Prime versus prime, one round for all the money: Who wins an 18-hole showdown between Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods?
“I do,” says Palmer, laughing, as I ask him the question over the phone between takes of a viral video shoot inside the EA Sports offices in Maitland, Fla.
Palmer is trading golf swings and barbs with NFL Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk to promote the upcoming “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14” video game, a game Palmer finds himself on the cover of alongside Woods. Faulk is also featured in the game as a playable character.
“Tiger’s tough," Palmer says. "He’s a great player, and I watched him play almost his whole life and he’s very impressive."
But will Tiger ever win another major?
“Well, that’s questionable,” Palmer says. “I think he has the opportunity to do that, and it will be interesting to watch and see how that works out.”
Until then, it’s all about winning every virtual major in the video game, whether it’s with Tiger, Palmer or even one of the NFL’s greatest players (who also knows a little something about surviving the Madden Curse).
Here’s what Palmer has to say about his involvement in “Tiger 14”:
ESPN Playbook: In the game’s story mode, we’ll get to play as the Arnold Palmer character throughout the years and in different stages of your career. What age did you enjoy playing the game most?
Arnold Palmer: I enjoyed in my youth playing golf and the opportunity I had to play with my father in the early days. And then through high school and my collegiate career and going out on the Tour in my early days was really a challenge, but it was a lot of fun. I can sort of giggle a little bit when I say this, but I’d like to be doing it again. It was fun for me to play professional golf from the early days to the middle of my career, and then winding it up on the Senior Tour was fun. Even now, playing a little golf with my friends is still fun, so all three eras, so to speak, have been great for me and I totally enjoyed it.
How do you see the video game helping bring new fans to the sport of golf?
All of the things that are happening, from the First Tee program to what Tiger has done in the game and the potential for what is to come in the video game, will really help promote the game of golf to where we even think it might be.
EA Sports added Augusta National to the game a few years ago, and this year, there will be a special Masters edition of “Tiger 14.” To you, what is it about that course that makes it so special?
Augusta is such a special place. The atmosphere, the environment, the whole thing is just something that we always look forward to, and it never gets old. It will continue to fascinate a lot of people for years to come.
Do you have a favorite all-time course to play?
You can’t ignore Augusta, but there are a lot of tournaments that I’ve played and a lot of special places, whether it’s Laurel Valley or Latrobe. Bay Hill is one of my favorite courses, for sure. Those courses are really great, but most of the courses today are fun, and they’re so well-manicured and so well taken care of that it’s just fun for me to be able to go out and play.
My son knows you more for the Arnold Palmer drink than for being a golfer. Is there a story behind how you came up with the idea for the drink? Did you invent the drink or are you just there for marketing purposes?
I did invent it, actually. I was designing golf courses around the country, and one day I was in Palm Springs and it was really hot. I decided I wanted something, but I just didn’t want a normal drink. I had ordered a tea, then I had them put about a quarter of lemonade in it, and some lady had heard me order that and when she went to order, she said, “I want an Arnold Palmer.” That made me think about it, and I started the Arnold Palmer drink.
There are so many great young golfers playing today. Whom do you see as the next big star who can carry the sport and be the next Arnold Palmer or the next Tiger Woods?
Jeez, I couldn’t give you an idea about that. There are so many of them who are so good. Rory [McIlroy] is very good. Actually, if Marshall [Faulk] would’ve started earlier, he could’ve been great. He’s really hitting the ball good.
What advice do you have for kids who might start playing the game of golf for real after picking up the video game?
I’m of the feeling that young people should stick to the basic fundamentals. Practice their golf swing and stick to the basics, while at the same time, be gentlemen and play the game with integrity. That’s how you find success in golf, and in life.