• Replay: Gary Player at the ’72 PGA

    Gary Player in '72
    A win to remember

    Remembering when Gary Player mastered ‘The Monster’ to win his second PGA Championship, at Oakland Hills Country Club in Michigan.

    Player finished with 72 for a total of 281, one over par at the 7 054-yard course.

    His victory was forged under threatening skies, which occasionally dropped rain on the record crowd of 24 100. Jimmy Jamieson bogeyed the last three holes to drop out of a brief lead and end up with a 70 for a total of 283, two strokes behind Player. Tommy Aaron came in with a 71 to tie Jamieson for second. Sam Snead, a 60-year-old relic from another era, shot 32 on the front nine en route to a 69 and a share of fourth at 284 with Raymond Floyd and Billy Casper.

    The key to winning The PGA Championship was in  a divot. Player said, ‘During the practice round, I hit an 8-iron for my second shot from right of the fairway on the 16th hole. After I hit the shot, for some strange reason the divot caught my attention. “That’s a funny-looking divot,” I thought to myself.’

    When Player, who had been the 54-hole leader, bogeyed the 3rd and 4th holes, it put him one over and opened the gates for a host of challengers. Casper, Jerry Heard, Gay Brewer, Phil Rodgers, Doug Sanders, Floyd and Jamieson all had a piece of the lead at one time or another.

    With three holes to play, Player was in deep trouble after making back-to-back bogeys at 14 and 15. He was tied for the lead with Jamieson and about to face the picturesque par-four 16th – a 408-yard dogleg to a narrow green, lake in front, bunkers behind. Player drove his ball to the right and into the gallery. His ball was in the rough, with a big willow tree in front of him and water guarding the front-right of the green.

    He was unable to see the flagstick. As he was working out his yardages and walking to a marker on the fairway, he saw the same divot he had made in the practice round. He grabbed a chair from a spectator and climbed on to it to line up the shot in his mind. ‘I knew immediately that the shot I had from the rough would be a 9-iron. In practice I’d hit an 8-iron but the grass was wet and it would fly out. It was 150 yards and I hit that 9-iron perfectly. It sailed over the willow tree and on to the green, finishing three feet from the hole. It was the greatest shot I ever hit.’

    Sportswriter Dan Jenkins said, ‘As the ball hung up there in the air, Player broke into a dead run to his left for a better view of where it might be headed. So did the thousands behind him. Everybody ran. And ran. For a hilarious instant, it looked as if Player had stolen somebody’s wallet and the mob was in pursuit.’

    Player sank the birdie putt and then made two pars on the final holes. He added, ‘Knowing when to take a risk comes from experience. It is a case of knowing the strengths of your game and then visualising success, based on those strengths. If you feel the time is right, go for it. Don’t second-guess yourself. Go for it with all you have and commit. And if it doesn’t come off, so be it. Accept it and move on. But keep making decisions.’

    This was the fifth Major championship played on the course Ben Hogan once called a monster and no one had yet broken 280.

    Gary Player 71 71 67 72 281
    Tommy Aaron 71 71 70 71 283
    Jim Jamieson 69 72 72 70 283
    Billy Casper 73 70 67 74 284
    Raymond Floyd 69 71 74 70 284
    Sam Snead 70 74 71 69 284
    Gay Brewer 71 70 70 74 285
    Jerry Heard 69 70 72 74 285
    Phil Rodgers 71 72 68 74 285
    Doug Sanders 72 72 68 73 285
    Hale Irwin 71 69 75 71 286
    Lee Trevino 73 71 71 71 286
    Jack Nicklaus 72 75 68 72 287
    Dan Sikes 70 72 72 73 287
    Charles Coody 71 73 70 74 288
    Miller Barber 73 74 72 70 289
    Hubert Green 75 71 73 70 289
    Arnold Palmer 69 75 72 73 289
    Lanny Wadkins 74 68 72 75 289
    Johnny Miller 70 76 70 74 290
    Bob Shaw 72 72 74 72 290
    JC Snead 72 72 71 75 290
    Larry Wise 74 71 67 78 290

    – Replay is a monthly feature in Compleat Golfer, now on sale!

    Article written by