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
  • Monday Scramble: For money and love

    By Ryan LavnerNovember 20, 2017, 3:00 pm

    Lexi Thompson falters, Jon Rahm impresses, Justin Rose stuns, Austin Cook breaks through and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble:

    It’ll be a long two months for Lexi Thompson.

    She’ll have plenty to think about this offseason after a strong 2017 season that could have been spectacular.

    She won twice, led the LPGA in scoring average and took home the $1 million first-place prize … but she also finished second six times – none more excruciating than the careless spotting in the first major of the year and the 2-foot miss in the season finale – and dealt with the crushing off-course distraction of her mother, Judy, battling cancer.

    Thompson said all the right things after the CME Group Tour Championship, that those types of short misses happen in golf, that she’s overcome adversity before.

    “It didn’t stop me,” she said, “and this won’t either.”

    But at 22, she has already accumulated an incredible amount of scar tissue, especially for a player with world-beater talent.

    What will 2018 bring? For Lexi’s sake, hopefully it’s more wins, not heartbreak. 


    1. The Thompson miss was plenty awkward. So was the end to the LPGA season.

    In a fitting result for a year in which no dominant player emerged, So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park shared the Player of the Year award, after both players finished with 162 points. It’s the first time that’s happened since 1966.

    Can’t there be some way to break the tie? Low scoring average? Best finishes in the majors? A chip-off content? Rock-paper-scissors?

    2. Some of the other awards ...

    Vare Trophy: Thompson, who finished the year with a 69.114 average. Maybe the players this year were just really good, but it’s a bit of a head-scratcher than 12 players finished with a sub-70 average, besting the previous best total of, gulp, five. Easier setups?

    Money title: Park, with $2.336 in earnings.

    No. 1 ranking: Shanshan Feng, though Thompson had a chance to take over the top spot. Alas, that final green … 



    3. Oh, and there was also the tournament winner: Ariya Jutanugarn, who capped a bizarre year with a satisfying title.

    Perhaps only Thompson boasts as much talent as Jutanugarn, and yet the Thai star showed her vulnerability this year. After reaching No. 1 in the world, she struggled through a shoulder injury and then missed five cuts and withdrew from another event in a seven-start span.

    Here’s hoping she learned how to deal with that spotlight, because she’s going to be challenging for the No. 1 ranking for a while.

    4. Of course, we wrote that about Lydia Ko, too, and she just wrapped up her first winless season on tour since she was 15.

    She had 11 top-10s, including three runners-up, but failing to earn a victory was a massive disappointment for a player who was No. 1 in the world for 85 weeks. Perhaps next year she’ll get back on track, but you never know – she changed swings, coaches, equipment and caddies. That's a lot of turnover.



    5. So much for that “controversial” Rookie of the Year award.

    Jon Rahm, named Europe’s top newcomer despite playing only four regular-season events, left little doubt about who was the breakout star of the year with a comeback victory at the DP World Tour Championship.

    Though it wasn’t enough to claim the Race to Dubai title – he finished third – it should serve as a warning to the rest of the European Tour that the 23-year-old Rahm be the man to beat for the next, oh, decade or so.

    6. Ranked fourth in the world, particularly impressive because he hasn’t yet hit the minimum divisor in the rankings, Rahm wrapped up a season in which he won in California, Ireland and Dubai.

    Just imagine how good he’ll be when he’s not seeing all of these courses for the first time. 

    7. The biggest stunner on the final day was the play of Justin Rose, who entered the final round with a one-shot lead.

    He seemed to be on cruise control, going out in 4 under, but he encountered all sorts of trouble on the back nine, making three bogeys a variety of ways – wayward drives, flared approaches into the water and missed shorties.

    Not only did it cost him the DP World Tour Championship title, but it allowed Tommy Fleetwood – even with a closing 74 – to take the end-of-season Race to Dubai title.



    8. Austin Cook is now a PGA Tour winner – and what a circuitous journey it has been.

    After turning pro in 2014, he played the mini-tours, racking up five top-10s in nine starts on the Adams Tour. A year later, with a chance to earn his Web.com card, he finished bogey-bogey-quad-double. And then last year, Hurricane Matthew forced officials to cancel the Web.com Tour Championship. That left Cook without his card – by $425.

    He made it to the big leagues this fall, after finishing 20th on the money list, and then won in just his 14th career Tour start.  

    “I’ve been close on the Web a couple times but haven’t been able to get the job done, and to be able to do it on the biggest stage in the world, it definitely boosts my confidence and lets me know that I can play with these guys,” he said. 

    9. Sam Horsfield, who in 2016 was the NCAA Freshman of the Year, routed the field at European Tour Q-School to earn his card for next year. He shot 27 under (!) during the five-round event to win by eight.

    Expectations have been high for the 21-year-old ever since he received a public endorsement from Ian Poulter. His mentor chimed in again after Horsfield got his card:

    Another great story to come out of Q-School was Jigger Thomson, who is interesting not just because of his incredible height – he’s 6-foot-9 – but his back story, after battling leukemia as a kid.

    10. A limited fall schedule hasn’t cost Brooks Koepka any of his stellar form.

    The U.S. Open champion defended his title at the Dunlop Phoenix, shooting 20 under par – one off his own scoring mark – and winning by a record nine shots. The margin of victory was one shot better than Tiger Woods’ romp there in 2004.

    This was only Koepka’s second start since the Tour Championship (tied for second at the WGC-HSBC Champions).

    Xander Schauffele tied for second while Hideki Matsuyama finished fifth. This is the time last year, remember, in which the Japanese star was the hottest player in the world, taking four titles in six starts, but he admitted of going up against Koepka right now: “I feel there’s a huge gap between us.” 

    Um, has this ever happened before?

    I.K. Kim had a WILD third round at the CME Tour Championship, making only seven pars and recording everything from a 1 to a 7 en route to a ho-hum 71. 

    This week's award winners ... 


    Back Under the Knife: Davis Love III. Set to undergo replacement surgery on his left hip, Love is looking at another extended layoff, likely about four months.  

    Underrated Fall Performances: J.J. Spaun and Brian Harman. Spaun, who held the 54-hole lead at the Shriners, earned his first runner-up finish at the RSM, his third consecutive top-15. Harman, who won the Wells Fargo in May, had three top-8s. 

    Fill-In Duty: Cameron McCormick. Jordan Spieth’s swing coach will be on the bag for Spieth this week in Australia with his regular caddie, Michael Greller, at home with his wife and new baby.  

    Get Well Soon: Luke Donald. He withdrew from the RSM because of chest pain. He spent the night in the hospital, undergoing seven hours of tests, but was given the all-clear sign. 


    All the Best: Webb Simpson. Wishing the best to the Simpson family, after Webb chose to WD from Sea Island after rounds of 67-68 so he could spend time with his father, Sam, who, Simpson tweeted is “sick and living his last days.” 

    Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Charles Howell III. Red-hot to open the season, with three consecutive top-10s, Howell missed the cut at Sea Island where he was 7-for-7 with three top-10s and a tie for 13th. Sigh. 

    Love to undergo hip replacement surgery

    By Rex HoggardNovember 20, 2017, 1:08 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Two days removed from arguably the most hectic week of his year, Davis Love III will undergo replacement surgery on his left hip.

    Love, who hosted and played in last week’s RSM Classic, said he tried to avoid the surgery, but the pain became too much and he will undergo the procedure on Tuesday at the Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala.

    “I had a hip problem the last few years, and I had a hip resurfacing trying to avoid hip surgery because I’m a chicken, but after playing [the CIMB Classic and Sanderson Farms Championship] I realized it was an uphill battle,” Love said.


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    Love said doctors have told him recovery from the procedure will take between three to four months, but he should be able to start work on his chipping and putting within a few weeks.

    Love, who missed the cut at the RSM Classic, said earlier in the week that his goal is to become the oldest PGA Tour winner and that the only way to achieve that was by having the surgery.

    “Now I’m excited that I’ve crossed that bridge,” said Love, who will turn 54 next April. “Once I get over that I can go right back to the Tour. I won after a spine fusion [2015 Wyndham Championship] and now I’d like to win with a new hip. That’s the reason I’m doing it so I can get back to golf and keep up.”

    LPGA awards: Ryu, S.H. Park tie for POY

    By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:56 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – In the end, the CME Group Tour Championship played out a lot like the entire 2017 season did.

    Parity reigned.

    Nobody dominated the game’s big season-ending awards, though Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park came close.

    Thompson walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. If she had made that last 2-foot putt at the 72nd hole Sunday, she might also have walked away with the Rolex Player of the Year Award and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Park shared the Rolex Player of the Year Award with So Yeon Ryu. By doing so, Park joined Nancy Lopez as the only players in LPGA history to win the Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year titles in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park also won the LPGA money-winning title.

    Here’s a summary of the big prizes:

    Rolex Player of the Year
    Ryu and Park both ended up with 162 points in the points-based competition. Park started the week five points behind Ryu but made the up the difference with the five points she won for tying for sixth.

    It marks the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Ryu and Park join Inbee Park as the only South Koreans to win the award. Park won it in 2013.


    Vare Trophy
    Thompson won the award with a scoring average of 69.114. Sung Hyun Park finished second at 69.247. Park needed to finish at least nine shots ahead of Thompson at the CME Group Tour Championship to win the trophy.

    There were a record 12 players with scoring averages under 70.0 this year, besting the previous record of five, set last year.


    CME Globe $1 million prize
    Thompson entered the week first in the CME points reset, but it played out as a two-woman race on the final day. Park needed to finish ahead of Thompson in the CME Group Tour Championship to overtake her for the big money haul. Thompson tied for second in the tournament while Park tied for sixth.

    By winning the CME Group Tour Championship, Jutanugarn had a shot at the $1 million, but she needed Park to finish the tournament eighth or worse and Thompson to finish ninth or worse.


    LPGA money-winning title
    Park claimed the title with $2,335,883 in earnings. Ryu was second, with $1,981,593 in earnings.

    The tour saw a tour-record 17 players win $1 million or more this season, two more than did so last year.

    Ryu came into the week as the only player who could pass Park for the title, but Ryu needed to win to do so.


    Rolex world No. 1 ranking
    The top ranking was up for grabs at CME, with No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Sung Hyun Park and No. 3 So Yeon Ryu all within three hundredths of a ranking point. Even No. 4 Lexi Thompson had a chance to grab the top spot if she won, but in the end nobody could overtake Feng. Her reign will extend to a second straight week.


    Rolex Rookie of the Year
    Park ran away with the award with her U.S. Women’s Open and Canadian Pacific Women’s Open victories among her 11 top-10 finishes. She had the award locked up long before she arrived for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

    Ko ends first winless season with T-16 at CME

    By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:07 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – Lydia Ko carved a hybrid 3-iron to 15 feet and ended the most intensely scrutinized year of her young career with a birdie Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    “Nice to finish the season on a high note,” Ko said after posting a 3-under-par 69, good for a tie for 16th. “Obviously, not a top-10 finish, but I played really solid. I feel like I finished the season off pretty strong.”

    Ko posted two second-place finishes, a third-place finish and a tie for fifth in her last eight starts.

    “Ever since Indy [in early September], I played really good and put myself in good positions,” Ko said. “I felt like the confidence factor was definitely higher than during the middle of the year. I had some opportunities, looks for wins.”

    Sunday marked the end of Ko’s first winless season since she began playing LPGA events at 15 years old.

    Let the record show, she left with a smile, eager to travel to South Korea to spend the next month with family after playing a charity event in Bradenton, Fla., on Monday.


    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


    Much was made of Ko beginning the year with sweeping changes, with new equipment (PXG), a new coach (Gary Gilchrist) and a new caddie (Peter Godfrey).

    In the final summary, it wasn’t a Ko-like year, not by the crazy high standards she has set.

    She saw her run of 85 consecutive weeks at No. 1 end in June. She arrived in Naples holding on to the No. 8 ranking. She ends the year 13th on the LPGA money list with $1,177,450 in earnings. It’s the first time she hasn’t finished among the top three in money in her four full years on tour. She did log 11 top-10 finishes overall, three second-place finishes.

    How did she evaluate her season?

    “I feel like it was a better year than everyone else thinks, like `Lydia is in a slump,’” Ko said. “I feel like I played solid.

    “It's a season that, obviously, I learned a lot from ... the mental aspect of saying, `Hey, get over the bads and kind of move on.’”

    Ko said she learned a lot watching Stacy Lewis deal with her run of second-place finishes after winning so much.

    “Winning a championship is a huge deal, but, sometimes, it's overrated when you haven't won,” Ko said. “Like, you're still playing well, but just haven't won. I kind of feel like it's been that kind of year.

    “I think everybody has little ups and downs.”