For many casual golf fans, Gary Player likely ranks fourth among players in history most commonly associated with the Masters, behind Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods. It’s a hard triumvirate to crack, but when you consider Player’s career stats at Augusta National you start to wonder whether the South African who turned 80 last November deserves a little more love.
Consider the Masters history that the former three-time champion has made since making his debut in the event in 1957:
He holds the mark for most Masters played: 52.
He was the first international player to win the Masters, winning in 1961.
When he won his third green jacket in 1978—rallying from a seven-stroke deficit on Sunday—he was the oldest player to win the event at the time (42 years, 5 months, 8 days).
His closing 64 in 1978 matched the all-time 18-hole scoring mark at the time and remains tied for the best final-round score as well as the best final-round score from a winner.
From 1959 to 1974, at 16-year span, Player finished in the top 10 all but three times. In a seven-year stretch (1959-’65) he never finished worse than tied for eighth. And in a five-year period (1961-’65) he didn’t finish worse than tied for fifth.
It’s not surprising then that Player professes in admiration for Augusta National in this week’s Golf Digest Podcast while explaining the secret to his success. He also discusses her near misses, what it’s going to be like without Arnold Palmer joining him and Nicklaus as an honorary starter, and who he thinks has the best shot at winning next week.