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Friday, October 11, 2013
Gary Player: Tiger Woods 'unlucky'

By Kevin Maguire
ESPN.com

Nine-time major winner and World Golf Hall of Fame member Gary Player weighed in on Tiger Woods' rules infractions this year, Rory McIlroy's struggles and a possible one-in-three rule on the PGA Tour in a wide-ranging interview with ESPN.com on Friday.

Player described Woods' third shot at the par-5 15th hole during the second round of this year's Masters as the "most unlucky thing I've ever seen in my life."

If it hits, it's going to be like 4 feet from the hole. If he hit a bad shot, I mean a real bad shot with a sand wedge 20 feet from the hole, I reckon he would have won the Masters.

-- Gary Player, on a key shot by
Tiger Woods at this year's tournament

"[Tiger] hits the most perfect shot," Player said. "It's coming in there soft. You can see the flag. If it hits, it's going to be like 4 feet from the hole. If he hit a bad shot, I mean a real bad shot with a sand wedge 20 feet from the hole, I reckon he would have won the Masters."

Wood's ball ricocheted off the flag and into the water. Woods proceeded to take an improper drop turning what could have been a birdie into a quadruple-bogey after a 2-shot penalty. The rules violation was called in from a TV viewer, a practice Player said should not be allowed.

Even though some critics thought Woods should have withdrawn from the tournament after the controversial ruling, Player disagreed.

"I don't think Tiger did anything wrong whatsoever," he said.

In a separate interview on ESPN's "SportsCenter," Player didn't back down from his comments earlier this year about what kind of woman would be right for McIlroy, who is dating tennis star Caroline Wozniacki.

"If you're a young man like Rory, you can't play with worries," Player said. "You can't have managerial problems, you can't have women problems. You've got to be out there and have a free mind. And that's why Arnold [Palmer], Jack [Nicklaus] and I won something like 55 majors between us. Because we had three wives that were very, very special.

"I can tell you, many of the pros that have done well divorced several times and they never quite reached the heights they could have if they had the wives that we had. So I've experienced this and seen this. Now I think he's on the road to success.

"He's got to find himself a wife that'll help him, actually almost dedicate her life to him being a success. And that's hard to find today, because women are extremely independent today. It's a very different time than when we were around."

When asked about top players cutting back their schedules, ala Steve Stricker in 2013, Player said he is proponent of implementing the so-called one-in-three rule.

"I think a pro should try to make a point, which we tried to do, if you didn't play in this tournament this year, in the next three years, you try to play in that tournament," he said. "I think that's something that should be introduced."

As for Woods' chances of catching or passing Nicklaus' record of 18 majors, Player pointed out that many people have their opinions, but multiple changes in coaches over the years probably hasn't helped Tiger's hopes of major No. 15.

"The fact that he's had different coaches giving him different swing thoughts [hurts him]," Player said. "When you change your swing to that degree, even as talented as you are, it takes time to get the muscle memory and to have it work under pressure.

"[Woods] is so talented and so dedicated. I think he's got a great chance of passing Jack Nicklaus. Five majors is a lot. That's Mickelson's entire career. He'll play in another 40 majors at least as long as his knee stands up, and as long as he's healthy. We never know what's around the corner. But all things being equal, I think that he's got a great chance of doing it."