Quit Not in Players Vocabulary

By George WhiteAugust 25, 2004, 4:00 pm
On Nov. 1, he will be 70 years old. He stopped aging at 60 ' his looks and general fitness take on the appearance of a man at least 10 years younger. Hes a professional golfer ' has been for 50 years. And hes equaled or broken his age six times already this year ' on courses set up for men 20 years younger.
 
Hes Gary Player. And at nearly 70, hes still hitting drivers a shade under 250 yards.
 
Player stood on the edge of the driving range at the Champions Tours Hickory Classic last week and laced a succession of fairway woods on a straight line over bunkers 220 yards distant. His swing was flat, Hogan-esque, and repeated itself time after time. His 155-pound frame moved easily into the ball, almost without effort.
 
How far would he have hit drives in his prime in say, 1965, if he had the same equipment as he does today? If I average 250 today, I would have averaged 285 back then, said Player.
 
Its the head, the shaft, the ball and the agronomy. They are all so much better. No, I would probably have hit it 50 yards further in my heyday. Larry Nelson says (he) hits the ball 50 yards further, and many guys hit it 50, 60 yards further.
 
But advancing age has robbed him of strength, and all the workouts and exercise in the world wont give that back. Hes lost the equivalent of about three clubs distance off what he had in the 60s ' if he were using similar, high-tech equipment then and now. But he still has a goal ' and he thinks it is an achievable goal.
 
I love playing golf, he says. I'm trying to be the first person in America to ever win in six decades. Im still athletic enough to win. I haven't been playing particularly well this year, but golf changes in a matter of seconds, minutes. You can find something, and I'm still a very good putter and I can still play reasonably well. I've got an outside chance to do it.
 
Player concedes it is a 1-in-100 chance, maybe 1-in-a-1000, but its still a chance. His best finish this year was a tie for 24th in the Outback Steakhouse tournament in Tampa. He finished at 4-under par. To win, he probably needs to finish at least 10-under.
 
His last victory on the Champions Tour came six years ago, at the rather advanced age of 63. He has steadily been chalking them up, though, on the Georgia-Pacific Grand Champions ' a category of the Champions Tour reserved for players aged 60 and over. He already has 11 of those, the last coming a couple of years ago in 2002.
 
He does it, he says, because its what he was raised to do. And nothing has prepared him to experience people like the travels of a professional golfer.
 
I'm not only going to continue events like this, I'm going to continue the tour, Player says. I love people, and I love travel. I find it - well, it's without a question the best education that one can obtain, better than any college degree or university. I enjoy traveling and I'm designing a lot of golf courses, over 200 golf courses around the world, visiting a lot to mainland China, Poland, Bulgaria, a lot of countries that I never went to to learn their traditions. In Qatar, in the Middle East, you learn an awful lot, and I love it.
 
I'm very pleased I played when I did play because I mixed more than the average man in the street. I mixed in at country clubs and had dinners and I dined with the members. I had a different life, and I'm pleased I came along when I did.
 
Player won 24 times on the PGA Tour. And he has won 53 times in his world travels. But even he says that, to win again on the Champions Tour, that seems a little far-fetched.
 
The rest of the world has no idea just how tough it is to win on this Champions Tour, he said. You've got a short window to do it. You've got a maximum of eight years to do it. And when I tell people that, they think I'm a bit nuts.
 
Most people probably would agree that his sanity is a bit suspect when he mentions winning in the seventh decade of life. Player realizes it, too. But dont ever think that the idea is off the charts in his mind. Gary Player has faced more unbelievable obstacles. And, he has overcome them.
 
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    Kim cruises to first win, final Open invite at Deere

    By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 9:38 pm

    Following the best week of his professional career, Michael Kim is both a winner on the PGA Tour and the 156th and final player to earn a tee time next week at The Open.

    Kim entered the final round of the John Deere Classic with a five-shot lead, and the former Cal standout removed any lingering doubt about the tournament's outcome with birdies on each of his first three holes. He cruised from there, shooting a bogey-free 66 to finish the week at 27 under and win by eight shots over Francesco Molinari, Joel Dahmen, Sam Ryder and Bronson Burgoon.

    It equals the tournament scoring record and ties for the largest margin of victory on Tour this season, matching Dustin Johnson's eight-shot romp at Kapalua in January and Molinari's margin two weeks ago at the Quicken Loans National.

    "Just super thankful," Kim said. "It's been a tough first half of the year. But to be able to finish it out in style like this means a lot."

    Kim, 25, received the Haskins Award as the nation's top collegiate player back in 2013, but his ascent to the professional ranks has been slow. He had only one top-10 finish in 83 starts on Tour entering the week, tying for third at the Safeway Open in October 2016, and had missed the cut each of the last three weeks.

    But the pieces all came together at TPC Deere Run, where Kim opened with 63 and held a three-shot lead after 36 holes. His advantage was trimmed to a single shot during a rain-delayed third round, but Kim returned to the course late Saturday and closed with four straight birdies on Nos. 15-18 to build a five-shot cushion and inch closer to his maiden victory.

    As the top finisher among the top five not otherwise exempt, Kim earned the final spot at Carnoustie as part of the Open Qualifying Series. It will be his first major championship appearance since earning low amateur honors with a T-17 finish at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion, and he is also now exempt for the PGA Championship and next year's Masters.

    The last player to earn the final Open spot at the Deere and make the cut the following week was Brian Harman, who captured his first career win at TPC Deere Run in 2014 and went on to tie for 26th at Royal Liverpool.

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    Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

    By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

    Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

    Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

    Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.


    Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


    "I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

    Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

    Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.

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    Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker

    By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:25 pm

    A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.

    The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

    There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.


    Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


    But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.

    As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.

    This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.

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    Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie

    By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:06 pm

    There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.

    Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.

    Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.


    Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


    Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.

    The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.

    Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.