Ive said for years that hes the best golfer that ever lived.
It was in response to a question, asked Tuesday. And I quote the question: Jack, with Gary playing his 50th, could you just comment on Garys ability and just what made him a champion?
The Gary referenced was Player and the 50th was The Masters.
OK, admit it. You didnt see this quote. Tuesday was a busy news day in golf. The USGA announced a proposal for more stringent standards on wedge grooves; Ernie Els left Titleist for Callaway; and The Tiger Woods Foundation became the primary beneficiary for the July 4th weekend PGA TOUR event that will take place near Washington D.C. and replace The International, which is now officially defunct.
I will admit this: I have never thought of Gary Player as the best golfer who ever lived. Top 10? Probably. Top five? Certainly not. Woods, Nelson, Hogan, Nicklaus and Snead'just to name a quick quintet in no particular order'are ahead of Player.
I will also admit this: I cant, for the life of me, figure out why Nicklaus, a proud man, chose to single out Player in such an exalted way. Yes, yes, of course. Players record for winning is prolific: Twenty-four PGA TOUR victories; 19 Champions Tour wins; And, in the PGA Champions Tour media guide, are listed 110 other victories.
Player won nine professional majors and is one of only five men to have won all four at least once. The latter feat he achieved before his 30th birthday.
Only Nicklaus, with 163, has played more Masters rounds of golf than Player (158).
Maybe Jack was trying to soften Player up for the next renewal of their rivalry as captains. That would be the Presidents Cup in late September in Canada. In fact it was at a press conference to promote that event that Nicklaus made his comment.
Nicklaus also tried to paint the Americans as underdogs. Gary will have more players in the top 20, than I will probably, Nicklaus said.
Not so fast, Jack. Currently there are six Americans in the top 20; seven Internationals in the top 20 and seven Euros on the top 20. Who among us can be sure how those numbers will shake out by September?
Player, of course, didnt sit by mum at this Tuesday gathering in Florida. Among his notable statements:
On the friendly rivalry embraced by the Presidents Cup: The War on the Shore: If youve got a son who lost his life in the war you dont want to hear about a golf match being a war because it certainly isnt a war. The spirit was going downhill until September 11, and since then the Ryder Cup has gone on in a terrific atmosphere, absolutely marvelous. But prior to that it was terrible.
Nicklaus went on to add that he could envision, some day, a combining of the Presidents and Ryder Cups. King of the Hill, Nicklaus called it. Nicklaus also said, since the top Americans play a Cup every year, he would excuse a player taking a year off if he didnt feel he was sharp or fresh or both.
Player, not surprisingly, wasnt hearing any of that. Is that really asking too much when you think of what it does for the game of golf? he asked. Dont they owe it to golf, or are we going to be insular and say, Im not going to play. Im tired. Ive done this, Ive got the money. Surely weve got to think of more than that. The average businessman goes to work 50 weeks a year, 49 weeks a year. It doesnt matter how rich he is. And he is under big pressure. I think were going into an age where we spoil our golfers, quite honestly.
Player also said he wouldnt put Mike Weir on his team simply because the matches are taking place in Weirs home country. I cant just put a Canadian in because were playing in Canada and the people would love to see it, Player said.
Meanwhile Player had plenty of nice things to say about Nicklaus as a player as well. But he was more effusive in his praise of Ben Hogan particularly in the context of equipment improvements in recent years.
You can only say the best striker I ever saw in my life, ever by a mile, was Ben Hogan, Player said. But he was the best in his era. He was the best in his era and Tiger is the best in his era. Give Ben Hogan this stuff (modern equipment) and lets see what happens then. Ben Hogan might not have left the fairway in a month. Im not joking when I tell you that. I mean, he was a machine. With that crappy stuff? I watched him the first time I played in my life in America at Seminole. You cannot believe how he played. I mean, its very important to put things in the right perspective.
How about this perspective?
Gary Player is the best golf talker that ever lived.
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