Golf Monthly - Gary Player has hit out at recently-crowned Open champion Cameron Smith after he was unveiled as the latest signing of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, the South African said: "I was absolutely shocked to hear Cameron Smith [had joined LIV Golf]. Here's a young man that I really thought was going to be a superstar. Now, what sort of future does he have? Will he be allowed to play in Majors in the future? Will he be able to realise this great dream of being a champion? I don't know."
The Australian, who is also the reigning Players champion, reportedly signed a deal worth in excess of $100m and will make his debut at the LIV Golf Boston event at the International Golf Club later this week.
The financial allure of the Series continues to attract PGA Tour firepower, with Smith unveiled alongside five other signings - Joaquin Niemann, Harold Varner III, Cameron Tringale, Marc Leishman and Anirban Lahiri, who finished runner-up to Smith at TPC Sawgrass.
Player however, wouldn't swap his legacy over the guaranteed riches: "I've played golf all my life and I wouldn't take a billion dollars for my nine Majors on both Tours," he said. "The only man to win the Grand Slam on both Tours and 165 tournaments. I worked hard. I had a desire. I travelled the world, it was an education. I met wonderful people. How can you ever be a champion playing 54 holes with no cut?"
The South African however took a slightly difference stance when it came to denounced Ryder Cup captain Henrik Stenson and others that he believed aren't capable of winning on the PGA Tour again.
"I don't blame Stenson for going. He had no money, so he had to go. This superstar [Cam Smith], I think his advisors have given him the wrong advice. I don't blame players for going on the LIV Tour. Most of the players can't win on the regular Tour anymore. The PGA Tour will always be the major Tour."
Cameron Smith justified his move to the Greg Norman-fronted venture shortly after his signing was announced. Speaking to Golf Digest, the 29-year-old said: "[Money] was definitely a factor in making that decision, I won’t ignore that or say that wasn’t a reason. It was obviously a business decision for one and an offer I couldn’t ignore."
Like so many before him, Smith added that the schedule was more appealing. The Australian also has the added benefit of potentially returning to his homeland with LIV Golf reportedly set to stage events Down Under.
Smith's schedule however will now no longer include the Presidents Cup, which is set to take place at Quail Hollow next month. The Australian is one of the biggest names no longer eligible to take part.
Gary Player with the spicy takes on a casual Wednesdee!
Guy just ran the entire playbook on Cam Smith. Worked him up and down the field with all the classics for anyone who's ever dunked on LIV Golf.
54 holes? Bah!
No cut? Blasphemy!
Future? You're throwing away a legacy!
Mr. Player sure knows how to play the hits.
But what's most confusing to me is that Gary has somehow found himself playing both sides of this thing.
Last April, just before the 2021 Masters, Golf Saudi announced him as their newest ambassador. From their own website:
Nine-time Major Champion, Gary Player, has joined Golf Saudi as its latest and most influential ambassador to date. One of the most decorated golfers of all time, Mr. Player will work with Golf Saudi to help implement a shared vision for golf and its future development within the Kingdom.
The news was announced shortly before Gary Player took up his traditional role as the Honorary Starter of the Masters alongside Jack Nicklaus and Lee Elder, with their tee shots officially due to open the tournament and continue a tradition that began back in 1963.
Since Golf Saudi’s inception in late 2018, Gary Player has been supportive of the organisation’s development plans from the start regularly attending events, including both the 2020 Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers, as well as the inaugural Golf Saudi Summit in the same year.
As part of his role as an ambassador with Golf Saudi, Mr. Player will share his views on how health and wellbeing are integral to the long-term success and sustainability of the game. As such, he will support and champion Golf Saudi’s growth plans for the game, in bringing golf to the wider population within Saudi Arabia.
“I have long admired the vision of Golf Saudi, but more importantly the work that is being done on the ground to provide access to the sport for all levels,” commented Mr. Player, who won his first Major title at the 1959 Open Championship. “I have had many fantastic experiences visiting the Middle East and was lucky enough to visit Saudi Arabia to see first-hand the great work that is under way, in particular the effort and focus to introduce the country’s youthful population to the health benefits the sport can provide.”
As a renowned golf course designer, Gary Player has also had initial conversations with Golf Saudi about how to further develop the Kingdom’s infrastructure and deliver on the scale of the organisation’s ambition when it comes to playing its part in Saudi Arabia’s transformation and meeting Vision 2030 targets, particularly in regard to the socio-economic benefits golf course development can bring to the country.
So here we have Mr. Player, presumably taking the bag from the Saudi's months ahead of everyone else and then wearing their logo on this collar for the opening tee shot of the Masters:
Earlier this year when tensions between the two tours had really taken off, Gary took to Sky Sports to basically play it right down the middle. "There's two Tours and they can co-exist! But you've gotta pick one! You can't have your cake and eat it too!"
Fast forward to today and Mr. Player is out here defending the wall for anybody and everybody who's ever accomplished anything on the PGA Tour. Which he's well and right to do. Guy accomplished damn near everything there is to accomplish in the sport. I'd do the same.
Of course that leaves a ton of confusion as to which side he's on. My thoughts? Gary's a king, he can do whatever he damn pleases. He'll take your bag and dunk on your 3-day golf tour all day every day.
That's a man right there who CAN have his cake and eat it too.
PS: What a ricochet shot at Henrik Stenson.
"I don't blame Stenson for going. He had no money, so he had to go.
Enjoy LIV Golf ya poor!