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Palmer had a swing to last a lifetime

By DOUG FERGUSON
The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 23, 2011; 7:14 PM

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Tiger Woods is going through his fourth swing change in his 15 years on the PGA Tour.

Arnold Palmer played a half-century without changing his swing once.

"I really did not make any swing changes in my career," Palmer said Wednesday. "I started with a pattern when I started playing the tour, and I stuck with it until today. And I will go with it today in the pro-am, and hope to hell I can hit it in the fairway, and hope I can hit it longer than what I've been hitting it."

These are different times, indeed.

Jack Nicklaus used to have his longtime mentor, Jack Grout, take a look at his swing at the start of a season and rarely called him the rest of the year. Palmer's only coach was his father, Deacon.

"I saw him at least once a year for about 70 years," Palmer said. "And he never changed anything. He watched me for five minutes and went home. He put my grip on the club and my hands on the golf club when I was 6 years old and he said, 'Boy, don't you ever change it.' Well, I haven't changed it."

Palmer said he was surprised that Woods is changing his swing again, although he doesn't know what he's trying to do with it. Palmer recalls the first time he played with Woods, at the Masters during a practice round when Woods was an amateur, and he thought Woods was doing everything just right.

Palmer and Nicklaus figured that Woods might win as many green jackets as both of them combined - 10. Woods has four.

"So changing? Well, that's up to Tiger," Palmer said. "I don't want to inject anything into something I don't really know enough about to talk about."

Oddly enough, Woods mentioned his father as the coach he ever had for his putting. Part of Woods' struggles lately have come on the greens, which is why he hasn't seriously contended.

"I went back to all of my old stuff that my dad and I used to work on," Woods said. "And that's when I felt that my stroke started becoming more sound, more solid, my speed became better. I don't know what that dude saw in my game, but he really knew putting and he knew my stroke. My dad really knew my stroke.

"I miss him for a lot more reasons than just the putting, but as far as bouncing ideas off of him and what I was feeling and what he would say, I do miss that, certainly."

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RANKING: The Arnold Palmer Invitational is the final tournament for players not already eligible to get into the top 50 in the world and earn a trip to the Masters. This is an unusual year, for most everyone around the bubble is already in.

But there are two who stand the best chance without winning (which comes with an automatic exemption).

Matteo Manassero, the 17-year-old Italian, is No. 55 in the world. At the very least, Manassero would have to finish no worse than 24th place alone to have any chance. J.B. Holmes is at No. 59 and faces tougher odds. Holmes would need at least seventh place alone to get into the top 50.

In both cases, it might take a little more than that to account for players behind them picking up points, too.

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FAN FAVORITE: Tiger Woods rarely answers questions that put him in a position of playing favorites, but he didn't hesitate Wednesday when asked which of the young players he would make a point of watching.

Ryo Ishikawa.

"For me personally, I would go watch Ryo," Woods said. "I like how he plays. I like how he goes about his business, just his demeanor on the golf course. I really like his putting stroke - it a pretty pure stroke. But just the way he plays, how he manages himself around the golf course is pretty good for a person still in his teens."

It probably doesn't hurt that Ishikawa has won nine times, dating to when he was a 15-year-old amateur.

Woods played against the Japanese star at the Presidents Cup two years ago in team competition, and last fall he spent a day in Japan doing an exhibition and a clinic with Ishikawa.

The Japanese media mentioned this to Ishikawa late in the day, and the kid was fired up. He read the transcript and said to them, "I think I'll keep this one."

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ARNIE APPAREL: Even at 81 and retired from competition, Arnold Palmer still is appealing as a marketer.

His latest endeavor is a clothing line called "Arnie" that was launched Wednesday as a golf and lifestyle apparel line inspired by the looks and fabrics the King wore during the peak of his career.

The "Arnie" clothing line will have three deliveries next year - the 1950s collection in February, the 1960s collection in April and the 1970s collection in July.

"The Arnie line of apparel represents the styles of clothing that are as popular today as they were in the earlier part of my career," Palmer said. "It's been a real thrill to see some of my signature pieces come back to life."

© 2011 The Associated Press