Player Finally Gets His Chance
To understand Gary Player's essence, you need to look at his origins. Born in South Africa, possessing great skill and determination, Player's idol early on was Bobby Locke. Locke is considered by some to be the greatest pressure putter in history, but his eccentricities and disdain for the American tour seems to have limited his stature in the game, at least in this country. The distance between his homeland and the riches of the PGA Tour was so extreme, the odds were against him ever making an impact on the U.S. golf scene.
Player was certainly the best South African golfer of his generation and has inspired the likes of major championship winners Ernie Els and Retief Goosen. To reach his potential, Player knew early on that he needed to compete against the best golfers in the world, week in and week out. Since the world's best rarely made their way to South Africa, Player needed to take his show on the road.
People who travel to remote locations these days do so with huge airliners, business class, hot towels for your face, little booties for your feet, a couple of pieces of luggage and a carry-on bag. The Players traveled in the days before in-flight movies, and they traveled en masse. Golf wives like Winnie Palmer and Barbara Nicklaus have always been commended for the jobs they did running their families and supporting their husbands, and each was vital to her husband's success. But Vivienne Player had a tall order.
When the Player clan hit town, it was a scene like no other. Six children of varying ages, more than 30 pieces of luggage including steamer trunks, suitcases and satchels, cribs, clubs and helpers. The luggage alone took three taxicabs to transport. Gary was physically fit, but he was 5'7' 145 pounds soaking wet and didn't look even that big. He wore black to soak up all available solar energy, ate a clove of garlic each day and practiced religiously while Vivienne took care of the domestic situation. It looked like the Players were actually moving their entire life and resettling every week.
They would settle in to their new temporary home early in the week, and then Gary would go big-game hunting. Arnold Palmer was the dashing crowd favorite with great physical strength and daring style. Later, Jack Nicklaus burst on the scene with a physique and single-mindedness that made his nickname fit to a tee - 'the Golden Bear.' Player was the diminutive man with the funny accent, strange dress, doing push-ups and eating only healthy food, but he got the better of his famous rivals on more than one occasion.
When Player completed his career Grand Slam at Bellerive in 1965, only Gene Sarazen and Ben Hogan had accomplished the task. He may not admit it, but Player is proud that he reached that milestone before Nicklaus. His rivalry with Palmer was intense as well. The two were always respectful and complimentary, but the competition was more heated and the desire to beat the other was more deeply rooted than they ever let on.
Gary Player was well in to his Senior career when the Presidents Cup was created and Ernie Els got a run at the Americans in an international competition. I can only imagine what Player must have been feeling - probably pride, perhaps a little envy, but certainly rooting for his team.
This week he captains the internationals at the UBS Warburg Cup. It is a long awaited assignment. The same resolve that enabled him to overcome tall odds, move his entire family on a weekly basis and take on the game's giants over and over again will be present at Kiawah Island. He will say all the right things, sign all the autographs, and smile for all the cameras. He will also look across the table at his old adversary and do whatever he needs to lead his team to victory.
'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.
Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.
“The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”
Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.
The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.
“That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”
Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.
“They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”
Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.
“The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”
Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship
Tiger Woods is competing in his first Open Championship since 2015. We're tracking him this week at Carnoustie.
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Ball headed O.B., Stone (68) gets huge break
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brandon Stone knew it when he hit it.
“I knew I hit it out of bounds,” the South African said following his opening round in the 147th Open Championship.
Stone’s second shot on the par-4 18th, from the left fescue, was pulled into the grandstands, which are marked as O.B. But instead of settling in with the crowd, the ball ricocheted back towards the green and nearly onto the putting surface.
Stone made his par and walked away with a 3-under 68, two shots off the early lead.
“I really didn’t put a good swing on it, bad contact and it just came out way left,” Stone said. “I feel so sorry for the person I managed to catch on the forehead there, but got a lucky break.
“When you get breaks like that you know you’re going to have good weeks.”
It’s been more than just good luck recently for Stone. He shot 60 in the final round – missing a 9-foot birdie putt for the first 59 in European Tour history – to win last week’s Scottish Open. It was his third career win on the circuit and first since 2016. It was also just his first top-10 of the season.
“A testament to a different mental approach and probably the change in putter,” said Stone, who added that he switched to a new Ping Anser blade model last week.
“I’ve been putting, probably, the best I have in my entire life.”
This marks Stone’s sixth start in a major championship, with his best finish a tie for 35th in last year’s U.S. Open. He has a missed cut and a T-70 in two prior Open Championships.