THE WOODLANDS, Texas (AP) – Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player stepped to the first tee Saturday at The Woodlands Country Club for a crowd-pleasing aside from the second round of the Champions Tour's Insperity Championship.
The “Big Three'' played in a four-team scramble, and, with a combined 34 major titles, they were clear gallery favorite in a rare appearance together.
“I'll hit it so far I'll hear it land,'' Palmer joked before their round.
When they teed off on the first hole, however, Palmer was outdistanced by Player and Nicklaus. It mattered little. It was all about fun.
The team of Johnny Miller, Dave Stockton and Tony Jacklin finished at 11 under to win the title, four shots ahead of the Big Three.
Miller and his partners had the edge in driving distance.
“I'm 66 and most of these guys are in their 70s and some in their 80s, so in a scramble if you can get out of there with wedges instead of 7s and 6 s that's the difference between an easy birdie and hoping to make birdie,'' Miller said. “So we did drive it well.''
Palmer treasures the meetings with his former rivals although part of it is bittersweet.
“It's coming close to when I won't be playing,'' Palmer said. “I'm hardly playing golf anymore at all. So, a few last times will be fun. Who knows, we might hole a wedge or something. I'm watching because you never know when it's going to be the last time.''
The other threesomes were: Lee Trevino, David Graham and Raymond Floyd, and Don January, Gene Littler and Charles Coody.
Nicklaus reflected on the long competition with Player and Palmer.
“For Arnie, Gary and I to get together and play, we do it at the par 3 at Augusta and we do it here,'' Nicklaus said. “That's the only time we've done it in a while. So that's it. How many more times will we play? We don't know but we always have fun playing together.''
In last year's event, Palmer sank a 20-foot putt on the final hole to give his team the victory.
Trevino recalled the moment.
“I said all the people are here, all the players came out of the clubhouse to watch this and I said I'd give a hundred dollars if he'd make this and damn if he didn't hole out,'' Trevino said. “I said I was lying.''
Player had an optimistic thought.
“I'm looking forward to playing because a lot of people come up to us and say we never thought you'd play again together,'' Player said. “We might play another 10 years together.''
“Speak for yourself,'' Nicklaus said.