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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Palmer Says 'It's Not All Over' After Cancer Surgery

ORLANDO, Florida -- Arnold Palmer never thought about dying. His doctors told him he could expect to recover from prostate cancer because it had been detected early, and he believed them.


Palmer never thought about slowing down, either. The first question he asked after his successful surgery Jan. 15 was how soon he could play golf.


Advised not to swing a club for six weeks, Palmer headed out to the golf course on the 43rd day and slashed away like he was seven strokes behind in the final round of the U.S. Open.


"I get the feeling people say, 'Well, you've had cancer,' that it's all over," Palmer said Wednesday. "Hell, it's not all over. I have no intentions of lying down and stopping. I'm going to do something. If I can't play golf, I'll find something else that I want to do and that I can enjoy doing.


"Right now, as far as I'm concerned, it's going to be golf."


No doubt about that.


Palmer was already calculating when asked about the length of his recovery. He figured six weeks away from the game -- an eternity for Palmer -- would still give him enough time to get ready for his 40th Masters.


And he has played about 14 times over the past three weeks to build up his stamina for his own tournament, the Bay Hill Invitational, which starts Thursday and has once again drawn one of the best fields of the year.


"He's coming back from something scary," said Davis Love III, who missed the last two weeks with kidney stones. "It's great to see him back playing. It's good to see him here and it'll be good to see him at the Masters."


Paul Goydos is the defending champion at the Bay Hill Club, a 7,207-yard, par-72 layout where the bermuda rough has grown even deeper this year. Others in the field are Nick Faldo, Tiger Woods, Tom Lehman and Phil Mickelson.


And Palmer, of course.


He is 67 years old and hasn't won on the PGA Tour since 1973, but so what? The man who drew masses to the game with his hard-charging charisma still commands a presence, and he still wonders what all the fuss is.


"Greg Norman or Tiger Woods must be in here," Palmer said when he walked into the interview room Wednesday to find all 41 seats occupied and people standing along three walls.


Palmer still feels badly once out of every five or six days -- "Yesterday was one of them" -- and he worries about his conditioning.


He is not as strong as he was three months ago, and he had trouble taking the club back when he got to the 18th tee during a round two weeks ago, although he says his stamina is growing daily.


"If I can just get my mental frame of mind on the golf course to where it used to be, I think I can still play a little bit of golf," he said with a daring grin.


His mind does not wander to the day he learned he had prostate cancer, but rather to the piles of notes on his desk that he feels obliged to answer.


Palmer also has been besieged with requests from cancer organizations wanting him to serve as a spokesman. He has not accepted any offers, although he says he will gladly speak out on the importance of early testing for any type of cancer.


"Whether I'll be involved in some of the other things that people want me to do, I don't know about that," Palmer said. "I'm not interested in being a hero. I just want to play some golf."