Gary Player needs a dose of Augusta

Gary Player, The Masters, Augusta National,Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports
Gary Player, The Masters, Augusta National,Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports /

One of the most popular ‘Grill Games’ at golf clubs across the world each spring is a post-round discussion about ranking the Majors.

An unscientific, anecdotal study suggests the US Open, The Open, and The Masters are usually the first three names mentioned with the PGA Championship a distant fourth on nearly every cocktail-stained ballot.

Enter Gary Player.

Gary Player is the most popular, most accomplished, and most influential golfer of the last 100 years. Don’t take my word for it. Just ask Gary, he’ll tell you.

Of course, that’s not remotely true. Nor is Player’s silly notion that The Masters is the least significant Major.

Jack Nicklaus is quoted as listing The Masters fourth as well. Critically, he gives a reasoned answer. The Masters is not the Championship of one of Golf’s governing bodies. As such, it shouldn’t outshine the others.

That’s actually a fair point. It’s painfully pragmatic, but at least that opinion displays a rationale. However, get Jack alone and ask him which Major wins he treasures most and I’ll bet The Masters is not at the end of the list.

Player is clearly throwing more shade at Augusta than all the magnolia trees in Georgia because of personal issues.

You remember the “Lee Elder Fiasco” when Player’s son, Wayne, used a touching and historically-significant moment at the first tee ceremony to sell golf balls. You can relive that cringe here if you like.

That event set off a Player family rift that ended with Wayne Player getting banned from Augusta National grounds.

Now Gary is mad that he can’t just hop on and play Augusta National anytime he sees fit.

“After all I’ve contributed to the tournament and been an ambassador for them, I can’t go and have a practice round there with my three grandchildren without having to beg a member to play with us, and there’s always some excuse. It’s terribly, terribly sad,” Player told The UK Times on Thursday.

Who knew Augusta National had vertical memberships for, uh, non-members?

Understand, Gary Player isn’t just the Ambassador of Golf, he’s actually bigger than the game itself. I reach that conclusion only because my feeble mind can’t conceive of the hubris it takes to think – because you won a tournament three times – you have lifetime privileges at the most exclusive golf club on earth for you and several generations of family.

I can’t even get my club to reliably wipe down my irons post-round and I’m a full-paying member in good standing (I think).

What Player has failed to understand is that – to borrow and twist a phrase from the movie, The Kingsman – “The Masters maketh Man.”

Gary Player is who he is, in part, from winning the Masters; not the other way around. The Masters would shine just as brightly today if Gary Player had never won the tournament. I dare say the same about Tiger and Jack.

No one – not a single player outside of the ghost of Bobby Jones – can claim to be as big as the tournament. Even Jones, who built the course and created the tournament, would tell you he did it for the game, not as some self-serving shrine.

And believe me, Augusta is a shrine; a shrine to golf. I feel comfortable saying nearly every golfer in the world, told they had one last round to play, would choose Augusta National for the final loop.

Augusta captures the hearts of golfers because it embodies all the best of golf.

It’s a stunningly beautiful landscape; an impossibly pristine walk through the Georgia pines. The traditions of golf are not observed at Augusta as much as they are worshipped. Decorum, sportsmanship, perseverance, and humility are the watch-words for the week.

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Gary Player has not been displaying the best lessons golf teaches us lately. Here’s hoping he gets a dose of humility and thankfulness on his most recent visit to Augusta National this year.