Last week I called Gary Player. He had left Augusta National and he was visiting a new course he's building in La Paz, Mexico. I've now discussed course design and travel with golf's Big Three: Player, Nicklaus and Palmer.
Player told me he felt he may have retired too early from competitive play at the Masters. Nicklaus told me he hasn't discussed design with Tiger because, at this point, what would Tiger know about design. I was more nervous in speaking to the King and I interviewed Palmer first. As a result I don't think I got as much out of him as I should have. I loved the fact that, to this day, he still considers Nickalus a rival.
My complete conversation with Player is on the home page of this website right now. Here's the link and here are a few highlights:
You're coming off an amazing week at the Masters. Does part of you take a little pride in the fact that you were able to play competitively at Augusta longer than Jack and Arnie?
Well, I do. But that was going to happen automatically because I've watched what I ate more than they did. And I exercised extremely hard. It was really an automatic, wasn't it? If you look at the time I put into exercise, and watching my diet, compared to what they did, it's not even close. You also have to be lucky to be healthy. And quite honestly, I retired too early from the Masters, because I broke 80 again. Yes, quite honestly, I think I retired too early. But be that as it may, that's my decision, and that's it.
Didn't you go through Amen Corner one day at one under?
Yes. And the first day I went out in one over. The last day, quite honestly, I would've broken 80 if it were a normal day [Player shot 83], but I was getting a standing ovation on every single tee, and every single fairway, and every single green. The love that I was given -- and here's a great emphasis on love -- the love I was given is something I will never forget until the day I die. And I say, thank you, America, and thank you to the international galleries who were there. I say thank you for their love. Obviously it was hard to concentrate. It was impossible.
But is there part of you to be relieved to be done with that monstrosity of that golf course that it's become now?
[Laughs.] No. Not really. It was always a privilege and an honor to be there. One thing that gives me great pleasure is that I've always tried to be a great ambassador for Augusta National. When I won in '61 and '74, we never had television in South Africa. We got television in South Africa in 1975. I used to take the Masters film, and I'd hire somebody, and he'd go around the country to all the golf clubs, and show the Masters film. Not many people know that.
A couple of us questioned the fact that Player said they didn't have television in South Africa in 1975. Mike O'Malley, an Executive Editor at Digest, took it upon himself to run a quick check. Player was right. O'Malley found a very cool graphic that shows the timeline of TV, courtesy of Wikipedia. Here's a link to the graphic, but I've also posted it below.
(Caption: Photographer Andrew Redington, of Getty Images, catches Player sharing a laugh with Angel Cabrera on the Monday before the start of this year's Masters.)