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Player given a rousing sendoff

SOUTH African Gary Player ended his record 52nd US Masters appearance on Friday with a bogey, a tear and a rousing standing ovation.

Player's farewell closes one of the greatest chapters in the history of Augusta National as he becomes the final member of golf's "big three" to sign off from the Masters following long-time rivals Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.

Dressed in his trademark black golf shirt and pants, Black Knight marched purposefully up the 18th fairway as the other members of his group, Canada's Stephen Ames and Briton Luke Donald, fell back allowing the three-time champion to savor the growing cheers.

As Player stepped forward to make his final competitive putt at Augusta a fan yelled, "Thank you Mr Player."

A few seconds later, after he had tapped in for a bogey five, the crowd erupted again and continued to shower him with applause as he walked over to shake hands with his fellow South African golfers, including defending Masters champion Trevor Immelman.

"I'll never forget that as long as I live," Player told reporters while fighting to maintain his composure. "It just went on and on and on from all sides. You'll go to your grave knowing you had tremendous love showered upon yourself."

Player, 73, exited the Masters with five straight bogeys and a round of 11-over 83 that left the nine-time major winner at the bottom of the 96-man field.

But for much of his Masters career Player had been a regular fixture at the top of the leaderboard winning the Green Jacket in 1978, 1974 and 1961.


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