Jeremy Harris on par with Gary Player
I'm going to come straight out and admit it. Gary Player is one of my heroes and a man I've admired for as long as I can remember. He was one of the best players in the world in a sport I love, and still today has so much to offer to the world game. He's a man who understands the value of hard work and still sets very high standards of himself when most people his age would be looking at brochures for round-the-world cruises or buying an apartment at a security complex.
But not Gary Player. Instead he opts to fly to every corner of the globe playing in golf events (mostly always with a charity angle), or designing golf courses, and has clocked up just over 23 million kilometres of travel as a pro golfer, arguably making him one of the most travelled human beings of all time. He is without doubt South Africa's favourite golfing son and this country's most passionate ambassador.
Yet it was with a tinge of sadness that he remarked to me this past week that he didn't feel like his efforts were recognised or even appreciated or even wanted back home in South Africa. There was audible "dead air" as we just sat there and let his words sink in.
Why is it that this country 'rewards' its truest champions with disrespect, disdain and almost isolation, almost as if we are jealous of their achievements, and by ignoring them or by devaluing their achievements will "put them in their place".
But that is a discussion for another time and an article bordering on another 1,000 words.
As much as I am Gary Player fan, he is a big Tiger Woods fan. But for the first time I almost got Player to concede that Woods may need to win a Major this year or not at all.
I've long held the view (since 2008) that Woods will not add to his tally of 14 Majors as a combined consequence of players who don't run to their mommies anymore when he stomps onto the opening tee, as well as the ongoing revolt (in a self-preservation reflex) by his body against his aggressive, almost violent style of play. It's an opinion which has attracted much laughter, ridicule and the occasional insult. But laugh all you like, the fact is that Woods hasn't won a Major since he limped off like a wounded soldier at Torrey Pines in 2008 after narrowly beating the supposedly massively outgunned Rocco Mediate.
We discussed the South Africa contingent at the Masters and I suggested that Ernie Els and Charl Schwartzel were my picks to do well. "No problem with those picks Jeremy," he agreed, but suggested that Schwartzel needed to relax a bit and not get so down on himself, something similar to my Captain Grumpy comment I'd also made about the country's top-ranked player.
I then suggested that Adam Scott could successfully defend his 2013 title and become just the fourth man to do so. He liked that too. I was on a roll! He cautioned though that Scott is not a good front-runner and he was more likely to win if he was a few shots off the pace going into the final day.
And Mr Player, what about my picks of Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson as potential winners? Both, after all, have very settled, calm demeanours, insanely long games (to overpower the par 5s at Augusta) and are in good recent form. Well, you could almost hear him sigh, and I knew instantly that my run of correct calls was over and I was about to be schooled. Never mind overpowering the par 5s, he said, rather bring a hot putter and you will win the US Masters.
I just had to ask who his favourite was for the green jacket come next week Sunday. I was more than a little surprised by his answer, with Player holding the view that Australia's Jason Day would be triumphant. Player went on to describe Day's swing as the most perfect swing he's seen in a long time and that it reminded him of no less a golfing icon than Ben Hogan. High praise indeed, very, very high praise. Day is not intimidated by big crowds, playing away from home or big events. He is capable, but is he hungry enough?
And so with the discussion drawing to an end, there was just one more crucial question to ask the Black Knight. "Mr Player, I've been fading my drive. How can I fix it?". I started laughing immediately but he wasn't. "Stand up," he said, "hold your club in your hands, a smooth backswing, look down at three knuckles on your left hand and your fade's gone… and I want 10% of your winnings!" It seemed like a good deal to me.
I sat back after we'd said goodbye and realised we'd been talking for almost an hour, but it had felt like 10 minutes. This man has so much knowledge, he has so much to give, he wants to give. I think we should embrace him and all of that knowledge before we miss out completely.
Jeremy Harris is the sports anchor at 94.5 Kfm on the Breakfast Show. He is a keen golfer and plays off a 6 at his home club, Arabella. Follow him on Twitter @jeremyharris55.