1974 champ Player says best tee to green will win

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Thirty-eight years later, Gary Player’s memory remains as vivid as ever.

The South African, who won the 1974 British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes by four shots over Peter Oosterhuis, said Wednesday on “Morning Drive” that the enduring memories from that week include spending time with his oldest daughter, attempting to avoid the dastardly bunkers – all 205 of them – and contending with the relentless wind.

“A lot of young people who come here say it’s not fair,” said Player, a nine-time major winner. “But as the Scots said: ‘It ain’t meant to be fair.’ You’ve got to drive the ball straight here. … The best player from tee to green will win around here.”

Someone like Lee Westwood, Player said.

In 1974, when he hoisted his third claret jug, Player adopted a different strategy than most of his fellow playing competitors. Knowing how penal the rough and bunkers were, and with the wind whipping, Player put away the driver and instead hit 1-iron off the tee. That left him much longer shots into the greens, of course, but it also allowed him to rely on one of his strengths: his short game.

“It was so windy when we played here,” Player, now 76, recalled. “Everybody was taking driver and hitting the ball in the rough, and the scores were quite high.

“On 17 (in the final round), I said to my caddie, ‘Can we win from here?’ He said, ‘Laddie, Ray Charles can win from here.’ What a wonderful feeling, holding a six-shot lead with two holes to play.”