News Article - April, 09
It had been a year since Gary’s last win in the United States, the 1972 World Series of Golf. However, he went to Georgia and won the Southern Open with rounds of 69-65-67-69 for 270, winning by one stroke over Forrest Fezler and Jerry McGee.
With Gary winning in South Africa, things were back to normal. He dominated the tour and he dominated the Western Province Open at the Royal Cape Golf Course. Gary won by four strokes over Cobie Legrange with a 14-under-par total, playing on the greens that were unbelievably bad.
With bad weather conditions prevailing, Player won the Nissan Skins Game, his fourth win in six events.
With a strong southeaster, Gary’s final rounds of 70 and 68 provided for a six-stroke victory at Milnerton, Cape Town. Player was the only one to truly tame the southeaster in the fourth round and gained six strokes on the field with his 68.
With a one-stroke victory over Rives McBee, Gary collected the $202,500 first place check, which was the biggest of his fabled career. He opened with a 65 and added a pair of 71’s for three-under-par with a total of 207. The first nine of the event, Player scored 29.
Winning his first Senior PGA Tour title in two years (his last victory was in the same tournament in 1993), Gary cam from four shots back in the last round for a two shot win over Jack Kiefer. Player, who turned 60 on November 1st, became the second oldest winner on the tour in 1995 and the fifth oldest winner of a Senior event
When Gary won this title in 1972, it was his third victory, just one less than Nicklaus in half as many attempts. They had played against each other three times and Gary won twice, losing only in 1962. The field was made up of Player, Nicklaus, Trevino, and Gay Brewer.
Victory eased Player’s pain of four days of unbearable pressure as daily leader. Gary stated after the tournament that it felt like a ten-day tournament and leading all the way was pure agony. “Nobody likes to lead and then lose in the last round and become known as a choker. The last day of the tournament you tee off at 3 o’clock, which really adds to the pressure.” This was the first time the Open was won with a black caddy, Rabbit Dyer. Player told Rabbit to wear his badge at all times. Rabbit responded, “Don’t worry laddie, I stick out like a fly in buttermilk. I don’t need no badge.”
Up until the last four holes, Player was not even a factor in the four-man field, consisting of Senior PGA Tour rookie, Tomo Watson, Jack Nicklaus, and Arnold Palmer. These were the original foursome from the first ever Skins Game. Shutout through the first 18 holes, Gary staged one of the biggest comebacks in the history of the Seniors Skins Game when he birdied the first playoff hole to win four skins and a jackpot worth $220,000.
To win his fifth South African PGA Championship title and secure his 128th career victory, Gary had a closing round of 68 for a 272 total, 16-under-par. Gary’s chipping and putting were sensational.
This was the first tournament win for Gary in the United States.
This tournament served notice that even though Gary had now turned 40, he still dominated South African golf. Even though he was off to a shaky start and hit a nervous iron from the first tee, he started playing with confidence and never looked back. He played the first nine in 36, barely missing an eagle three on the third. He made certain of wrapping up the tournament with a birdie at the 17th and a par on the 18th.
The young black golfers on the Ivory Coast carried Player high on their shoulders, something he will always appreciate and will remember forever. Gary began with a 66 and was alone in second place. After a playoff against Peter Townsend, he added this tournament to his total of international victories with a score of 26-under-par. This was Gary’s first triumph of the 1980s, the fourth decade in which he had won. Player and Townsend met each other in playoffs in three different countries: Africa, Australi, and Spain, and Player won them all!
The victory sprang from a single brilliant shot by Player in his duel with Dave Hill on the final holes of the event. Player was 13 under and 227 yards from the cup after his tee shot. He then rifled a one-iron shot within two feet of the hole. That gave Player his winning, two stroke margin for his final 66 and total of 201.
The supporters who watched the finish on Sunday really got their money’s worth as Gary, fellow South African Harold Henning, and Dave Hill fought each other down the stretch. Gary eventually moved into the lead, Dave Hill holed-in-one at the 16th to tie Player, but Gary birdied the 17th and parred 18 to win by one.
The next week Gary Player won the Shell Wentworth Senior Masters in London, a wonderful follow-up to the British Senior Open. This victory brought Gary’s International victory total to 159.
The last round was one of the best ever seen in Australian golf, full of sensation and drama, with the lead of one stage towards the end of the tournament being shared by no less than seven players. One of them, Player, was celebrating his 35th birthday and, in the end, it was Gary’s experience, talent, and determination that carried the day as he stepped up to the microphone to accept the winner’s check and the trophy.
The Ibergolf Trophy somehow defined the qualities and skills that made Gary such a great golfer. In the final round Gary was confronted by a crisis, and demonstrating a coolness of judgment that could not onlly be the result of absolute confidence that his swing would not let him down, Gary came up against Peter Townsend in a playoff. Player defeated Townsend on the second hole of a sudden death playoff.
The first time that Player participated in a tournament in the Far East. He won the tournament against Haruo Yasuda with a one-stroke lead.
The final round was among the most competitive in 1972. Gary was four strokes behind the leader John O’Leary of Ireland, but then he began to put tremendous pressure on O’Leary as he began his charge and won the tournament.
The field was crowded most of the time with Gary second, trailing by two. Going into the final round, Gary was joint leader with Harold Henning whom he defeated on the first hole of playoff to secure another tournament victory.
Teamed with Harold Henning to win the World Cup Trophy (Team) for South Africa at the Club de Campo in Madrid. They were leading with one round to go, and Player woke up with a stiff neck. He told Henning he didn’t think he would be able to play and was curtly informed, “Tell my lawyer, not me. I’ll see you on the first tee!” After swallowing several painkillers, Gary not only played, but also won the best individual score as well and received the World Cup Trophy (Individual).
Successfully defending his title, Gary won the South African Open for the 12th time scoring 273 over the East Course of the Royal Johannesburg Country Club and winning by three strokes over Dale Haynes and Bobby Cole. Gary played remarkable golf and shot a record 63 in the third round, followed by 70 in the fourth, and with that, completed a string of 38 holes without a bogey.
Still the hot favorite and having received promises that the demonstrators would leave him alone, Gary proceeded to shoot a recort breaking 63, which broke Nicklaus’ 1968 record on the same course. It was one of the finest rounds he had ever played in weather conditions that can be a nightmare to any golfer—howling winds and blinding rain much of the time.
Starting Sunday, two shots behind the leaders, Gary Player birdied three holes on the back nine on his way to his third consecutive 68 and 12-under-par total which was one shot better than J.C. Snead and Walter Hall. Two months shy of his 63rd birthday, Gary became the second oldest golfer to win the Senior PGA Tour. This 19th victory comes 13 years after his first Senior Tour at Quadel, which is the longest span of winning ever on the Senior Tour.
Playing in the South, with the pressure of being the object of racist threats, Gary stayed cool and calm as he went about his business displaying his golfing skills. Ever present in the gallery of Greensboro, in his room, in the Sedgefield Inn, in the hotel dining room, and on the practice green, were efficient looking FBI agents guarding Gary’s life. However, he had a great win—closing with a 65, which Arnold Palmer (with 71) could not match.
Player won the World Series three times—winning in a playoff once against Bob Goalby and losing to Trevino who beat him in a seven hole playoff.