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Wednesday, 29 May, 2002, 10:01 GMT 11:01 UK
Player enters Open qualifying
Gary Player
Player has won the Open in three decades
Three-time Open champion Gary Player will have to qualify for this year's tournament at Muirfield as his exemption has expired.

The South African will be 66 at the 131st Open Championship, one year over the limit for 'Past Open Champions aged 65 or under on 21 July 2002'.

Player - the only golfer in the 20th century to win the Open in three decades - will be exempt from regional qualifying but will have to take part in final qualifying.

Peter Dawson, secretary of the R&A said: "We are delighted that Gary has entered the Open and it will be fascinating to see if he can qualify.


You have to draw the line somewhere
Peter Dawson, secretary of the R&A

"He's still capable of some pretty good golf."

Player first entered the Open in 1956 at Hoylake and won in 1959 at Muirfield, 1968 at Carnoustie and 1974 at Lytham.

But despite his achievements the R&A do not offer any wildcards or invites to former champions after their exemption expires.

"We are more generous than most events in terms of exemptions but you have to draw the line somewhere," said Dawson.

"There's only 156 places in the field and with so many good young players it is only fair to give them the chance to come through.

"But Gary is relatively unusual in continuing to play in the Open.

"Very few of our past champions continue to enter up to 65."

Player's contemporaries Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer are also set to be absent from Muirfield.

Jack Nicklaus
Nicklaus looks set to miss Muirfield

Nicklaus, who won the first of his three Opens at Muirfield in 1966, is still exempt as he is under 65.

Meanwhile, 72-year-old Palmer - Open champion in 1961 and 1962 - would also have to enter qualifying.

But neither have yet submitted an entry form and with Open Championship applications closing on 30 May, neither look likely to play in Scotland.

Final qualifying will take place on 14 and 15 July at Dunbar, Gullane No. 1, Luffness New and North Berwick.

The Open Championship begins on 18 July.

See also:

28 May 02 | Golf
26 Jul 01 | Golf
22 Jul 01 | The Open
21 Jul 00 | The Open
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