Gary Player: Mentality is the difference maker

When Ian Poulter won in Houston, I was one of the first people to tweet and congratulate him. To birdie the last to force a play-off against Beau Hossler and keep his dream of making The Masters alive was testament to just how strong Ian’s mindset is.

You can forget about the guys hitting the ball ridiculous distances off the tee, as I’ve always believed the power of the mind, paired with a strong short game, are the key ingredients to win tournaments. I was fortunate to have been born with that drive and focus to win. Coming from a humble background in South Africa, that fighting spirit gave me the strength of mind to win 18 Majors and 165 tournaments worldwide. It would be great to see Ian keep up his form and play himself into The Ryder Cup later this year, as his passion to win will be contagious for the European Team.

Exercise is key

As most of you will be aware, the subject of health and fitness is very close to my heart. To make people more understanding of how to live a healthier lifestyle, especially the younger generation, is at the heart of the Player Foundation’s message, so I’m delighted to see that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has turned to sport and to focus on golf, to aid improving the health of the nation. I know that diabetes is a growing problem and with almost 24% of the Saudi Arabia population suffering from this dreadful disease I would be delighted to support this initiative in any way I can to draw more attention to the illness and how we can all help reduce the number of people suffering from the condition.

Ernie Els and Andrew Johnston at the opening of Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in Saudi Arabia

My son is a ‘type-one’ diabetic and I’ve dedicated a lot of my time studying diabetes to try and understand this global epidemic. Exercise and reducing the amount of sugar and processed foods in our diets are essential. Remember, the less you eat the longer you live, but all this takes willpower and is something that needs to be ingrained into the minds of our children. This is why golf is a great sport. It doesn’t just provide valuable exercise, but it installs respect, control and discipline – three vital skills that will help them in all aspects of life and health.

Open memories

This morning I played golf and beat my age (82) by 15 shots and followed that with an hour in the gym. It doesn’t matter how old you are, if you stay in good shape, golf is a sport you can play all your life. I might not be teeing it up on Tour any more but I’m still competitive with myself and my goal is to shoot 18 under my age. It’s hard to believe it’s 50 years since I won my second Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Links. The defining moment came on the par-5, 14th where I hit one of the best 3-wood shots of my life to within two feet for an eagle.

I closed out with pars on the final few holes to win ahead of Jack Nicklaus, Billy Casper and Bob Charles for the second of my three Opens. I think Carnoustie is, without doubt, the toughest on The Open’s current rota and it will take a fine performance to be crowned the Champion Golfer next month. Paul Lawrie and Padraig Harrington are the last two Open Champions to win there so maybe the omens are good for another European winner this year.

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