Palmer still sets example of legible autographs

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 04, 2013
Arnold Palmer reached for a black pen and a blank piece of paper, and for a moment, he went back in time to junior school days. ''My first year in grade school, my teacher was a lady by the name of Rita Taylor,'' Palmer said. ''The blackboard around the room had `The Palmer Method of Writing,' and that was system with which we were taught to write.'' The King didn't invent the popular method of teaching cursive. Among athletes, he perfected it. Pen in hand, his right arm moved in a slow, circular motion for several seconds, as if rehearsing. Then, he started writing what has become one of the most famous autographs in sports. Even at 83, Palmer makes sure every fan can read his name. And like so many other aspects of his golfing career, his influence spans generations. ''I've always heard you need to make it legible, and I try to do that,'' Tim Clark said as he signed for fans behind the railing at Doral this spring. He used lower case for his entire name, and it was as clear as can be. Where did he hear this advice? ''Arnold Palmer,'' he said. Tiger Woods has a distinctive style with his autograph, perhaps not as legible as Palmer's, but easily recognizable. He signs his name with the same penmanship he would write a letter, and if you pay close attention, there is this idiosyncrasy about Woods - he always dots the ''i'' in his name. ''I do it every time,'' Woods said. ''Sometimes I'll hit the `W' and sometimes I hit the `T' because of the speed I'm being pushed along or people moving around.'' The Masters isn't the best place for fans to collect autographs. Augusta National has a strict policy of limiting requests to a designated area near the practice range and during the Par 3 Tournament. There are no autographs allowed on the golf course. A prized possession, however, is a yellow Masters flag signed by players. The question, as with any other golf memorabilia, is whether anyone can read the names. The example set by the likes of Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan and so many others has not made its way into this generation. Just look at any flag filled with player autographs and try to figure out who they are. Some players sign. Most just scribble. ''I've never enjoyed trying to figure out who's who,'' Phil Mickelson said. ''When you play on a Ryder Cup team and a name is missing, and I can't figure out any of them that are actually on the flag, there's no way to find out who's missing. That's always frustrating. It's just showing respect, whether it's for fans or whoever you're signing for.'' Padraig Harrington and Honda Classic winner Michael Thompson figured this out. For more than a decade, Harrington's signature looked like it belonged on a prescription from a doctor. To say it was illegible would be a compliment. The ''P'' and the ''H'' could barely be detected. Otherwise, it looked like the ink stamp from a chicken claw. And then he won the British Open at Carnoustie. ''Up to that, I always signed my name as I would sign a check,'' Harrington said. ''My caddie gave me a lecture after I won the Open. He said if he was a little kid and asked me for my autograph, and that's what he got, he'd be very disappointed.'' The Irishman took that to heart. He now signs his full name, a style similar to Palmer. ''If you're going to sign it, you'd be better off signing less and signing it properly,'' Harrington said. ''I do notice the others (that can't be recognized). And I think it says a lot about the person.'' Zach Johnson was making his way down an autograph line with the familiar ''Z'' with a line through it. He won't win a penmanship contest, but there is no question whose name is on the flag. He is happy with his effort and believes it is legible. And then he saw another name on the flag. ''Not as legible as that - oh, wow,'' he said. Above where he signed was the name of Michael Thompson, nearly all 15 letters in the name as clear as can be. Much like Harrington, Thompson had intervention from caddie Matt Bednarski about a month after they began working together in 2011. Previously, it looked like an EKG reading - a mostly flat line except for two spikes (the ''M'' and the ''T'') and a short drop for the ''p.'' ''I give credit to Matt. He told me to make it legible,'' Thompson said. ''I changed it to write every letter, to emulate Arnold Palmer. He has probably the greatest signature in history. You can't read 70 percent of the names on a flag. Every now and then you can kind of make out who they are if you know the players. Mine sticks out like a sore thumb. I've gotten more compliments on my autographs from fans, kids and parents than I ever would have imagined.'' Rory McIlroy still has room for improvement. A lot of room. His signature is a series of loops that are as curly as his hair. It is difficult to decipher the ''R'' or the ''M'' or even what language it is written. A young girl with an oversized foam golf ball at the Houston Open proudly showed her autographs. There was Steve Stricker. Justin Leonard. Mickelson. And then she gleefully said McIlroy had signed it. Where on the ball? She looked over the collage of names and pointed to a bunch of loops. ''I think he signed it upside down,'' the girl said. Mickelson is a master of autographs, signing for up to an hour after his round, though he has started to cut back as he gets older and has other obligations. ''I've got so many letters that it's hard to make every one meticulous,'' Mickelson said. ''I do the best I can to make sure you know whose it is, but I still have to make it somewhat quick, too. But look at Palmer, Hogan, Nelson, Nicklaus. They always felt like if it was worth the time to do it, then do it right. Make it legible.'' Ian Poulter, of course, wanted some style. He finishes writing his name with a big loop - just like his mother always did - that becomes a circle, and then he draws a hole and a flagstick in the middle of the loop. ''If you look at people's signatures through the years, some you can read, and most you can't,'' Poulter said. ''And if you make something a little different, identifiable with the name, everybody knows what signature it is. Everyone knows my autograph.'' It wasn't always that way, of course. He started his career signing his full name - Ian James Poulter - until he won his first European Tour event. ''When you've just won the Italian Open and you're asked to sign a couple of hundred things, we need to think this out,'' Poulter said with a grin. ''That winter I changed it to `IJ Poulter' with the green. But I don't think everybody sees signing the same way. Some guys see it as a pain in the (behind). Some guys quite enjoy it. I quite enjoy doing it.'' And then there's John Daly, who has three autographs - one for kids, another if he detects the fan wants to sell it, and third for personal items. ''It's totally different on legal stuff,'' he said. ''I'll do `John P. Daly.' For autographs I know they're going to sell, I scribble. It's the ugliest signature you'll ever see, and they can't sell those. ''But for kids,'' Daly said, stopping to sign for a young boy at Innisbrook, ''that was a beautiful signature.'' Harrington said it can get weary for any player to see the fans looking to make money off an autograph, especially when they're pushing kids out of the way. But as he finished walking 100 meters along the fence, signing items and saying, ''You're welcome'' to every one who thanked him, he still saw it as a privilege. ''It's all worthwhile when there's one kid who genuinely wants your autograph,'' he said. ''He's not there to get 10 autographs, 20 autographs. And when you sign that one, you say, `I signed a thousand autographs just to get to that one, where he's actually going to go home and keep that autograph.' It's not going to be, `Look, I got 20 autographs.' It's going to be, `I got Padraig Harrington's autograph.' ''Then it's worth it,'' he said. ''That's the pleasure you get.''
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Odell Beckham Jr. appears to take shot at Ben McAdoo

Report: Seahawks players feel Sherman bombshell story ‘nailed it’

Turkey: Kanter a member of terrorist group, issues warrant

Chad Johnson says Roger Goodell consulted him on touchdown celebration rule change

Kevin Durant is not to blame for the NBA’s lack of parity, and he knows it

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Khloe Kardashian called out Cavs fan who mentioned ‘curse’

Warriors’ Mike Brown: Steve Kerr may be back for the Finals

Dodgers transfer Andrew Toles and Scott Kazmir to the 60-day disabled list

Looking back at 40 years of women racing in the Indianapolis 500

U.S. national soccer teams to wear LGBT-themed jerseys to celebrate pride month

Mike Zimmer: Teddy Bridgewater still has ‘long ways to go’

Best of Yardbarker: Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines

The 'More like Whiffer, Texas Ranger...amirite?' quiz

The Rewind: Vince Carter's graduation day celebration that wasn't

Manu Ginobili gave life to the San Antonio Spurs

Stanley Cup Final: A David vs. Goliath matchup that's not as lopsided as it may appear

Why the Indianapolis 500 is called 'the greatest spectacle in racing'

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Box Score 5/26: Bring on the Finals

Why wait? Our too soon Cavaliers-Warriors NBA Finals preview

Kicking It: East is East, and West is West

Three Up, Three Down: Some surprises way out (NL) West

The 'Let's go to the videotape!' quiz

Golf News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Best of Yardbarker: Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines

The 'More like Whiffer, Texas Ranger...amirite?' quiz

Stanley Cup Final: A David vs. Goliath matchup that's not as lopsided as it may appear

Manu Ginobili gave life to the San Antonio Spurs

The Rewind: Vince Carter's graduation day celebration that wasn't

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Kicking It: East is East, and West is West

Three Up, Three Down: Some surprises way out (NL) West

The 'Let's go to the videotape!' quiz

Why the Indianapolis 500 is called 'the greatest spectacle in racing'

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker