Palmer Player Together Again

By George WhiteNovember 11, 2004, 5:00 pm
2004 UBS CupTheir pairing first became famous when they combined with Jack Nicklaus in the 1960s to form golfs Big Three. Barnstorming to various exotic locales across the planet, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Nicklaus were already the most popular golfers in the game.
 
It continued in the 70s with Palmers PGA Tour career winding down, but Player at five years younger continuing his excellence. In the 80s both were fixtures of the Champions Tour, where they produced some memorable duels. The 90s saw them both flourish in their respective golf design businesses, producing some of the most interesting courses on the planet.
 
From 2000 and beyond, though, they have emerged as friendly rivals in the UBS Cup. Theyve played each other, they have matched wits and strategies, but always they have put one thing above all else ' sportsmanship.
 
When I play against him and he plays against me, we try to beat each other, acknowledged Player. But we love each other as friends and we have been for all these years. We can be competitive and yet still be great friends. That, to me, is a sign of - well, I think it's just a wonderful thing.
 
Palmer was just as positive about Player. Gary is right with what he said. What Gary says about our relationship is on 100 percent, and I hope that will go on for as long as we live, he said.
 
Palmer has been the captain of the United States squad for all three years of the UBS Cup. Player has captained two with No. 3 slated to unreel Friday. Tony Jacklin captained the Rest of the World team last year.
 
Player and his Rest of the World squad had the upper hand in the inaugural meeting, leading in seven of the 12 singles matches, before a big U.S. rally for a 12 - 11 win. The U.S. successfully defended in 2002, 14 - 9 1/2, before the two teams battled to a 12-12 draw last year.
 
This event has engendered some wonderful competition among the world's finest players, said Palmer.
 
Player agreed. 'I love this kind of competition,' he said. 'With all countries participating, it will go a long way toward promoting golf around the world.
 
The two old rivals are getting up in years now ' Arnold turned 75 on Sept. 10 and Gary will be 69 on Nov. 1. And though they have been playing against each other for some 50 years, theyve always had a warm, close relationship. It is one born of admiration and mutual respect.
 
I've always enjoyed playing against Arnold, said Player. We've been playing against each other for all of these years, and I think that we've had great respect for each other. The fact is that you're going to win and you're going to lose, and that's part of the game.
 
Its much more than just a professional rivalry between two men, however. What these two men have done is provide a model for the entire golfing world to follow, with the sport being the big winner. Player made note of Samuel Ryder, who was instrumental in getting the Ryder Cup off the ground, in commenting on the nature of the USB Cup rivalries.
 
If you read carefully at what his original statement was ' A match between two great countries played in the true spirit,' said Player. I'm sure that Arnold would endorse this, having been the gentleman that he has, that we want to just see this take place.
 
If you lose, have a smile on your face. If you win, have a smile on your face.
 
And Palmer does indeed agree.
 
The fellowship and all the other things that go along with playing golf is what we're trying to make an example of, he said. I think that everyone should know that.
 
And certainly that does not mean that you can't be competitive. Any one of my guys, I think they would all be competitive - but they would be gentlemen. That's the example that we're trying to set. It's an example that we need to set in the world today.
 
I feel very strongly about that. And you just heard Gary, that's exactly what he has said.
 
At this time in history, what with the U.S. involved in a military action in the Middle East and the world bubbling with turmoil on several fronts, both men strongly endorse a competition that brings together participants from around the globe.
 
We're trying to create goodwill, said Arnie. We're not trying to create a problem between the world and the United States or countries in the world.
 
I don't know of any of these players that are angry with anyone else. It doesn't matter whose team they're on.
 
That is the spirit under which the UBS Cup is played. Two men, two teams, and one goal ' the best in sportsmanship that golf can offer.
 
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