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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 March, 2004, 16:42 GMT 17:42 UK
Fighting fit - Gary Player
Arnold Palmer (left) and Gary Player

Who is the true master of Augusta?

MASTERS' MASTER CONTENDERS

Jack Nicklaus beat off the claims of four other great Masters champions to be crowned your king of Augusta.

To celebrate Arnold Palmer's 50th straight appearance at the Masters, an event he won four times in seven years between 1958-1964, we asked you to pick your all-time Master.

And we can reveal that Nicklaus' six Green Jackets edged him narrowly ahead of Palmer and Gary Player to make him the BBC Sport website users' greatest Master of them all.


Gary Player
By Rob Hodgetts

Gary Player underlined his potential when he became the first non-American to win the Masters in 1961.

The diminutive South African with the heart of a lion went on to become the most successful international golfer of all time, with nine major titles including three Masters.

Player is recognised worldwide as a perfectionist in sport and life, who adheres to a firm set of values and a strict regime of physical fitness.

PLAYER PROFILE
Born: 1 Nov, 1935 South Africa
Turned pro: 1953
Career wins: 161
Major titles: 9
Masters wins: 3 (1961, 1974, 1978)
Masters runner-up: 2 (1962, 1965)
Other Masters achievements: Oldest player to make cut at 62 (1998); Most consecutive cuts (23); 15 top-10s

But behind the personable front lie the competitive instincts of a streetfighter which have led him to 163 titles worldwide over five decades.

Player made his major breakthrough with victory at the Open at Muirfield in 1959, six years after turning pro.

But it was on the lush lawns of Augusta in his sixth Masters that the 5ft 7in star cemented his place on the world stage, holding off defending champion Arnold Palmer.

The 25-year-old had played well all week, shooting 69, 68, 69 to lead Palmer by four going into the final round.

But Palmer - already a Masters specialist - staged a last-day charge and fought his way back into contention.

Gary Player
Player won the Masters in 1961, 1974 and 1978

And it looked to be going the then two-time champion's way as Player slumped to a seemingly disastrous double-bogey seven via the trees and creek on the 455-yard par-five 13th.

Palmer, playing alongside the South African, made the most of his break and notched up a birdie.

At the 18th, apparently playing for second place, Player found the right greenside bunker with his second shot.

But scrapping to the end, he flopped it out to four feet and holed the putt.

A simple par four would have handed Palmer a third title in four years but he found the same bunker and hit the ball over the green, played a poor chip back and missed the putt.

Player had won by a stroke over Palmer and the amateur Charles Coe - a testament to the South African's ability to rally from a setback and his dogged never-say-never attitude.

The following year the places were reversed as Palmer won his fourth title with Player as joint runner-up.

Gary Player (left), Arnold Palmer (centre) and Jack Nicklaus at Augusta
Player (left), Arnold Palmer (centre) and Jack Nicklaus at Augusta
Player and Palmer were then tied for second at Augusta behind Jack Nicklaus in 1965.

But 13 years after winning his first Green Jacket, Player landed a second.

In the 1974 tournament, he beat Dave Stockton and Tom Weiskopf by two strokes with old foes Nicklaus three back and Palmer six adrift.

The workaholic professional has become known by his famous adage: "The harder I practice the luckier I get."

And in 1978, at the age of 42, Player reaped the rewards of a lifetime of dedication.

He fired a sensational closing 64 at Augusta to come from a massive seven shots back to beat defending champion Tom Watson, Hubert Green and Rod Funseth by one shot.

"One of the things I am is an eternal optimist," Player said.





Links to more Masters 2004 stories


 

SEE ALSO
Wonder years - Arnold Palmer
31 Mar 04  |  Masters 2004
The Bear's lair - Jack Nicklaus
31 Mar 04  |  Masters 2004
A stiff upper lip - Nick Faldo
31 Mar 04  |  Masters 2004
Young pretender - Tiger Woods
31 Mar 04  |  Masters 2004


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