Players Career One Big Highlight Pt 2

By George WhiteMarch 12, 2003, 5:00 pm
This year marks Gary Players 50th anniversary as a pro. In this second of a three-part series, the spotlight shines on Players professional career since 1957.
 
The year 1957 marked Gary Players first year as a truly international figure. He played in his native South Africa, winning again ' of course ' but he also played in locales as diverse as Australia and the United States.
 
It was in Australia that he played Aussie Peter Thompson, who was then on a run of winning the British Open four times in five years. Player won in a dramatic duel, 2-and-1, over 36 holes of match play at the age of 21.
 
And he made his debut in the U.S in 1957, playing in nine tournaments, making the cut in all nine, and placing third at the Greater Greensboro Open. The first time he played in America ' the Azalea Open ' he made a whopping $16 and change. To this day, he has the check framed in his office to remind where he has come from.
 
Player won for the first time on the U.S. tour the following year, 1958. That came in Lexington, Ky., at the Kentucky Derby Open, noteworthy in that Player would become a noteworthy owner of champion thoroughbred horses himself. He shot four rounds in the 60s to win. But he also had two runners-up that year and finished in the top 10 in nine of the 14 events he played.
 
One other event of prominence popped up on his 1958 resume ' he played his first U.S. Open. The first two rounds he was paired with the great Ben Hogan at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla. And he didnt flinch ' after four days he was second only to Tommy Bolt, even though he was only a 22-year-old youngster.
 
In 1959, Player achieved notoriety as one of the worlds best when he won his first major ' the British Open ' as a 23-year-old. He prevailed at Muirfield, shooting a 75 the first day, then surging back to shoot lower each day. His scores were 71, 70 and 68 as he won by two strokes over Fred Bullock and Flory van Donck.
 
The staff, management and personnel at the hotel where Player was staying were so pleased that they baked a huge cake. They played Sarie Marais, a South African song, when he returned to the hotel and had a grand celebration.
 
Player won the Transvaal Open in South Africa by an incredible 17 shots over second-place Harold Henning, his old buddy who had accompanied him on his first journey outside South Africa. And by the next year, 1960, Player had taken over domination of the South African Tour from Bobby Locke, who had been the dominant figure on the tour during the previous decade.
 
The Masters of 1961 was a landmark. Arnold Palmer by all rights had it won. As he was walking to a perfectly placed drive on the final hole, he stopped momentarily to accept congratulations. But that threw him off just enough to send his approach shot sailing into a bunker.
 
His third shot was skulled across the green and into the rough. By the time he finally got the ball into the hole, he had recorded a double bogey. And there to win his first green jacket was Gary Player, the first international to prevail. Player was just 25 years old, but he already had two majors.
 
It's a point of contention that people say Palmer lost - Player double-bogeyed the 13th and later had a bogey, but he still fought back to win.
 
The year 1961 was important for several reasons. Though Palmer was in the middle of his glory years, the fact is that Player might well have had the better year. Palmer won the U.S. Open, was second in the Masters and tied for fifth in the PGA, but Player won three times in America, finished in the top 10 an astounding 20 times, and was the leading money winner. And ' oh yes ' he also had the tours leading stroke average.
 
Player played in 28 American tour tournaments, the most he ever played. It very nearly was one more.
 
That was because Palmer had a chance to beat him out of the money title in that last event. Player placed a call to the tournament office in Mobile, Ala., where Palmer would have had to beat Doug Sanders to unseat Player. But Sanders shot 65 the final day to win, and Players position was safe.
 
In 1962, Player got the third leg of the Grand Slam when he won the PGA Championship at Aronimink Golf Club. His score of 2-under 278 was good enough to defeat Bob Goalby, while a 22-year-old Jack Nicklaus finished in a tie for third. Player was the second non-American to win the PGA, and he once again led the PGA Tour with the lowest stroke average. As a matter of fact, his stroke average was the lowest in the world, for the second consecutive year.
 
Player finally became the third player in the world to capture the Grand Slam when he won the U.S. Open in 1965, at the age of 29. It was Players fourth major in seven years, and the one that put him over the top at Bellerive in St. Louis. He had a struggle on his hands to win, going to an 18-hole playoff to win by three strokes over Australian Kel Nagel.

I think the most pressure I ever felt in golf was in winning that U.S. Open, he would say.
 
Sam Snead never won the U.S. Open. Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson never won the PGA. Lee Trevino never won the Masters. Getting that fourth one just seems so difficult.
 
But Bellerive might have been the best I have ever played in the majors. I hit everything so well.
 

Player responded with a most unusual gesture when he won the U.S. Open. He donated his entire winners check to The Cancer Association ' in memory of his mother, who died of cancer ' and the Junior Golf Association of the USGA.
 
I am doing this because I made a promise to Joe Dey (then the executive director of the USGA) five years ago, Player said. I am doing this to repay America for its many kindnesses to me over the past few years.
 
As his worldwide success continued, Player soon took his place with Palmer and Nicklaus in the Big Three television series of matches around the world. In addition, he returned every year to play in the major South African tournaments, including winning 13 South African Opens, 10 South African Masters and five South African PGAs. He also was highly visible in Australia, winning seven Australian Opens, two Australian Masters and an Australian PGA.
 
And his greatest triumph might have come in a tournament he didnt even win. That was at the 1969 PGA Championship at the National Cash Register course in Dayton, Ohio. Because of his South African citizenship, he was targeted by anti-apartheid demonstrators for direct harassment. It didnt matter that he has often spoke out against the apartheid philosophy, or that he is close friends with Nelson Mandela.
 
Protestors shouted during his swing and rolled batteries under his legs while he was on the green trying to putt. And through it all, with the massive amount of distractions, he finished only one stroke out of the victory celebration of Raymond Floyd.
 
They threw ice in my eyes, a telephone book in my back, he told Golf Digest. They yelled, Miss it! To finish second to Raymond Floyd by one shot ' I think it was my greatest tournament.
 
In 1971, Player proved what a humanitarian he is. Through his efforts and his pressure on the South African government, Lee Elder was invited to play in South Africas first multi-racial sports event. Player definitely deserved the credit he was given.
 
In 1972, Player hired black caddy Alfred (Rabbit) Dyer, who remained his bag toter for much of his pro career. Player won the 74 British Open, the first major-tournament winner with a black caddy.
 
The greatest shot of his career? That would be in 1968 at the British Open.
 
It was at Carnoustie, he remembers. Jack Nicklaus, Bob Charles, Billy Casper, Maurice Baimbridge and I were all within a shot of each other with about six holes to go.
 
Came the 14th hole, and the wind was blowing very hard. I could see the wind blowing the flag all over the place. I was playing with Jack and I hit this 3-wood one foot from the hole. I went on to beat him by one shot.
 
There are others. The PGA at Oakland Hills in 1972 was one. There were 10 of us within two shots of each other, he said. I hit this shot on the 16th hole over the trees. The flag was right by the water, and I put it in there about three feet from the hole. That enabled me to win the PGA.
 
And another? The Masters in 74 ' (Tom) Weiskopf and Dave Stockton and I came down the 71st hole with only one shot between us. I put a 9-iron inches from the cup. As I hit it, I said to the caddy, Dont even worry, we arent going to need the putter.
 
Another Player landmark occurred in 1974, when he was one of the original 13 inductees into the World Golf Hall of Fame. And in 1978, he won three tournaments in succession ' the Masters, the Tournament of Champions and the Houston Open.
 
During that (three-tournament) streak, I was seven behind going into the final round of the Masters, seven behind going into the final round of the Tournament of Champions, and five behind going into the final round at Houston, Player said.
 
Going into the final rounds, I shot 64 at Augusta, 65 at the Tournament of Champions, and 64 at Houston. That was my best stretch of play ever (at age 42).
 
Late in 1985, Player launched a new career as a member of the Senior (now Champions) Tour. He won his debut, the Quadel Senior Classic, after his 50th birthday Nov. 1 just 21 days before the start of the tournament. Player came from behind to roar to a three-stroke victory.
 
He has won four legs of the Champions Grand Slam, winning the U.S. Senior Open, the PGA Seniors and the Ford Senior Championship. He has won the British Senior Open, now a Champions Tour major. Only Jack Nicklaus has won the four majors in the U.S. (the Tradition is included), but Nicklaus has not won the British Senior Open.
 
Player shot a 64 at the BellSouth Senior Classic in 2000, at the time the youngest man to shoot his age in tournament history. And in 1998, he became the second oldest to win on the Champions Tour, claiming the Northville Long Island tournament just two months shy of his 63rd birthday.
 
He entered this year with 163 tournament victories all-time, including 24 on the U.S. tour and 19 on the Champions Tour.
 
I have always tried my hardest, Player says. I have never given up. If I can win an extra $50, I get great joy in doing it. I will never give up, never play just to be there.
 
Player lists his greatest accomplishments in the three decades before the age of 50:
 
50s ' 'Winning the British Open for the first time;'
60s ' 'Won the Masters for the first time; also, Arnold Palmer and I battled it out, out to last tournament in 61, and I beat him to finish leading money winner. Won the U.S. Open in 65 and 68;'
70s ' 'Won the PGA in 72, won the British Open and Masters in the same year (1974), won three tournaments in a row in 78.'
 
Related Links:
  • Gary Player's Career is One Big Highlight, Part 1
  • Gary Player's Bio
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    CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 1:10 pm

    The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.

    How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):

    Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream


    Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)

    Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.

    Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.


    Notables in the field

    Phil Mickelson

    * This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.

    * For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.

    * He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.

    * This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.


    Jon Rahm

    * Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

    * In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.

    * Last year he finished T-34 in this event.


    Adam Hadwin

    * Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.

    * In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.


    Brian Harman

    * Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.

    * Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.

    * Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.


    Brandt Snedeker

    * Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.

    * This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.

    * Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.


    Patrick Reed

    * Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.

    * This is his first start of 2018.

    * Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.

    (Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.) 

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    Teenager Im wins Web.com season opener

    By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 10:23 pm

    South Korea's Sungjae Im cruised to a four-shot victory at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, becoming just the second teenager to win an event on the Web.com Tour.

    Im started the final day of the season-opening event in a share of the lead but still with six holes left in his third round. He was one shot behind Carlos Ortiz when the final round began, but moved ahead of the former Web.com Player of the Year thanks to a 7-under 65 in rainy and windy conditions. Im's 13-under total left him four clear of Ortiz and five shots ahead of a quartet of players in third.

    Still more than two months shy of his 20th birthday, Im joins Jason Day as the only two teens to win on the developmental circuit. Day was 19 years, 7 months and 26 days old when he captured the 2007 Legend Financial Group Classic.

    Recent PGA Tour winners Si Woo Kim and Patrick Cantlay and former NCAA champ Aaron Wise all won their first Web.com Tour event at age 20.

    Other notable finishes in the event included Max Homa (T-7), Erik Compton (T-13), Curtis Luck (T-13) and Lee McCoy (T-13). The Web.com Tour will remain in the Bahamas for another week, with opening round of The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic set to begin Sunday.

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    Mickelson grouped with Z. Johnson at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 8:28 pm

    He's not the highest-ranked player in this week's field, but Phil Mickelson will likely draw the biggest crowd at the CareerBuilder Challenge as he makes his first start of 2018. Here are a few early-round, marquee groupings to watch as players battle the three-course rotation in the Californian desert (all times ET):

    12:10 p.m. Thursday, 11:40 a.m. Friday, 1:20 p.m. Saturday: Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson

    Mickelson is making his fourth straight trip to Palm Springs, having cracked the top 25 each of the last three times. In addition to their respective amateur partners, he'll play the first three rounds alongside a fellow Masters champ in Johnson, who tied for 14th last week in Hawaii and finished third in this event in 2014.


    11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson

    At No. 3 in the world, Rahm is the highest-ranked player teeing it up this week and the Spaniard returns to an event where he finished T-34 last year in his tournament debut. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Watson, who is looking to bounce back from a difficult 2016-17 season and failed to crack the top 50 in two starts in the fall.


    11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker

    Reed made the first big splash of his career at this event in 2014, shooting three straight rounds of 63 en route to his maiden victory. He'll be joined by Snedeker, whose bid for a Masters bid via the top 50 of the world rankings came up short last month and who hasn't played this event since a missed cut in 2015.


    1:10 p.m. Thursday, 12:40 p.m. Friday, 12:10 p.m. Saturday: Patton Kizzire, Bill Haas

    Kizzire heads east after a whirlwind Sunday ended with his second win of the season in a six-hole playoff over James Hahn in Honolulu. He'll play alongside Haas, who won this event in both 2010 and 2015 to go with a runner-up finish in 2011 and remains the tournament's all-time leading money winner.

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    Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone

    By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2018, 7:34 pm

    HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.

    It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.

    Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.

    It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.

    ''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''

    The reward now?

    ''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''

    He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.

    During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.

    ''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''

    Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.

    ''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''

    During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.

    ''Bones, don't ever do that again.''

    It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.

    Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.

    And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.

    It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.

    ''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''

    Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.

    And not the Masters.

    He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.

    ''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''

    There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.

    Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.

    ''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''

    He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.

    ''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.

    He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.

    ''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''

    Except for that first week in April.