Wednesday, February 22

Gary Player, Match Play Legend

Gary Player at the 2010 Masters (Keith Allison)
I RECENTLY HAD THE OPPORTUNITY to talk to Tony Jacklin, a Ryder Cup standout as both a player and a captain, and also a two-time major winner. Jacklin won the 1969 British Open and 1970 U.S. Open. As our conversation turned to match play, he mentioned two names, Seve Ballesteros and Gary Player.

“I think of the great match players, looking back, were the guys with the great short games,” Jacklin said. “Ballesteros was a great match player. Gary Player, great match player. Because he was never out of it.”

Player was a five-time World Match Play champion and two-time Presidents Cup captain. Although the South African beat Jack Nicklaus 6 and 4 and 5 and 4 in the World Match Play, he said “my most significant match was against Tony Lema, no question.”

Memorable match play victory:
Player came back from seven down after 19 holes to defeat Tony Lema at the first extra hole in the World Match Play semi-finals in 1965.

Said Player: “There was a dentist from Australia walking behind us on the 5th and I heard him say: ‘Let’s go and watch somebody else, this match is over.’ I said to him: ‘Sir, this match is not over yet.’ He wrote to me 15 years later saying, ‘I’ll never forget that.’”

Notable quote:
“My opponents knew I was a bull terrier and I was never going to give up. The only time I have doubts is when I shake hands and I’ve lost.”

Player’s match play pointers:
• Have patience but also be aggressive
• Body language is hugely important—let your opponent know you’re going to be trying whether you’re up or down
• Stay cool
• Be immune to gamesmanship
• Never give up

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