MUIRFIELD, SCOTLAND -- Arnold Palmer's troubles began at No. 13 when he made bogey. "I got upset with myself," Palmer admitted ruefully, "and took it out on the next hole."

Which would be the par-4 No. 14.

Where he took a 10. A 10!

As in: driver into fairway bunker, out, three-iron hooked into bunker left of the green, sand, same sand, same sand, same sand, finally out of that same sand, putt, putt. (A Scottish fan who saw the whole bloody mess said that after Palmer holed out, he smiled broadly and tossed the offending golf ball to a young boy as a souvenir. Another Scot suggested the lad should have tossed it back.)

Granted, he's 57 years old. Granted, he hasn't won a PGA tournament since 1973, or a major since 1964. But he's still Arnold Palmer, and nobody ever did it better. A 10?

Five in the same sand, Arnie?

"I lost count. {Pause. Grin.} All I know is it added up to 10."

Must have been a brutal lie.

"I won't say God couldn't have gotten it out. {Pause. Eyebrows arch.} But He'd have had to throw it."

Just how deep was that sand?

"Damn deep. {Laugh.} Hit the first shot one foot, second shot the same, third shot the same, fourth shot the same. {Pause. Grin.} I was digging a hole that was getting deeper and deeper."

What were you thinking in there?

{Smirk.} "You couldn't print it."

Ever take a 10 in a major?

"I don't recall in a major. I took 12 on a par-5 in the L.A. Open once: I wanted to knock a 3-wood on the green, but put it out of bounds to the left. I hit it again and put it out of bounds on the right. Then the left again, and then the right again. A guy in the press asked me, 'How'd you make 12?' {Pause. Wink.} I said I missed a 20-foot putt for 11."

There's a plaque on the ninth tee at Rancho Park where it happened. But where would the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers put this plaque? You can't drive nails into sand.

So, owing to the 10, Arnold Palmer, the largest name in the history of golf and by far the most popular, is cut from the British Open, the tournament he helped make by first coming over in 1960 and thereby certifying it as a must for the best U.S. golfers. "I feel disappointed for him, because he was playing well enough to make the cut, and that would have been great," said playing partner Wayne Grady, who was 2 years old when Palmer won his first major, the Masters, 27 years ago. "He's still got such a strong desire to play," Grady said admiringly, before adding bittersweetly, "He knows exactly what he wants to do. His body just won't let him do it."

Palmer rarely plays anywhere but the Senior PGA Tour anymore. A lifetime exemption allows him into the Masters, but he hasn't qualified for the U.S. Open since 1982. He hadn't played a British Open since 1984, and probably wouldn't have played this one if not for a new rule inviting previous champions under 65 to play at their discretion. Yet at the turn Friday, bad eyes, bad back, hearing aid and all, he was 3 over for the tournament -- one stroke better at a comparable stage than Jack Nicklaus and Seve Ballesteros. "I was pleased," Palmer said. "My putting, which worried me most, was better than it had been in some time; that was really encouraging." Although the cut fell at 146, Palmer calculated it would be 144. After his first-round 74, he figured he had to shoot 69. "And I was on my way."

That bogey on 13 altered his course. "I was in a marginal area whether I'd be playing tomorrow anyway, and I thought I had to make some birdies," Palmer said. "Had I been in a better position to make the cut, I wouldn't have made the shot I did. I tried to make up for the error at 13. I gambled at 14, to get it well up into the fairway." He shrugged. "I should have laid up."

Palmer landed in a trap big enough and deep enough to garage a Chevy van with a bike rack on top. "My shot wasn't impossible," he conceded, "just improbable." He could have chipped out backwards, or sideways, but that isn't Palmer's style. Remember the four 3-woods at the L.A. Open? He's a my-way-or-the-highway guy. Palmer was coming out straight ahead or not at all. By the third swat at it he'd dug his heels in so deep the ball was rolling back into his footprints. "I contemplated every shot. {Pause.} For about two seconds. {Pause.} It seemed like days."

When Palmer finally got out, Grady knew exactly what to say to him: nothing. "You don't say, 'Don't worry,' because that's easy for you to say," Grady explained. "You just leave him be." But after their round was over Grady, who'd once shot two 10s in two weeks himself, clapped Palmer on the back and said, "You just joined the Bo Derek Club." Reportedly, Palmer was smiling, though on second glance he might have been seething.

It's Palmer's competitiveness that's always been his greatest strength and greatest weakness. A less stubborn man would've exited the trap any way he could. A less prideful man would have swallowed his mistake on 13 and not tried to throttle 14. But Palmer said he didn't come here just to make the cut -- he came here to win the tournament. He bristled at the sympathetic suggestion that at his age something less could be satisfying. "I'm not going to recognize it if it is. It may be remote; I might be a long shot. But there are 149 other long shots in this golf tournament."

But for that beach Arnold Palmer would still be in this golf tournament. A younger man with a less storied history might find his sleep haunted by that 10. A younger Palmer might have returned to the scene of the crime late at night and practiced that shot until he'd beaten it senseless. Friday afternoon, Palmer the Elder was asked just that: Would he go back at midnight and hit the same shot just for the satisfaction of getting it right? For a brief moment he glistened at the prospect. He paused, then said, "Nah, the hell with it."