Gary Player will compete in his final Masters golf tournament this year.
The South African legend – winner of nine Majors, including three Green Jackets, admits the course
Player participated in his first tournament at Augusta in 1957, at the tender age of 21.
He is one of only seven Masters champions that has won three or more green jackets, and this year marks Player's 52nd appearance at Augusta National.
Player said: “I just wanted to say to my friends in the room here that I've decided that I would like to make this my last appearance in the Tournament.
“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.
“But I'm hitting the ball so short now, I can hear it land.
When I think of the players that I played with today, Martin Kaymer said to me, "Well, how many times have you played here?" And I was telling him, and I suddenly realised that most of the players in the field weren’t even born when I first played here. So it is an awful long time. And the hole is getting the size of a aspirin, you wonder whether you can press it in there or squeeze it in there.
“I think the word that comes to mind is that I am very, very grateful and thankful and I've never taken anything for granted, and I realizse that the talent that I had was loaned to me. It was not on a permanent basis, something that I could take credit for.
“I'm still exercising profusely, but it's very difficult at 73 to build strength. The golf course is so long. It is just so long. I mean, I'm hitting a wood to almost every single hole. It's just too long for me. I cannot get around. Ernie Els said something to me five days ago. He said, "You know, Gary, one of the greatest rounds you ever shot at Augusta?"
I said, "Yeah, when I came back at 30 to win the tournament."
“He said, "No, when you shot the 77 a couple of years ago and the greens were hard, and you tied something like 22 guys and beat 25 guys." And he said, "I think that's one of your best rounds."
“So I've managed to break 80 the last two years, but it's getting to a stage now where I don't know whether I can do that out here, it's so long and I'm getting weaker.”
“ I think this course has set a trend for the Tournament, but we have to be very careful in golf today. And I think one of the problems we are facing, they are making the golf courses too long, the greens too undulating, and members are not able to play and play to their handicaps.
I see it all the time; these severe undulating greens on the golf courses. Costs are just abnormal, with water, which we are running out of very quickly, oil, manpower, machinery. Oh, my gosh, the costs are getting high and we have to be careful, particularly in the economic state we are in right now.
“This course is a different thing. It's a tournament, and it means an awful lot.”