The muscular forearms, trim stomach and famous grin remain the same, but there's not much else to connect the Arnold Palmer of today with the swashbuckler who captured four Masters titles and the nation's imagination.
If you had blurred your eyes Friday at Augusta National's 10th green, the silhouette of Palmer locked in his knock-kneed putting stance could have turned back the imagination's clock to the glory years of the `50s and `60s. Anybody could lead for 63 holes, but on the back nine in even-numbered years, here would come Arnie.Open your eyes wide, however, and you see the iron-gray hair, the painfully ineffective putting stroke and the "Palmer +11" on the scoreboard.
Arnie's Army still follows its general, but the ranks are thinning. Wise guys talk about the need for Arnie to establish a draft to add conscripts. The army's level of enthusiasm needs to be elevated. Many in the present army, dulled by too many 3-putts and too many bogeys, often trudge around like extras from "Night of the Living Dead."
On Friday, the General added a 77 to his opening 80. How did he play?
"Ask me anything but that," Palmer said with a grin.
Arnie has lost his putting touch, not his sense of humor. But he finds nothing funny about the slick Augusta greens.
"I really don't appreciate what they've done to this golf course," he said. "They've done things out there that not only hurt the course, they hurt the game."
"I have never agreed with bent grass on greens which undulate like these," he said. "I love bent grass, but not on these greens. There are greens where you can't even hit the ball toward the hole. ... I don't think that's what we're looking for.
"And you know what I think of Augusta. It's the greatest place in the world. This is not sour grapes on my part."
Sour grapes or no, Palmer will not be playing in the final two rounds of the Masters for the sixth consecutive year. After all he's done for the game, maybe Palmer has earned his weekends off.