THE WOODLANDS, Texas (AP) — Arnold Palmer curled in the 25-foot putt on the 18th hole, raised his right hand and acknowledged the massive, cheering gallery with a thumbs-up sign and his trademark smile.
Jack Nicklaus gave Palmer a hard handshake. Gary Player offered a pat on the back, a fitting end to a memorable day for the golf greats.
Nicklaus, Palmer, Player made up a threesome in a nostalgic, 18-hole exhibition round Saturday in conjunction with the second round of the Champions Tour's Insperity Championship.
Thousands lined the fairways at the Woodlands Country Club and several Champions Tour players joined the gallery to catch a rare glimpse of golf's "Big 3" playing together.
"We enjoyed it," Nicklaus said. "We didn't make any bogeys, we made a few birdies and we hit a few nice shots and had a great time. And that's what this was all about."
Lee Trevino played in the threesome ahead in the nine-man scramble. Miller Barber, Don January, David Graham, Gene Littler and Dave Stockton also participated.
But most of the estimated crowd of 40,000 came to see the Big 3, who hit the ceremonial opening tee shots together at the Masters for the first time this year.
This day was different, and even competitive. Naturally, Nicklaus, Palmer and Player took home the biggest trophy, shooting 11-under par.
"We didn't make it too serious," Palmer said, "but we didn't want to come in second, either."
Before the round, Trevino lamented that he wasn't sure when the group would get to play together again. But Nicklaus, who said he hadn't played in public for six or seven years, said afterward that he was open to the idea.
"I'd do it again," Nicklaus said. "I just don't play golf. I actually hit the ball pretty decently today. I putted very well, and I wouldn't have expected that."
The event seemed to be a huge success, with young and old fans eagerly snapping photos and lining up for autographs between every hole. They were treated not only to entertaining, up-close banter with the players, but also some solid golf.
The 76-year-old Player, who says he routinely shoots six or seven shots below his age, dropped his approach to the par-4 11th hole within 2 feet, setting up one of the group's 11 birdies.