GULLANE, Scotland (AP) — Gary Player is as eager to share his thoughts about golf as he is to show off his body.
Player, who posed without clothes in ESPN Magazine’s body issue to make a point about the dangers of obesity, has over the years voiced his opinion on everything in golf from the way the ball travels to the possible use of drugs in the sport.
He returned to Muirfield on Tuesday not to talk about problems in the game, but to reminisce about winning his first Open here in 1959.
“I came here as a young man with no money and to win this great championship and have your name on that trophy meant so much to me,” Player said. “Then when I came through those gates this morning and I looked up the 18th fairway here at Muirfield and just said a little prayer of thanks and gratitude that I could have the career I have been loaned.”
Player said he meant loaned for a reason. He said golf is such a fickle game that nothing is permanent, mentioning players like David Duval and Ian Baker-Finch as Open champions who could never reach the top level of golf again.
“Also to see a man like Tiger Woods what he went through, great adversity, but to come back and be No. 1 in the world,” Player said.
The 77-year-old Player is tied for fourth place all time with Ben Hogan with nine major titles, including three in the British Open. After winning his first at Muirfield in 1959 he came back to win at Carnoustie in 1968 before taking his final title in 1974 at Royal Lytham.
Player said it won’t necessarily be the best ball striker who wins this week but the player who putts best and manages his game.
“The man who has the best mind this week and the man who putts the best will conquer Muirfield,” he said.
NO TIGER: Not even Tiger Woods can get special treatment at Muirfield.
Woods wanted to get out early Monday for a practice round on the links course, only to be told that tee times didn’t begin until 7 a.m. No exceptions, even for the most famous player in the game.
Woods said he was told that the grounds crew would be starting its morning rounds on the first hole to get them used to the routine for the tournament, and that the course would not be ready until 7 a.m.
“I totally understand it,” Woods said.
Woods normally plays in one of the first groups off in practice rounds. He said he doesn’t sleep much to begin with and likes getting up early, especially in Scotland when it gets light very early in the summer.
SNED’S JOURNEY: Brandt Snedeker had a close-up look in the last year at what it takes to play well in a major championship. He believes he has learned a few secrets along the way.
“The hardest thing to do in a major championship is be patient for 72 holes and never push the panic button,” Snedeker said. “The guy that wins this week will not do that.”
Snedeker has pushed a few in his career, but says that he learned to be more patient after playing with Tiger Woods in the final round of the British Open last year. He also played with Adam Scott at the Masters and in the first two days of the U.S. Open with eventual winner Justin Rose.
Snedeker won the FedExCup last year on the PGA Tour and believes he is ready to win a major championship. If he does this week he would join Scott and Rose, who are both 32, the same age he is.
“I’ve been told about that a few times, and I loved it,” Snedeker said. “The precedent being set and now the hard part is making sure it keeps going. I’ll take any little quirky thing and use it in my favor.”
SCOTTISH WELCOME: Graeme McDowell may not be as popular in Scotland this week as he usually is.
The locals — and many of his fellow pros — were left distinctly unimpressed after McDowell was critical of the recently held Scottish Open, saying the traditional warm-up tournament for the British Open had lost its prestige by moving to Castle Stuart in the Highlands.
“I received a little negativity on my social network accounts from upset Scotsmen and people globally,” said the 2010 U.S. Open champion, widely seen as one of golf’s nice guys.
McDowell regrets his remarks — he has issued an apology to tournament organizers — and acknowledges he talked himself “into a little tizzy” when commenting on a tournament that is close to his heart. He won the Scottish Open in 2008, when it was held at Loch Lomond.
SURPRISE, SURPRISE: Quick, name the best golf course in the world. Hint: It’s the birthplace of the game and located in Scotland.
It probably didn’t take a group of golf course architects to declare the Old Course at St. Andrews as the top course in the world. But a group of golf architects did just that in a poll taken by Golf Course Architecture, a journal of golf design and development.
About 250 architects voted for the journal’s top 100 courses, with the Old Course easily coming out on top. In second place was Cypress Point in California, followed by Pine Valley in New Jersey.
Architects from 28 countries voted in the poll, with golf courses from 14 countries making the top 100.