Player set for final hurrah

Home

Just when it looked as though Gary Player might try to play in The Masters until he was 100, tomorrow will be his final round.

Just when it looked as though Gary Player might try to play in The Masters until he was 100, tomorrow will be his final round.
Providing, of course, the 73-year-old three-time champion does not survive the halfway cut. Now wouldn’t that be something?
Five years after Arnold Palmer’s 50th and final competitive appearance at Augusta National and four years after Jack Nicklaus’s 45th and last, Player is bowing out after an incredible record 52 times in the tournament.
The South African, the first non-American winner in 1961 and champion again in 1974 and 1978, made his debut in 1957 and missed only the 1973 event.
Now the question is not whether he will be back as an honorary starter, but when?
Palmer was alone in that role again this morning, hitting a ceremonial drive off the first tee before retiring.
But Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said: “I just found out about this being Gary’s last tournament two days ago.
“While we didn’t talk about it last night (at the champions dinner) I’m sure we’ll talk about it over the summer.
“I’m going to continue to talk to Jack Nicklaus about it too, so we’ll have a couple of conversations going on.”
He can expect a favourable response from Player.
“Would I? Of course I would. I’ll even exercise harder to make sure I outdrive Arnold.”
He recalled his first appearance and said: “I doubt whether I had
5,000 to my name, I drove through these gates and you can imagine I was in absolute awe and overwhelmed, in fact.”
He still managed 24th place and it took him only four more visits to don his first green jacket.
Player, Palmer and Nicklaus, who competed together again in yesterday’s par-three competition, were golf’s “Big Three” who in the dawn of the television age transformed the face of the sport.
He is one of only five players – Nicklaus, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan and Tiger Woods are the others – to have won all four majors at least once and even at 62 he made the cut at Augusta.
“I am getting old now,” he said. “I’m hitting the ball so short I can hear it land!
“I’m exercising profusely, but it’s very difficult at 73 to build strength. The golf course is so long – I mean, I’m hitting a wood to almost every single hole other than the third.
“It’s just too long for me. I cannot get around. I’ve managed to break 80 the last two years, but it’s getting to a stage now where I don’t know whether I can do that out here. I’m getting weaker.”
Player does not think his record number of appearances will stand for ever.
“It will be broken,” he said. “We are in our infancy when it comes to the mind and the body.
“My grandchildren’s children will never eat any of the foods that we eat today. It will be a complete different system – you’re going to find bionic men playing in time to come.
“My great ambition is really to get a message through to 200 million young people around the world that your body is a holy temple and you have to look after it and you have to exercise.
“That’s just my make-up. I think obesity is costing America more money than all the wars and everything together when you work it out.
“It’s just so scary when you see what’s happening.”

Latest