It was meant to be about the ‘Big Three’ – Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player.
But a Masters press conference involving the legendary trio somehow turned into a hilarious history lesson on the 1965 Australian Open, won by Player at Kooyonga Golf Club.
Asked which tournament outside America they considered to be their most important victory, Nicklaus was in no doubt it was the Australian Open – a trophy The Golden Bear and Player lifted a combined 13 times. But that’s where the fun started as Player recalled his version of events in ’65, where he and Nicklaus went toe-to-toe for what they classed as the “fifth Major.”
The conversation takes over:
Outside of the British Open, what do you consider to be the most important international event you won?
JACK NICKLAUS: Probably the Australian Open. I think the Australian Open, we always thought was sort of the fifth major back in the time when we were playing. Gary won it seven times, and I won it six times. So we went to Australia a lot.
I don’t know how many … did Arnold win it?
GARY PLAYER: Yes, he did, in Queensland.
JACK NICKLAUS: I don’t think Arnold went as often as Gary and I did. We were playing at, was it Kooyoong (Kooyonga)? Is that where you shot 63 the first round?
GARY PLAYER: I had two 62s (laughter).
JACK NICKLAUS: You shot 62. Then I shot, what, 63 the second round or something?
GARY PLAYER: I’m sorry if I interrupted.
JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, this is a good story. This is a cute story. If you’ve got time, it’s a story.
GARY PLAYER: You see, the Jewish people have got a great saying, (it’s all in a Yiddish accent from Mr Player, but something like), “When you are winning, you are remembering.”
But I shot 62 the first day. Jack shoots 66. We are going back to the hotel and he says, ‘How the hell can I shoot 66 and be four behind?’ But he says, ‘Tomorrow I’m going to get your little South African butt’.
So the next day I shoot 70, he shoots 63. He’s 129, I’m 132.
I said, ‘Now, wait a minute, let’s turn the shoe on the other foot. How can I shoot 132, it’s an average of two 66s and be three behind you?’ I said, ‘Tomorrow, I’m going to get your big American butt’. And I shot 62.
But we didn’t have these scoreboards like they have now. So his caddie runs across and says, Jack wants to know how you’re doing.
I said, ‘I’m 10‑under’
He says, ‘No, not for the tournament. For today?’
I said, ‘I’m 10‑under’.
So Jack sees me, he says, ‘You liar, you’re trying to put me off’.
Anyway, and the right man won (laughter).
JACK NICKLAUS: I don’t remember what the question was (laughter).
You asked something about international travel?
I was just wondering if you could confirm…
JACK NICKLAUS: I thought the Australian Open; didn’t you? I like the Australian Open.
GARY PLAYER: You’re talking about other than the four Majors.
JACK NICKLAUS: We sort of look at, and then I think the Tour has come along and put in some significant tournaments which basically has brought the world together for world championships and things, where the guys are playing more together. Travel has made it so that we can play together and we don’t have to travel all over to do that. But it’s a different day. Canadian Open used to be in there, too.
I didn’t want to bring that up, but go ahead.
JACK NICKLAUS: We always looked at the Australian Open and Canadian Open as being the next couple. Outside of the four Majors, that’s the way it generally used to be.