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What a Player!

The Masters has seen its slice of golfing history over the years and this year has certainly been no different.

Friday, the second day of the tournament is usually a tight and tense affair with competitors scrambling to try and make the cut, but for one man it signalled the end to quite simply one of the best careers golf has ever seen.

Completing his 52nd Masters, Gary Player decided that enough was enough and it was time to step aside. The 73-year-old South African won the coveted Green Jacket in 1961, 1974 and 1978, and will now retire from all four of golf's major tournaments but he will still play a few events on the Seniors Tour.

Player made his Masters debut in 1957 achieving a creditable 24th place finish and has only ever missed one event since, in 1973. He was a member of the 'Big Three' (with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer), who at the dawn of the television age changed the face of the sport forever.

Player is also part of another elite club containing only five members - Nicklaus, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan and Tiger Woods are the others - to have won all four majors at least once and even at 62 he made the cut at Augusta.

Gary Player is a legend in his own time. The most successful international golfer of all time, he has achieved the kind of worldwide acclaim reserved for only a handful of sporting greats. He is, quite simply, world class.

Renowned as much for his dedication to the principles of excellence as he is for his golfing accomplishments, he is recognised worldwide as an uncompromising perfectionist who settles for nothing but the best.

His impeccable set of values, stringent regime of health and fitness, and insistence on quality, have earned him admiration the world over. The winner of 163 tournaments worldwide, over five decades, Player, 'The Black Knight' is regarded as one of the greatest players in golf history.

It is a wonderful tradition at Augusta that past champions can play the tournament for life and Gary Player has kept going longer than anyone. Some choose to bow out the moment they feel that they are just 'making up the numbers'. But why should they?

There is a school of thought that says they are taking up a place that could be filled by a much younger, more competitive player, who could realistically win the tournament, but I would have to disagree. The young stars have to earn the right to firstly walk the same course as the greats and if they are good enough they will be invited to play.

These are the guys that they grew up watching, and to play in the same tournament as them is a high honour indeed. It is part of what makes the Masters unique amongst golf tournaments and should never change.

All good things come to an end unfortunately and now most of the old guard have retired leaving the way clear for modern day greats to stake their claim for a place in the Masters and indeed golfing folklore.

Gary Player will be back at Augusta for the Par 3 tournament and will surely become an honorary starter for the event with Palmer. One thing is for sure, and knowing his dedication to perfection he will not take this job lightly - he will be working out consistently to make sure he out drives Arnold!

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Publication:Gulf Weekly
Date:Apr 20, 2009
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