Gary Player feels US golfers are asking too much to be included in the field of the annual Nedbank Golf Challenge.
“You have got to understand that you have a debt to society,” the great Gary Player said this week when asked what message he would give to American golfers playing for millions of dollars every weekend on the US PGA Tour.
And then the 84-year-old nine-time Major winner and Grand Slam champion took a potshot at the lack of American golfers playing in the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City.
The US PGA Tour offered more than $375 million of prize money for 46 official events last year, with order of merit winner Brooks Koepka taking home $9.7 million.
The Nedbank Golf Challenge, of which Player is the host, is part of the prestigious Rolex Series on the European Tour and the winner gets $2.5 million, one of the biggest prizes in world golf. But there was only one American in the field last year in David Lipsky, the world number 193 at the time, who plays mostly on the European Tour.
In 2018, not a single American accepted the invitation.
“I’m in favour of the guys making as much money as they can but when you consider that I won just $45 000 for winning the PGA Championship in 1972, then it’s fair to say we worked so hard in those days so they could win big money,” Player said on Thursday night in a webinar hosted by Citadel Investment Services.
“You’ve got to understand you have a debt to society and so many golfers do a fine job, and golf is the greatest catalyst for charitable giving. But Sun City offered the biggest prize ever last year and there was not one American who played. They wanted 5-6 million dollars just to play. I would have rowed over from America for that kind of money!
“I would tell them you are not fulfilling your debt to promote the game that enabled you to live the way you do.”
South Africa’s Sportsman of the 20th Century also counted himself amongst those players who have said this year’s Ryder Cup must be played with spectators allowed or be postponed.
The biennial match between the United States and Europe is scheduled for September 25-27 at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, but there have been suggestions it will have to be played without galleries, a move which has been rejected by golfers on both sides of the Atlantic.
“The Ryder Cup is a hard call. I never played in it for obvious reasons, but I can understand both sides,” Player said.
“The sponsors put in a lot of money and the tournament wouldn’t exist without them, or the media too. Sponsors and the media are the reason why golfers nowadays play for absurd amounts of money, but the whole enthusiasm of the Ryder Cup is such that if there was just a deathly silence you wouldn’t want to play. So I’m with the players on this, but my heart bleeds for the sponsors and media.
“But the tournament can be delayed. Rather do that like they’ve done with the US Open and the Masters. Golfers will also have to make sacrifices and play over Christmas or whenever.”
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