Are professional golfers too pampered these days? Gary Player certainly seems to think so.
After getting the 2019 Masters underway alongside Jack Nicklaus this morning, the nine-time major champion hit out at the current state of the game, labelling it “so artificial”.
He also shared his incredulity at players sitting out lucrative, money-spinning events.
“I don't know what Jack’s total was for his six wins here, but my three wins was $80,000,” said the South African. “I'd love to be playing for a $2 million first prize. I wouldn't be nervous, at all. I was poor. I made £30 a month for three years. I suffered. I struggled as a young man. My mother died when I was young. I had to cook my own food and make my own bed and lay in bed wishing I was dead.
“My goodness, I see guys taking weeks off with a £1.5 million first prize. Me, I would have just played every damn week as much as I could.
“It's such an interesting world today. They have a coach for this, a coach for that, a masseur, this and that.”
Player also took aim at the controversial use of green-reading books and golf’s reluctance to embrace measures to speed up the pace of play.
“They have got to stop this,” he added. “If you can't read a green, you should be selling beans. And they talk about speed of play, yet you've got markers on the fairway, you have a book how far the green is, but they won't led you use a rangefinder. I mean, that speeds up play, a rangefinder.”
“Tiger could have won 20 or 21 majors”
In a wide-ranging conversation, Player also offered his thoughts on Tiger Woods’ prospects of winning the Green Jacket for the fifth time this week and closing to winning three majors of matching Jack Nicklaus’ record haul of 18.
“If Tiger never had the problems he had, which were numerous, he would have won at least 20, 21 majors,” said the 83-year-old. “I don't think there's a debate about that. I don't think anybody would ever deny that.
“Deane Beman once said, ‘Tiger will win 30 majors.’ I said, ‘Hold on, Deane. You don't know if a man is going to have an accident in a car, break his arm, have family problems, etc., etc.’ There are too many variables to be a superstar in this game.
“Now, it's more difficult. Plus the fact that he's had four back operations, three knee operations. It's going to be interesting. Everybody wants to see Tiger Woods win more majors because he moves the needle like nobody playing golf today.
“I spoke to him the other night, I said, ‘You’re swinging it so well’. He says, ‘I'm not finished yet.’ That was nice to hear.”
Despite all of that, Player doesn’t believe Woods has it in him to surpass Nicklaus.
“Can he win five majors to beat Jack? I don't think so. If he can, everybody will take their hats off to him. But everybody likes to see him play well. It's fascinating to see how Tiger is going to do. I'm sure we all are interested and hopeful that he will do extremely well.”