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1997 Senior British Open

1997 Senior British Open

In the late 1990s much had changed in the world including Gary Player’s home country of South Africa, which had its first democratically elected government and was thriving under the leadership of Nelson Mandela.  Player was just a couple of months shy of his 62nd birthday, but feeling as fit and strong as a man decades younger.

The 1997 Senior British Open was played in Northern Ireland at Royal Portrush, which was once a venue for The Open (back in 1951 when Max Faulkner won).  In typically windy and cold Irish summer weather, he opened with a very solid 68, but found himself two shots behind fellow countryman John Bland who shot an excellent 66. The tournament turned into a head-to-head duel between the two of them, with one outscoring the other by two shots each day. Englishman Noel Ratcliffe held the halfway lead after a spectacular 65 in the second round, but he faded with a disappointing 75 in the third.

This left Bland and Player battling it out to the finish, finishing tied on 10-under par 278 after 72 holes of regulation play. They were then faced with a sudden-death playoff, which Player won with a birdie on the 18th, the second playoff hole.
This marked his 9th senior Major Championship, equaling his total on the Regular Tour!