ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND, JULY 18 -- Arnold Palmer, 60, has returned to the site of his first British Open appearance 30 years ago to make a farewell. Palmer said he will play no more British Opens beyond this one at St. Andrews, which he called a "sentimental journey" back to the place where his pursuit of the championship in 1960 lifted the tournament from a quaint antique to international prominence again.
Palmer and his wife, Winnie, took the same hotel suite at Rusack's Hotel adjacent to the 18th green that they had 30 years ago. He will present his original, ground-down putter to the British Golf Museum across the street, and is also considering donating a pitching wedge he used 30 years ago, although not until after the tournament because he intends to use it over the next four days.
Palmer cited his rising scores and inability to stay in the chase as reasons for no longer playing this tournament, using a 75 in a practice round as an example. He said he will continue to play in the Seniors British Open and perhaps come to the tournament as a spectator in the future. He also will continue to play the Masters and the PGA for the moment, he said.
"My intentions are not to play anymore and, being back here 30 years later, I think it's appropriate," Palmer said. "Particularly if I continue to shoot the kind of scores I have recently. That is an indication that it is time to watch."
Palmer came to the British Open at The Old Course in 1960 as the reigning Masters and U.S. Open champion and with a chance at a Grand Slam, a sweep of the four major titles in golf that would have included the British and PGA. He lost by one stroke to Kel Nagle of Australia, but his charge across the par-72 links captured the attention and imagination of Americans who had previously considered the British title a charming relic. Palmer won two British titles, in 1961 at Royal Birkdale and 1962 at Royal Troon.
"I never felt you could be a complete professional without having won the British championship," he said. "I felt it was something you kind of had to do to complete your professionalism in the world of golf . . . felt very strongly this championship would eventually become the championship that it has been. It does not surprise me at all. I think it has reached the stature it should."
Palmer has played 21 British Opens in 30 years, and he called the 1960 tournament one of his most enduring disappointments in golf. Only one other player since then has come to the British with a chance at the Grand Slam, Jack Nicklaus in 1982, losing to Lee Trevino by a stroke.
"Even though I enjoyed the first Open, it was the biggest disappointment," Palmer said. "In 1960 I was a fairly cocky young man and I really felt like I should win that championship."
Lawn Care Problems
The biggest green on The Old Course is the combination fifth and 15th, one of 14 double greens. It measures 5,555 square yards, or 1 1/3 acres. It takes two men 90 minutes to cut it, and in doing so they each walk 3 1/2 miles. . . .
Defending champion Mark Calcavecchia has a distinct lack of reverence for the tradition of St. Andrews. Calcavecchia caused great consternation when he played in the Dunhill Cup here last year and solved the problem of the sprawling greens by using his wedge instead of his putter on some. At the combination fourth and 14th he left a divot.
"If need be, I'd do it again," he said.
Princess Anne will attend the British Open during Saturday's third round. She is president of the British Knitting and Clothing Export Council, and is expected to view the famed Tented Village, made up of 100 stands displaying golf apparel and accessories. It is the first official visit by a member of the royal family to St. Andrews since King George VI came to The Old Course in 1946.
U.S. Open champion Hale Irwin took two weeks off before coming here Monday night from his home in St. Louis, but it wasn't exactly restful. Irwin, 45, spent his vacation personally answering the piles of mail he received after his victory at Medinah, estimating he replied to "hundreds" of congratulatory letters.
"If anything's been overwhelming, it's how it triggered so much heartfelt feeling," he said. "And not necessarily just from the geriatric crowd. I answered each and every one. If someone takes the time to write me, I can write back."