GEORGIA - Nine-time major champion Gary Player will play his final Masters this week. The 73-year-old South African legend announced on Monday he will call it quits after his 52nd Augusta National start.
"I've decided I would like to make this my last appearance in the tournament," Player said. "This will be my last major championship that I will play on the regular tour."
Stretching the famed Augusta National layout to 6,79km over the past few years has proven too much for even the fitness-focused Player.
"I'm exercising profusely, but at 73 it's difficult to build strength," he said. "The course is so long there are very few holes I can hit an iron to. It's just too long for me."
Player won the Masters in 1961, 1974 and 1978 and he is one of only five men to capture a career grand slam, joining an elite group that also includes Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen and Tiger Woods, who did it at the age of 24.
"I think that's the greatest feat that has ever been accomplished in world sport - to win the grand slam at 24," Player said.
Player's other major titles include the British Open in 1959, 1968 and 1974, the 1965 US Open and 1962 and 1972 PGA Championship.
"I've managed to break 80 the last two years. It's getting to a stage where I don't know if I can do that any more," Player said.
"I'm getting old and it's getting so much tougher."
Player joked that "I'm hitting the ball so short now I can hear it land", and "the hole is getting the size of a Bayer aspirin. You wonder if you can squeeze it in there."
Having become the first golf star to dedicate himself to playing tournaments around the world, Player will break his own record for the most Masters starts with number 52 tomorrow but says he expects his mark will fall one day. - Sapa-AFP