AUGUSTA, Ga. — Gary Player announced during his Monday press conference that this year's Masters, his record 52nd appearance, will be his last."I've enjoyed it so much," he said. "The people I've met over the years, and the battles that I had with Arnold and Jack and others, and now to see all of these young fellows coming along."Player, 73, credited hard work and exercise for keeping him around this long but said the course has simply become too hard for him. He said there are very few greens he can reach with an iron and joked that he had to get out before he needed a wood to reach No. 12, the 155-yard par 3."I'm hitting the ball so short now, I can hear it land," he said to laughter from the assembled reporters. Player won the Masters in 1961, 1974 and 1978, had 15 top-10 finishes and made a record 23 consecutive cuts. He said he would continue to return to Augusta every year for the Champions Dinner and other festivities, but he would no longer be a competitor.Asked about his favorite Masters, Player cited his 1978 win and added that his least favorite was 1962, when he failed to repeat in a playoff loss to Arnold Palmer. When asked if he thought anyone would match his 52 appearances, he said yes, and predicted that technology and diet would lead to even greater longevity for future players. "My grandchildren's children will never eat any of the foods that we eat today," he said. "It will be a complete different system of eating. You're going to find bionic men playing in time to come."Here are a few more highlights:- When asked if he would accept an invitation to be an honorary starter, he said he would, and joked that he'd work out for the job. "I'll even exercise harder to make sure I outdrive Arnold."- He told a story about getting a ride from Ft. Worth to Houston one year in the days when airfare was a luxury for tour pros. The car's owner insisted Player drive — fast. "Next thing, he's got his window down and his putter, he was a terrible
putter, this guy, and he's on the highway pressing the putter into
the highway. 'Now you suffer, you son of a bitch.'
He's drilling this putter like crazy. 'Do you
know what it's like to have four 3-putts?'"- On his longevity: "I stood on the tee last year when I was waiting to play and there was a bit of a hold up, and I thought, damn it all, most of my friends at 72 are dead and I'm playing at the Masters? Most guys at my age, 73, have not seen their knees, never mind their private parts, for seven years."