GULLANE, Scotland — Gary Player is as eager to share his thoughts about golf as he is to show off his body.
Player, who posed without clothes in ESPN Magazine's body issue to make a point about the dangers of obesity, has over the years voiced his opinion on everything in golf from the way the ball travels to the possible use of drugs in the sport.
He returned to Muirfield on Tuesday not to talk about problems in the game, but to reminisce about winning his first Open here in 1959.
"I came here as a young man with no money and to win this great championship and have your name on that trophy meant so much to me," Player said. "Then when I came through those gates this morning and I looked up the 18th fairway here at Muirfield and just said a little prayer of thanks and gratitude that I could have the career I have been loaned."
Player said he meant loaned for a reason. He said golf is such a fickle game that nothing is permanent, mentioning players like David Duval and Ian Baker-Finch as Open champions who could never reach the top level of golf again.
"Also to see a man like Tiger Woods what he went through, great adversity, but to come back and be No. 1 in the world," Player said.
The 77-year-old Player is tied for fourth place all time with Ben Hogan with nine major titles, including three in the British Open. After winning his first at Muirfield in 1959 he came back to win at Carnoustie in 1968 before taking his final title in 1974 at Royal Lytham.
Player said it won't necessarily be the best ball striker who wins this week but the player who putts best and manages his game.
"The man who has the best mind this week and the man who putts the best will conquer Muirfield," he said.
NO TIGER: Not even Tiger Woods can get special treatment at Muirfield.
Woods wanted to get out early Monday for a practice round on the links course, only to be told that tee times didn't begin until 7 a.m. No exceptions, even for the most famous player in the game.
Woods said he was told that the grounds crew would be starting its morning rounds on the first hole to get them used to the routine for the tournament, and that the course would not be ready until 7 a.m.
"I totally understand it," Woods said.
Woods normally plays in one of the first groups off in practice rounds. He said he doesn't sleep much to begin with and likes getting up early, especially in Scotland when it gets light very early in the summer.
SNED'S JOURNEY: Brandt Snedeker had a close-up look in the last year at what it takes to play well in a major championship. He believes he has learned a few secrets along the way.
"The hardest thing to do in a major championship is be patient for 72 holes and never push the panic button," Snedeker said. "The guy that wins this week will not do that."
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