Who Was the Last Golfer to Shoot His Age on the PGA Tour?

The last golfer to shoot his age on the PGA Tour was Arnold Palmer, and it happened in 2001. There is a good reason it's been so long since anyone did it: It is rare these days for golfers old enough to shoot their age to start in a PGA Tour event.

Prior to the founding of the Champions Tour in 1980, older golfers who had been longtime PGA Tour members were common sights playing PGA Tour events into their 60s, 70s — even, in a few cases, into their 80s. That rarely happens today.

Palmer's Age-Shooting Round

Arnold Palmer was the course designer for the Palmer Private Course at PGA West in La Quinta, California, and that is where, in 2001, the PGA Tour Bob Hope Chrysler Classic was played. Palmer was in the field because he was the course designer and because, well, c'mon, he was Arnie, "the King." He also was a five-time winner of the tournament. In fact, Palmer's final PGA Tour win, in 1973, was in this tournament.

Palmer was 71 years, 5 months and 7 days old when he carded a score of 71, exactly matching his age, in the fourth round of the tournament.

The Palmer Private Course was set up as a par-72, 6,950 yards in length. And it got scorched by the PGA Tour flatbellies that week. The tournament was five rounds (90 holes) long in those days, and Joe Durant won it at 36-under par.

The 71-year-old Palmer opened with a score of 81, but he got better each round. He followed with a 79. Because it was a five-round tournament and a celebrity pro-am, the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic did not have a 36-hole cut; the cut wasn't made until after the fourth round. That's why Palmer, despite his high opening scores, continued playing after the second round.

In the third round, Palmer scored 75. Then, in the final round, he shot his age with a score of 71. His four-round total was 306, 18-over par. He finished second-to-last among those who played four rounds. (Doug Sanders, a couple years younger than Palmer, finished seven strokes behind Palmer.)

But nobody cared, because fans (and fellow golfers) were just excited to see Palmer. That was especially true in that fourth round, when word spread around the course that Palmer was on pace to shoot his age. He got his round off to a hot start, with consecutive birdies on the second, third and fourth holes. He had a late stumble with a double bogey at the 16th that put shooting his age in jeopardy, but Palmer then birdied the 17th hole. A par on the last hole got him in the clubhouse with his 71.

Palmer had shot his age numerous times on the Champions Tour, and he seemed a little surprised at the attention he was receiving. But, in fact, Palmer was the first golfer in 22 years — since Sam Snead in 1979 — to shoot his age on the PGA Tour. Called into the post-round press area by tour officials and informed of that fact, Palmer laughed and said, "I wondered why in the hell you wanted me in here. I couldn't figure it out."

"Golf is fun, that's why I'm still playing it," Palmer said after the round. "I enjoy the competition. I enjoy the feeling I get when I'm out there. You know, you get nervous, and want to play well. Of course, I'm not fortunate enough to do that as much as I would like. I don't give up, and I don't think that I will give up. As long as I can compete and be a part of the game, I'm going to try to be."

Palmer made only nine more starts in PGA Tour events following that round in the 2001 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, most of those in The Masters and Bay Hill Invitational. The 2004 Masters was his final start on the PGA Tour.

See also: Who is the youngest golfer to shoot his age?

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