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Golf News

Player advocates fitness as milestone approaches

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Gary Player is aiming to set one more major golf record in his glorious career as he prepares for his 50th Masters Tournament starting on Thursday.

Player, one of five men to win a career Grand Slam of all four majors including three Masters and three British Open crowns, will tie famed rival Arnold Palmer this week for most official trips to Augusta National.

The dapper 71-year-old South African does not intend to stop there.

“I would definitely like to play next year to have the most Masters and to have the most British Opens,” Player told reporters on Monday.

“I would like to do that because it goes along with my type of thinking of fitness and diet. Possibly next year could be my last.”

Player is still remarkably fit and full of energy and credits his longevity to exercise. He also thinks fitness and athleticism may end up being the tiebreaker to the question of who is the best golfer of all time.

“My one and two are Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods,” he said when asked for the greatest ever.

“But to compare Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods is like comparing oranges with bananas.”

Player said Nicklaus and other contemporaries dealt with spiked up greens, persimmon drivers and relatively dead balls.

“But taking all of that into consideration, I’m going to give Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods a dead tie.”

The 31-year-old Woods arrives in Augusta with 12 major titles to his name in pursuit of Nicklaus’s all-time record of 18.

He is seeking a fifth Masters title that would move him to within one of the Golden Bear’s record haul at Augusta.

PHONOMENAL ATHLETE

Player, who works out 90 minutes at a crack, five days a week, believes conditioning might make the difference.

“The other day, I had to go to Abu Dhabi to bid on a golf course and I went into Dubai and they were having the Dubai Desert Classic and there was Tiger coming in the gym as I as leaving.”

“And I said, ‘Good luck, Tiger’, said Player, indicating he tapped Tiger’s arm. “It was like putting your arm on Tarzan.

“I turned around, finishing my exercises, and he was playing (in the tournament) at one o’clock and he had these two 35-pound dumbbells like they were five pounds.”

“He’s tuned his body to such a degree and he’s such a phenomenal athlete.”

Player was taking nothing away from Nicklaus, who he battled for many major championships.

“Jack Nicklaus for a time in his life was extremely strong. His legs were just as strong as Tiger’s and he hit the ball the exact same distance if you gave him... the same equipment.

“But Jack Nicklaus’s body went on the wane, it deteriorated at a certain age, where Tiger Woods, his body is going to go on for a long time.”

Player has been going strong for a long time as well.

“I go into the gym and I do 1,000 crunches and I put an 80-pound weight (on my chest) and I do some with an 80-pound weight,” Player said, slapping his flat stomach to punctuate the point.

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