Gary Player has jumped to the defence of golfers defecting to the LIV Golf Series, insisting that they need the money.
The nine-time major champion told Sky Sports News he doesn’t blame the likes of Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson – the second and third highest earners in the history of the PGA Tour, with lifetime winnings of $94.955m and $74.266m respectively – for joining the new Saudi-funded start-up.
However, the South African also expressed his belief that players who do jump ship should not be allowed to compete on the PGA Tour.
“What saddens me is to see the fighting that is going on and it’s unnecessary,” said Player. “The PGA Tour will always have the best and strongest players in the world.
“But remember this, the players who are playing there now, they need the money. They’ve got families and I don’t blame them for playing there. There’s not a lot of them who can win on the regular tour anymore so they are wisely taking the money.
“There is a place in the sun for both tours. I just hope they settle everything in an amicable way and we go from strength to strength because golf is a passport to the world.”
The inaugural LIV Golf Invitational Series event concluded on Saturday at Centurion Club near London, with Player’s compatriot Charl Schwartzel winning the biggest first prize in the history of golf – a cool $4.75million.
The PGA Tour has responded to the new venture by issuing all of those who play in any LIV events with an indefinite ban. Whether or not that extends to major championships remains to be seen but Player says LIV players need to commit to one circuit.
“You can’t have your cake and eat it,” he added. “I’d like the people that are playing this tour just to be open and say, ‘Look, I’m playing here because I want to make some money, I have a family’. There’s no disgrace in that. But you can’t have your cake and eat it.”
The issue of Saudi Arabia’s bankrolling of the series has also invited considerable scrutiny. The pariah state stands accused of using golf for ‘sportswashing’ purposes in the face of continued international condemnation for its appalling human rights record.
Player, a Golf Saudi ambassador, appeared to suggest that the country’s critics are being hypocritical.
“Who are we to criticse people for human rights?” he continued. “If you look at what’s happening around the free world – killing policemen, killing people, burning cities down, shooting children, stabbing people. Are we really in a position to criticise people around the world?
“People in glass houses mustn’t throw stones. We live in a very strange world today.”
WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW WITH GARY PLAYER
“A lot of people are giving a lot of opinions, and know a hell of a lot about nothing!”
9-time major champion Gary Player gives his views on the ongoing dispute over the LIV Series pic.twitter.com/sM6idkAXXQ
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) June 11, 2022