My Greatest Shot
Gary Player
/
The approach to Spectacles

As a three-time Champion Golfer of the Year – and a winner of nine major titles – Gary Player has hit his fair share of brilliant shots at The Open during his illustrious playing career.

But there is one in particular which stands head and shoulders above the rest for many observers, including The Black Knight himself, which came in the final round of The 97th Open.

The South African’s approach to the par-5 14th hole at Carnoustie in 1968 has since become the part of golfing legend after all-but securing Player’s second Claret Jug success.

Player went on to be crowned the Champion Golfer for a third time in 1974 - becoming the first man to win The Open in three different decades - but his fondest memory remains that incredible title-deciding three wood.

The Carnoustie test

Measuring in at 7,252 yards, Carnoustie was the longest course yet used for The Open and it provided a formidable test to the world-class field throughout the week.

Amateur Michael Bonallack and Brian Barnes shared the lead on the first day, before the second round saw the only sub-70 scores of the week from Jack Nicklaus and Billy Casper.

Casper’s 68 saw him take a four-shot lead into the weekend but while he remained at the summit with 18 holes to play, 1963 Champion Golfer Bob Charles had cut his lead to one shot.

Player, who won his first Claret Jug in 1959, had been steady over the first few days and after an opening round of 74, back-to-back 71s moved him up the leaderboard into third position.

And while Casper was a two-time US Open champion, he was making his Open debut in Angus and found himself with a trio of Champion Golfers breathing down his neck.

Final round heroics

Player entered the final round at Carnoustie two shots off the lead on level par and was in the penultimate group with Nicklaus, the 1966 Champion Golfer of the Year at Muirfield.

Casper and Charles were both under-par but, by the turn, all four players were in contention for the Claret Jug with little to separate them – that was until Player reached the 14th hole.

Player had eagled the par-5 hole in both his previous two rounds, using a 2-iron in the third round, but on the final day it was playing directly into the teeth of a gale.

And with his ball well placed on the fairway, Player picked up a three wood and took aim at the centre of the green, into the wind and over the iconic “Spectacles” bunkers.

In a moment of pure magic, the South African cleared the bunkers and found the green with his ball finishing just inches from the hole, allowing him to make a crucial eagle.

Divine intervention

Player’s shot on the 14th hole helped him to a two-shot victory over Nicklaus and Charles and left his wife Vivienne stunned. “As she walked to the next hole, her legs were shaking like jelly,” he recalled.

In fact, it was so good, Player still remembers the strike like it was yesterday: “The shot I hit at 14, I’ll never forget that. I went to see where I played from recently to refresh this wonderful memory.

“I got quite choked because it was 50 years ago but it seems like yesterday, and I stood there in awe and I said, ‘The only way I could hit a shot like that is by a divine intervention’.

“I’m not that good that I can hit a shot into the wind, the ball travels 260 yards – I’m not that good that I could do that, and I did choke up, and I’m very, very thankful.

“Playing the 14th hole on that last day, I hit the best shot of my life, and the best shot I’ve ever seen in my life. You’ve got to play shots in the Open that you’d never play in any of the majors.”