Gary Player defended golfers who decided to bolt the PGA Tour for the Saudi-backed LIV Golf league as the upstart organization finished its first tournament of the year.
Player, who won each major tournament once during his career and the Masters and The Open Championship three times each, told Sky Sports the golfers who decided to play for the controversial league needed the money.
“Golf is a wonderful game, and we must never forget this. The heart of the game is the amateur, not the professional. What saddens me is to see the fighting that’s going on, and it’s unnecessary,” Player told the outlet.
“Remember this, the players that are playing there now, they need the money. They’ve got families, and I don’t blame them for playing there. There are not a lot of them that can win on the regular tour anymore, so they’re wisely taking the money.
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“But, remember, the PGA Tour is the strongest tour, so there is a place in the sun for both tours. And I just hope they settle everything in an amicable way, and we go from strength to strength.”
Charl Schwartzel was the first LIV Golf tournament winner and took home $4 million.
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Several PGA Tour golfers decided to bolt the organization for LIV Golf. The PGA Tour announced Thursday those players who decided to join LIV Golf and rescind their membership were banned from the tour indefinitely.
“You can’t have your cake and eat it. You’ve got to choose from one tour to another,” Player said. “If they so desire to play the LIV tour, that is their choice and their freedom, but you can’t have both tours. It’s not going to be allowed.
“I’d like the people that are playing the tour to just be open and say, ‘I’m playing this tour because I want to make some money, I have a family.’ There’s no disgrace about that. Every businessman has a choice to say, when he gets transferred from one company to another, ‘I’m leaving because I’m making more money.’ The best players will always come from the U.S. tour because that’s where all top national players are playing.
“The LIV tour does not have a points system that’ll enable you to keep playing the tours. If you’re not playing in majors or you’re not playing in the regular tour, where are you going to get your points to qualify for the majors? This is far more complicated than people are making it out to be.”
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The USGA allowed those who bolted late for LIV Golf to play in the 2022 U.S. Open. The third major of the golf season is set to start Thursday.