April 6 2011
By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- That feeling when you turn down Magnolia Lane for the first time each year never leaves you. Just ask Gary Player, who continues to be inspired 50 years after his first Masters win.
"You know, you can never give reasons why (it's so special),'' Player said. "You can assume, but every time I got here ‑‑ invariably I got here and I said to the car ‑‑ stop, and I would walk. And I've even done it of late. And even though I'm not participating, I still said to the lady who drove me in today, wow, that feeling never leaves you.
"History can actually be created, if that's possible, and even though this is not as old as, say, The Open Championship in Britain, they have created a lot of history here, which has just accumulated. And getting out of that car and walking there and seeing where we used to practice, as you're driving on the left‑hand side, and then we moved to the right‑hand side. And now you've got, as (Augusta National chairman) Billy Payne said, the most expensive practice tee that has ever been built. So we have seen a lot of changes.''
But one thing, he said, remains. Ben Hogan is still the best Player has ever seen.
"I've never seen anybody that could hit the ball like he could,'' Player said. "And I drove up today and I could see him hitting balls. He was a man of very few words and I just sat there and watched him in awe. In those days the caddies went out there. We used to practice and there would be 50 caddies out there. Nowadays people would be killed on the practice tees and they didn't have helmets on, either.''
Player's best moment ever here?
"One of the things that I have in my life is gratitude, and I think when you struggle as a young person, and you have adversity, it teaches you to be grateful and not have a sense of entitlement, which irritates me with a lot of young people, they have this great sense of entitlement,'' he said.
"I go back to 1978, and Mark McCormack, the head of IMG, and really set the stage of the managers of the present; he was the best manager that had ever existed in sports at that time. And the last day he said, well, I've got to leave, none of my players are in contention ‑‑ 1978, and I'm seven behind Watson and all of these players. And he leaves. And he turns on the television back home in Cleveland and he sees I've come back in 30 and won. You know, he had to present me with the check; these days he would have hired a jet and be back there.
"If you look at the film, three putts actually touched the hole by that much so you're talking about a total of less than half an inch for three putts. If those three putts had gone in, I have shot 27. Thank God they didn't go in because I wouldn't be invited back shooting 27 at Augusta. That's hard to debate, the first time, or that coming back in 30 and winning.
Someone asked if Augusta would have "Player-proofed" the course if he had shot that 27?
"Well, that's a good question,'' he said, drawing a laugh from the press. "You'd better ask Billy Payne that."