
After Love denied No. 7 world-ranked Bubba Watson the U.S. team’s 12th and final playing spot, he took Watson up on his offer to become a fifth vice captain just because he wants to be part of the team.
Love called Watson’s offer an “incredible gesture” after Love chose surging Ryan Moore instead.
“I told him we have an extra red cart and we’d love to have him,” Love said. “We’ve have these “12 Strong” and “We Are 13” slogans, but we’ve got an extra guy now. He adds a lot of fun. He adds a different personality. He brings a great heart.”
Waiting is the hardest part
Love said he didn’t decide upon Moore until the Tour Championship’s final putts fell Sunday evening.
European star Rory McIlroy beat Moore in a three-man, four-hole playoff. Moore’s runner-up finish was his fourth top-10 finish in the past six weeks. “Frankly, I didn’t think it’d come down to the last day,” Love said. “We waited until the last minute to catch a hot player.”
• Nearly 16 inches of rain fell on Hazeltine since Aug. 10, but Monday’s sun and strong wind will help it dry. “It’s just wet,” Love said. “If we keep getting wind like this, it’ll be in great shape by Friday.”
• Clarke carried the Ryder Cup when he was greeted upon his Hazeltine arrival Monday by an American delegation, one of whom asked, “You want us to hold that for you?”
• Several U.S. players hit balls and putted at Hazeltine on Monday, but Phil Mickelson, to name one, didn’t play because the wind blew too hard and from a direction it’s unlikely to come this weekend.
• The U.S team leads Europe 7-5 in the Junior Ryder Cup at Interlachen Country Club.