Masters diary: Competitive juices still flowing for Nicklaus and Player

They may be old men now, but the competitive spirit remains strong in both Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.

Masters diary: Competitive juices still flowing for Nicklaus and Player

Nine-time major champion Player, 81, prepared for yesterday morning’s ceremonial opening tee shot at Augusta National by tweeting his 77-year-old fellow Honorary Starter Nicklaus a reminder that he had outdriven the Golden Bear at the 2016 Masters.

On Tuesday, Rory McIlroy revealed he had come across Nicklaus on the practice range at the Bear’s Club in Florida as the 18-time major winner was testing drivers for the Masters ceremony.

“I adjusted his driver for him because he’s trying to hit it longer than Gary Thursday morning,” McIlroy said. “I told him, if he hits it longer than Gary, I want a mention because I adjusted the weight in his driver. He kept hitting it left. I adjusted it for him and he started hitting these little fades.

“It’s amazing how competitive he still is. It’s unbelievable.”

Yesterday morning, both men found the fairway with their drives, with Nicklaus prevailing by a couple of yards.

“The official word was that it was a little past,’’ he said. “Gary is claiming a tie. But it’s okay. It doesn’t make any difference one way or the other. Neither one of us topped it, skied it or whiffed it.’’

Player later said their teasing was what had helped them remain friends for many decades.

“If you can laugh, it’s a tonic,” the South African said. “And this is what we did. Honestly, we laughed and teased each other.

“The other night he was saying, ‘well, what do you think it takes to be classified as a superstar in golf?’ Because everybody uses the word ‘superstar’ and ‘great’ in all sports, and they are not.

“So I said, ‘well, I suppose, to be a superstar, you’ve got to win six majors’. So Jack says - he knows I’ve won nine - he says, ‘I think you’ve got to win.

  • Russell Henley booked his place in the Masters by winning the Shell Houston Open in Texas last Sunday. The last man into the Augusta National field, Henley was in the first pairing out yesterday, playing with fellow American Daniel Summerhays.

He also had the honour of being the first clubhouse leader thanks to his first-round one-under-par 71, shot in some extremely difficult conditions with wind speeds of up to 30 miles per hour and gusts reaching 40mph.The most trying time of all for the golfer from Macon, Georgia?

“Number 11 was just so hard into to us. You’re pretty high on 11 and the wind is from the west, so it’s straight into the wind there. And when Daniel hit, it looked like his kind of ballooned up in the air. It hit on the front of the green.

“I tried to hit a 5-iron from 200 (yards) and I hit it solid, blocked it a little and I was about 25 yards past the pin. So I don’t know what happened right there, I think it might have just stopped. I just think it gets tricky down there going around those trees and whatnot. So I would say Amen Corner is definitely really tough.” Even ball marking was an ordeal, Henley added.

“A couple times the ball was oscillating. I don’t know how to spell oscillating, but I heard people say that. So I think it was definitely moving a little bit.”

  • April 8, 2016 – 1991 Masters champion Ian Woosnam shoots a second-round 81 to add to his opening 82 and miss the cut. The 58-year-old Welshman suffers from an inflammatory spinal condition known as Ankylosing Spondylitis, which causes vertebrae to lock together.

“It’s just getting really tough. That’s my last go,” Woosnam says. “I am not fit enough to play with my bad back. Every time I play this course it just seizes on me, and I can’t swing the club properly. I am in pain all the way round, so it’s time to say ‘bye bye’ really.” April 6, 2017 – First tee announcer: “Fore please, Ian Woosnam.”

  • Ask a stupid question, you get a stupid answer, or so the saying goes. Yet when you tell someone you’re going to ask a stupid question, well, you kind of get what you deserve.

Particularly when you’re asking reigning Open champion Henrik Stenson.

Journalist: “Just a stupid question, you’ve got the Claret Jug now but what if you were offered the choice, you could only make one choice, green jacket or Claret Jug?” Stenson: “Yeah, that is a stupid question, isn’t it? Since I already have one, I can’t really give that one back, can I? That’s going to look a bit rude, I think.”

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