OAKMONT, Pa. -- He couldn't make it all the way up the 18th fairway at Oakmont Country Club without his eyes welling at the resounding ovation he received. He couldn't make it through a bunch of post-round interviews without breaking down.
Arnold Palmer bowed out tearfully yesterday from the United States Open. Exactly 41 years after playing here in his first Open, the legendary king of golf closed what had been a memorable show. The memories came crashing down on Palmer, 64.
His only Open victory, at Cherry Hills in 1960, a tournament many considered the seminal event in the popularity of the PGA Tour. His disappointments, including three playoff defeats. The charges. The collapses. The history.
And, finally, yesterday's Open round of 9-over 81 for a two-round score of 16-over 158. It was the first Open for Palmer since finishing tied for 60th here in 1983, but it mattered little. What mattered was that Palmer was saying goodbye.
"When you walk up the 18th and get an ovation like that, that says it all," Palmer said in a brief interview with ESPN, before emotions got the better of him.
Later, in the press room, Palmer broke down several times. He tried to make a joke of it, but realized he was losing this battle. He started and stopped several times, and nearly walked away once, unable to hold back the tears.
"I think you know pretty much how I feel," he said, holding a towel up to cover the quiet sobs. "Most of you I have talked to quite a bit over the years. I suppose the sun got me a little bit. I got a little tired, I guess and a little emotional coming up 18."
He stopped again.
"I can't get it going," he said as many in the audience began to cry with him. "It is 40 years of fun, work and enjoyment."
Asked what he had the most fun doing, Palmer was characteristically self-deprecating. "I haven't won all that much. I have won a few tournaments. I have won some majors, but I suppose the most important thing it has been as good as it has
been to me."