Player and Nicklaus still love Green Jacket tales

Gary Player, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus greet each other on the first tee. Picture: Getty
Gary Player, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus greet each other on the first tee. Picture: Getty
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GARY Player smuggled his out of Augusta National; Jack Nicklaus wore one that was way too big and had one made himself before finally getting the official fitted version.

Their Green Jacket tales never grow old and were regaled after the ‘Big Three’ – Arnold Palmer, of course, is the other member – performed their ceremonial drive-off at the start of the 78th Masters.

While winners these days are allowed to take the coveted coat away with them and wear it whenever and wherever they want, that wasn’t always the case.

“Gary is the only one that smuggled it out of here,” revealed Nicklaus in reply to hearing that Adam Scott, last year’s winner, had taken his jacket almost everywhere with him over the past 12 months.

“[Former Augusta National chairman] Cliff Roberts called him and said, ‘Gary, you know the jacket is not supposed to leave the club. Do you have your jacket at home?’”

Taking up the story, Player added: “I said, ‘Yes, I do, Mr Roberts’. He said, ‘Well, it’s not supposed to be there. I said, ‘Well, you can come and get it any time you want! The bad thing is he called me and reversed charges. No, he didn’t do that!”

Nicklaus may be the event’s record six-times winner but he had horrendous tailoring problems before he eventually looked the part at Augusta National. “In ‘63, when I won the Masters for the first time, they put a 46 long on me. I’m a 43 regular. It looked like an overcoat. When I came back the next year, there was no mention about getting a green jacket. So there was a jacket that was put in my locker, it was Tom Dewey’s jacket, former governor of New York. So I put that on, and I won a few more Masters and no mention has ever been mentioned of a Green Jacket. I kept putting Tom Dewey’s on.

“Finally Tom Dewey’s jacket was getting a little threadbare, so I went and I didn’t want to ask anybody, so I went to [US tailor] Hart Schaffner Marx and said, ‘Could you make me a Green Jacket, please? I’m afraid to ask Augusta because they don’t want to give me one, I guess’. They made one but it wasn’t quite the right material and colour. I wore it for about a year, and I said, ‘Give me Tom Dewey’s jacket back. So I wore Tom Dewey’s jacket until 1998.

“In 1998, I was down here the week before the tournament with [another former club chairman] Jack Stephens and I told him the story that I had won six Masters and never been given a green jacket. He said, “You what?” Anyway, I came back the next week, there was a note in my locker that said, ‘You will go to the pro shop and you will be fitted for your Green Jacket’. I didn’t even have to pay for it, I don’t think. I never did know whether I got the bill or not. But anyway, this is the jacket.”

Earlier, on a gorgeous morning in Georgia, all three safely found the fairway with their drives, the honour of hitting the longest one on this occasion just going to Nicklaus as his crisp blow sneaked past Player’s. “I think Jack outdrove me by a yard or two, but it’s not bad when you think he used to outdrive me by 50,” joked the South African.