Notes Player Not Thinking of Retiring


2004 US Senior OpenST. LOUIS, Mo. -- At 69 and still in great physical shape, Gary Player has no plans to slow down.
'I'm not only going to continue events like this (U.S. Senior Open), I'm going to continue the (Champions) tour,' Player said.
Player hopes to become the first golfer to win in six decades -- his first PGA victory was the 1958 Kentucky Derby Open, and his most recent Champions Tour win cam at the 1998 Northville Long Island Classic.
'I've broken my age this year around the world six times,' Player said. 'I'm still athletic enough to win. I haven't been playing particularly well this year, but golf changes in a matter of seconds, minutes.'
Gary Player received a surprise visitor during his return to Bellerive Country Club for the U.S. Senior Open -- the caddie from his 1965 U.S. Open victory here.
Frank Pagel was a 16-year-old working at Bellerive, when players used local caddies. Player drew Pagel's name out of a hat.
Pagel, now a 55-year-old computer architect, visited with Player at an appearance Tuesday night and again after Player met with the media Wednesday.
Pagel said he enjoyed caddying for Player and despite some nerves, avoided any major mistakes.
'He was in such a trance I don't think I could have done anything to bother him,' Pagel said.
For the first three rounds of the tournament, Player listened to the teenager's advice on clubs. But not in the final round.
'I'd say, 'It's a 4-iron,' and he'd say, 'I'm pumped -- it's a five,'' Pagel recalled.
Bellerive Country Club might favor players who hook the ball, but don't expect Bruce Lietzke to change his swing.
The defending U.S. Senior Open champ figures he's at a slight disadvantage on the lengthy layout because hitting a hook isn't his game.
'I'm the poster boy for muscle memory,' Lietzke said. 'I have one swing.'
That one swing -- a soft, arcing fade -- has served the 53-year-old Lietzke well in over three decades. He has won 13 PGA Tour and seven Champions events.
But certain courses simply aren't set up well for Lietzke's swing. Augusta National, site of the Master's, is one layout. Bellerive is another.
'I've resisted all the temptations of a swing guru,' Lietzke said. 'If my swing works well on most courses, except for a couple a year, I'm happy with that.'
One thing that has changed for Lietzke is his putting. Early in his career, he putted cross-handed, then went conventional. In 1991, he began using a long putter and has kept it ever since.
'I found I was a half-putt better per day with the long putter,' Lietzke said. 'By Sunday afternoon, that's two shots in your pocket. That's the difference in money and, sometimes, a trophy.'
Hometown favorites Hale Irwin and Jay Haas drew big crowds for their practice rounds, but Arnie's Army was still in full force.
Arnold Palmer hasn't won since taking the Crestar Classic in 1988. Still, huge crowds follow his every step, cheer wildly for every good shot. At 75, Palmer doesn't see himself as simply a ceremonial figure.
'I would certainly, as all of you know, want to play better than I've been playing,' Palmer said. 'But I'm almost to the point where, yeah, I'm here because in the back of my head I'm still stupid enough to think that I can win a golf tournament.'
Palmer acknowledged that 'everything would have to go right, and that is important to me, and when that doesn't happen, then I won't be here, and this may be my last, but I'm going to enjoy it.'
After second-place finishes in the last two Senior Opens, Tom Watson believes he has a chance to win this year, despite a nerve condition that is limiting power in this right arm.
Watson said the nerve problem is believed to stem from his neck. It affects not only his length off the tee, but even his putting because of some weakness in his right hand.
'It's strange playing golf when I don't have the horsepower on my right side,' Watson said.
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