After nearly 55 years in the air, Arnold Palmer is leaving the cockpit.
Palmer on Monday flew his Cessna Citation 10 from Palm Springs to his home in Orlando, Fla., a significant trip because it was his last one as the pilot. His license expired that day, and the King chose not to renew it.
“I’ll still be flying in my plane as much as always, just not in the cockpit,” the 81-year-old Palmer told Golf Digest for a story on its website. “Flying has been one the great things in my life. It’s taken me to the far corners of the world. I met thousands of people I otherwise wouldn’t have met. And I even got to play a little golf along the way.”
Palmer grew up about a mile from the Latrobe, Pa., airport. He earned his first license in 1956 (and made his first solo flight after only eight hours of training) and bought his first plane in 1961.
In 1976, he set a record that still stands when he circumnavigated the globe in a Lear 36 in 57 hours, 35 minutes and 42 seconds. His longtime assistant Doc Giffin, told the magazine that Palmer stopped to refuel in Boston, Paris, Tehran, Sri Lanka, Jakarta, Manila, Wake Island and Honolulu.
“The stops were brief,” Giffin said. “But Arnold had time to ride an elephant in Sri Lanka, and in Manila he was given a gift from President Ferdinand Marcos that he still has.”
HARMON SPEAKS: Butch Harmon believes 2010 took its biggest toll on Tiger Woods between the ears.
Harmon, the coach for Woods when he turn pro and during the rebuild of a swing that produced four successive majors, said what once separated Woods’ from everyone else was his mental strength. That changed last year, when Woods endured a year of being mocked for his extramarital affairs that ruined his marriage, and a game that was so bad he didn’t win for the first time in his pro career.
“I think his nerves aren’t quite as good as they used to be,” Harmon said on The Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” show last week. “I don’t think he’s as mentally tough as he used to be.”
Harmon attributed that to a life that “got out of hand.”
“I think that takes a toll on your nervous system, and it takes a toll on your focus,” Harmon said.
Harmon said he expects Woods to have a good year when he gets through another swing change under Sean Foley, and he expects that he will get back to No. 1 in the world.
“I don’t think he’ll ever dominate like he did before,” Harmon said. “I don’t think anyone can in this age.”
PLAYER COUNCIL AND VERPLANK: The 16-member Player Advisory Council for 2011 has a few new faces this year, such as Justin Rose of England, Jason Day and Kevin Sutherland. This is the group that advises the policy board and commissioner Tim Finchem on tour issues. The other PAC members: Jonathan Byrd, Michael Bradley, Ben Crane, Tom Gillis, Charley Hoffman, Matt Kuchar, Billy Mayfair, Webb Simpson, Paul Stankowski and Mark Wilson.
From that 16, three players are up for election to be the PAC chairman, meaning he will graduate to the policy board. The election is among Jim Furyk, David Duval and Scott Verplank.
DIVOTS: The PGA Tour continues to tweak pairings, serving up the all-South American trio of Jhonattan Vegas, Angel Cabrera and Camilo Villegas. … Robert Garrigus, who won the last tournament of 2010, picked up the tab for the caddies’ meals all week at Torrey Pines. Garrigus wanted to do something earlier, but the caddie trailer does not travel to Hawaii for the first two events. … The PGA Professional National Championship is going Bayonet and Black Horse on the Monterey Peninsula in 2012. … Rickie Fowler becomes the numerical replacement of Tiger Woods in one respect: He’s been signed as a playing editor for Golf Digest magazine.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have combined for only one PGA Tour victory in the last 16 months.
FINAL WORD: “I can’t understand it when people say, ‘Would you swap something?’ Because in golf, you certainly only ever get what you deserve.”— Lee Westwood, on whether he would trade the No. 1 ranking for a major.