Three times US Masters winner Gary Player has decided 2009 will be his final appearance at Augusta National.
The 73 year old South African will be calling it quits after an amazing 52 starts.
“I’m hitting the ball so short now I can hear it land,” the winner of nine majors and a Grand Slam joked this week.
Player admitted the ever lengthening course and his own advancing years had finally caught up, despite his continued focus on fitness.
“I’m exercising profusely, but at 73 it’s difficult to build strength,” he said.
“The course is so long there are very few holes I can hit an iron to. It’s just too long for me.”
Player won the Masters in 1961, 1974 and 1978, and he is one of only five men to capture a career Grand Slam, joining an elite group that also includes Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen and Tiger Woods, who did it at age 24.
Player’s other major titles include the Open Championship in 1959, 1968 and 1974, the 1965 US Open and 1962 and 1972 PGA Championship.
South African Ernie Els, who followed in his fellow countryman’s globetrotting footsteps, told Player that his best round at Augusta was not one to win a title but his 77 from round two in 2007 due to his age and the tougher course.
“I’ve managed to break 80 the last two years. It’s getting to a stage where I don’t know if I can do that any more,” Player said.
“I’m getting old and it’s getting so much tougher.”
Player said his greatest Masters memory was his rally to win in 1978, when he birdied seven of the last 10 holes to fire a 64 and recover from seven strokes off the pace to win.
His worst memory came in 1962 when he told his caddie, “We’ve won,” only to watch Arnold Palmer sink a long putt and overtake him for the triumph.
“I’ve had it all. You can’t be greedy,” Player said.
Recalling his Augusta history this week, Player told a press conference: “I’ve enjoyed it so much. I think when I basically arrived here, you mentioned 1957 and I drove through those gates and I couldn’t help making a comparison to today. I arrived here, I doubt whether I had $5,000 to my name, and I drove through these gates, and you can imagine I was in absolute awe, and overwhelmed, in fact.”
And the people I’ve met over the years, and the battles that I had with Arnold and Jack and others, and now to see all of these young fellows coming along. I played with some of them this morning, and playing so well, and enjoying the Tournament that has improved every single year.