Gary Player has admitted he expects this year’s Masters Tournament to be “anticlimactic” with patrons barred from Augusta National.
The three-time champion, whose 52 appearances is a tournament record, made the comments whilst appearing on the latest episode of The bunkered Podcast.
Player, 85, will be there to get proceedings underway alongside his old friend and rival Jack Nicklaus. As has become customary, the pair will hit the ceremonial opening drives early on Thursday morning ahead of the first round.
However, the South African expects the experience to be somewhat diminished this year with COVID-19 restrictions requiring the tournament to go ahead behind closed doors.
“This year is going to be a little anti-climactic with no people there,” said Player. “I get kind of confused with this because they’re allowed to all get together in their thousands and demonstrate and burn buildings and churches and kill people. They’re all allowed to get together – but you’re not allowed to get together at a golf tournament. It’s very confusing to me what’s going on.
MASTERS PREVIEW WITH GARY PLAYER!
“I just believe that we’ve got to go on. We can’t stop. We’ve got to keep moving. If you look at the people dying from cancer, diabetes, heart attacks, millions from obesity, the biggest killer of them all, millions and millions and millions, but you’ve got to keep going on.
“You can’t lock down people who haven’t got food on the table. People are getting depressed. More drugs are being sold. People are dying from loneliness. Small businesses are closing up. I’m very anti that.
“I have great feeling for people that have died from corona. In America, I know the stats are up around 200,000. But millions are dying from these other diseases. I understand what death is. I’ve lost five members of my family, so I know what it is. But you’ve got to keep moving. You’ve got to keep going on.
"There will be a vaccine soon. Wear masks, take care and the people whose immune systems are low, stay at home. But the others have got to get out and make a living.”
Player added that measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 have even limited who he is allowed to bring onto the grounds with him.
“I’m 85 and I’m not even allowed to bring somebody in with me to look after me,” he said. “You are allowed to bring their wife or girlfriend in but I’m not even allowed to have my caddie come in for the first drive.
"So, it’s very anticlimactic but, on the other hand, it’s still the second most important tournament in the world. It will still have a certain ambiance about it and it’s going to be fine and we’ve got to make the best of it. But it’s certainly going to be anticlimactic because I love people and, to me, the echoes in the trees and the enthusiasm and the ambiance of Augusta is something special which we won’t have this year.
“I think about the great times I’ve had with Arnold and Jack coming down the line to see who’s going to win, and the standings ovations and love you get from the people, and the cheers. Now, you’re out there and it’s like being in a ghost town. I’ve never had that experience before.”
• Listen to the full chat with Gary Player on episode 15 of The bunkered Podcast, available from Monday evening on Apple, Spotify, Google and all other good podcast providers.