Date: October 04, 2011

Player’s magnificent seven

Superlatives tend to get exhausted when it comes to describing World Golf Hall of Fame member Gary Player. The South African lifted the Stonehaven Cup a record seven times during his career – a mark that is unlikely to be bettered. Here, we take a little journey down memory lane and relive Player&aposs super seven at the Australian Open. 1. 1958 – Kooyonga Golf Club (SA). Winning margin: 5 strokes. Player finished with a final round 66 at Kooyonga to claim the first of his seven titles in August 1958. Australians Kel Nagle (2nd) and Frank Phillips (3rd) also finished with final round 66s but could not catch Player. Player&aposs broke the Kooyonga course record twice during the championship and sliced seven strokes from Norman Von Vida&aposs original Australian Open record total score. Von Nida finished in a tie for 14th. 2. 1962 – Royal Adelaide Golf Club (SA). Winning margin: 2 strokes. Player&aposs affair with success in Adelaide continued with a narrow victory, again over Kel Nagle. It was a closely fought battle on the final day as Player rattled off consecutive birdies to beat Nagle who finished with a final round 74. The 1962 Open also heralded the arrival of young American Jack Nicklaus who finished fourth. 3. 1963 – Royal Melbourne Golf Club (East) (VIC). Winning margin: 7 strokes. Player and Australia&aposs Bruce Devlin made an extraordinary trip from Paris to Melbourne for the 1963 Open – a trip that reportedly took nearly 60 hours in transit and saw the pair arrive on the morning of the opening round. Not that it mattered to Player, despite never having seen the course before. He fired three consecutive 4-under par 70s and a final round 6-under par 68 to finish seven strokes clear of travelling partner Devlin and Peter Thomson and Kel Nagle who finished in a tie for third. 4. 1965 – Kooyonga Golf Club (SA). Winning margin: 6 strokes. Lightning would strike for a third time in South Australia as Player, despite battling gout put in one his most memorable Open performances. Player opened with a scorching opening round 62 to take a healthy lead out of the opening day but fired a second round 71 which saw Jack Nicklaus take the lead. A weekend 62-69 combination from Player saw him finish at 28-under par and six clear of Frank Phillips and Nicklaus. His third round famously included eight consecutive 3s as Player eagled the the first and the second holes. 5. 1969 – Royal Sydney Golf Club (NSW). Winning margin: 1 stroke. It was Player&aposs first win in New South Wales and a win that equalled Ivo Whitton&aposs record for five Australian Open victories. Player battled shocking weather conditions and gale force winds on the final day and slipped to a 77 but he finished one clear of England&aposs Guy Wolstenholme. Player pocketed the winner&aposs cheque, minus the $50 he owed Norman Von Nida who backed himself to break 300 at the age of 55. 6. 1970 – Kingston Heath Golf Club (VIC). Winning margin: 3 strokes. The sixth Stonehaven Cup came to Player in Victoria as the South African battled with what he claimed was a bad hook and tried to ward off hayfever with a hankerchief tied over his face that made him look like a bandit. He went on to shoot 71-65-70-74 and hold off Bruce Devlin in second place and Billy Dunk and Ray Floyd in third. In the final round, the 13th hole almost proved his nemesis – a hole he later said cost him the 1957 Open when made triple bogey. 7. 1974 – Lake Karrinyup Country Club (WA). Winning margin: 3 strokes. The last of Player&aposs sensational seven came in the West with three stroke victory over Scotland&aposs Norman Wood. He finished with rounds of 69-72-63-73 and later credited his third round 63 as better than his pair of 62s at Kooyonga in 1965. American Tom Kite summed up the general feeling on Player&aposs round. “I&aposve never played better than I did today for 68 and he&aposs beaten me by five shots.” Player would go on to compete at the 1975, 1979 and 1981 Australian Opens but the win in &apos74 was the last of an extraordinary relationship with the Stonehaven Cup. Player remains the only golfer to have won the Australian Open seven times.