Player recalls the beauty of green jacket

By Associated PressApril 3, 2011, 12:20 am

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Gary Player was already a major champion when he played the Masters in 1961. By the time the tournament ended, the South African had defeated Arnold Palmer and become the first international player to wear the green jacket. It also marked him as a rising star.

“Confidence is a very, very big thing in this sport,” Player said by phone this month. “There is such a fine line that winning at Augusta like that meant an awful lot to me.”

Player is now 75 and celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first of his three Masters victories. The nine-time major champion will again lead Augusta National’s par-3 tournament with the other members of the game’s beloved “Big Three” of Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.

Player will also get to relish the long-ago Monday – the final round was delayed because of rain – when he stared down “Arnie’s Army” with a magnificent up-and-down from the bunker on No. 18. It was a hole Palmer later double-bogeyed to finish a shot behind.

“Anytime you win a major, it means a lot for your career,” Player said. “Winning at Augusta with President Eisenhower, Bobby Jones and people like that, it leads itself to a very special, special victory.”

Player had won the British Open 1959, but had yet to fully establish himself with U.S. golf fans in the era when Palmer – the “King” – ruled. So when Player gave away his four-shot lead to Palmer on Augusta’s punishing back nine with a double bogey on No. 13 and a bogey on No. 15, the “Army” couldn’t wait to celebrate their hero’s second straight Masters win and third in four years.

Player, though, wasn’t through. He made three crucial pars, including one from the bunker alongside the 18th green, that left him a shot off Palmer’s lead.

Palmer maintained that edge and was in good shape on the 18th with a solid drive in the fairway. That’s when things went wrong, Palmer recalled. He said he was distracted before hitting his approach. The 7-iron landed in the right bunker.

“Where Gary got up and down from that same trap an hour or so earlier, I hit a poor sand shot that went over the green and down the slope on the other side,” Palmer said.

A pitch and two putts later, Palmer took a 6, and Player was the Masters champion. Palmer says he long considered it one of his most crushing defeats.

“It was an incredible moment,” Player said.

Player won twice more at Augusta National, in 1974 and 1978. With his last victory, the “Black Knight” became the oldest golfer, at 42, to wear the green jacket. That distinction was eclipsed by Nicklaus’ rousing Masters triumph in 1986. Player was also the oldest person to make the cut at Augusta when he was 62 in 1998.

This time, granddaughter Savannah will caddy for Player at the par-3 event. Player also will host a charity event in Augusta April 10-11.

In addition, he plans to stop by his newest headquarters in South Carolina. Along with offices for the Gary Player Group, work is nearly complete on a signature course, The Cliffs At Mountain Park.

Player keeps a full schedule that has him traveling to courses and events around the world. He competes about five or six times a year, more than enough to keep him happy.

“I’ve had a feast,” he says. “Now, I’m ready to get up from the table because I’ve had enough. There are so many other interests in life.”

Besides being golf’s worldwide ambassador, Player is actively involved in raising awareness on childhood obesity and urging fitness for people of all ages.

“The young people should be eating more vegetables and fruit,” he said.

In all, Player competed 52 times at Augusta National. Few of them compared with that first victory.

Down the stretch, Player knew the fans were behind “their fair-haired boy in Arnold,” he said. But Player said he was fortified by each cheer from “Arnie’s Army.”

Pressure, the 25-year-old Player learned then, was “not to be feared, it was to be loved and it has stuck with me ever since.”

That first victory at Augusta National also helped Player in promoting the international side of golf, something he’s being doing since.

“Winning the Masters proved that I could win in the USA, which was a huge help in reaching that goal,” he said.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.