This week, 69-year-old Gary Player is still going strong, playing on the Champions Tour. He will compete in the Bank of America Championship (Begins Friday at 1:30 p.m. ET on TGC) at Concord, Mass., just outside of Boston.
That day in 65, however, was a moment frozen in time. Player could have won in regulation, holding a three-shot lead with only three holes remaining. But he bunkered his tee shot on the par-3 16th, blasted out and three-putted. When Kel Nagle birdied the 17th, he knotted the score. Monday, however, was all Player, who won by three strokes.
I remember wearing the same black shirt every day and washing it myself every night and hanging it over the shower rail to dry a silly superstition perhaps, but it gave me a certain level of mental karma, said Player.
He had contended to the end before losing the U.S. Open in 1960, and had he won, he planned to give the entire winners check to cancer research. True to his word, in 65 he donated the entire first-place sum of $26,000. He paid tribute to his mother, a victim of cancer, while donating a large portion of the check to the Cancer Association. But he also gave half to the Junior Golf Association.
I am doing this because I made a promise to Joe Dey (then the executive director of the USGA) five years ago, said Player. I am doing this to repay America for its many kindnesses to me over the past few years.
Player eventually won nine majors, but until Tiger Woods, he was the first man in his 20s to complete the Grand Slam.
Quite simply, I consider winning the Grand Slam as my finest achievement in golf, he says.
However, his tour is now the Champions Tour, and he is proud of it.
Having played as a professional golfer for 52 years, I keep saying wherever I go in the world is completely naive of the standard of play on the Champions Tour, he said. I mean, every week, you take an average score at least for three rounds, I would say now this is a guess, would be 14-under par. Some weeks, 18-under par.
Well, you know, nobody has greater respect for Tiger Woods than myself, but it would be hard for him to even better that. But now, would he better that but not by much, because the hole is the same size and contrary to what everybody is thinking, we're playing golf courses that are 7,000 yards long, the greens are slick, tough pin placements. So it's just something that is just one of the great phenomena in golf to see the standard of play.