OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. — This week’s edition of the Aramco Team Series features some of the brightest stars in the game. Nelly Korda, Lexi Thompson and Danielle Kang headline the field, while other stars of the women’s game are on site as well. But perhaps the biggest name at Glen Oaks this week is Gary Player.
As an ambassador for Golf Saudi, Player is at the event to support the organization’s initiative promoting women’s golf. And as a part of his ambassador duties, he sat down with the media over lunch Wednesday to talk about the state of the game.
Here are some highlights from our chat with the Black Knight.
1. Thoughts on a rollback
“They’re going to have to do something to curtail the ball. They don’t want to, they’re reluctant to, but they’re going to have to. Otherwise, they’re going to drive the first green at Augusta. Bobby Jones would turn over in his grave if he saw that. They’re hitting wedge into par-5s! Change is the price of survival. For the weekend golfer, leave it as it is. Let them play with what they want and enjoy themselves. But I’m quite concerned about pro golf in that regard. Where are we going?”
2. Golf vs. Tennis
“My wife and I always used to have big debates, which is the tougher sport to win a major — golf or tennis? You play tennis, you’ve got to win seven matches. If [Jack] Nicklaus only had to win seven matches, he’d have over 100 majors. Think about it — they play you against him, same conditions. In golf, you tee off in the morning and it’s raining, shoot 74 and it’s the round of your life. The afternoon, the sun comes out and someone shoots 68 playing just as well. You’ve got 156 guys competing, and no one plays under the same conditions, even if it’s perfect weather. Golf is such a tough game.”
3. Progress in women’s golf
“Isn’t it great after all these years that women’s golf is beginning to be recognized and given a place in the sun that they deserve? … I don’t sit and watch too much golf, but during the Solheim Cup, I watched the whole thing. It was so exciting; as exciting as I’ve ever seen.”
4. 500-yard drives?
“Look at people like LeBron James. He makes people like DeChambeau look like Mickey Mouse. Those kind of guys are going to come out and hit the ball 500 yards. I said on British television to Peter Allis, ‘They’re going to hit the ball 400 yards.’ He said, ‘Gary, you’re talking rubbish.’ He told me that with an audience of millions. Well now I’m saying they’re going to hit it 500 yards.”
“I always used to say to my wife, ‘No woman will outdrive me!’ Being a little chauvinistic. All of the sudden, I’m older and they’re outdriving me by 50 yards. They can really play. People are so naïve to how good these women are. And now people are beginning to see. They have great swings, and they play lights out.”
6. GOAT debate
“It’s hard to say who’s the best ever in men’s or women’s golf or football or baseball. I had a luncheon with Justin Tuck the football player and he summed it up well. He said, ‘Whatever the difference is, whoever you think is the best ever, the difference is that much. It’s just a fraction.’ You cannot compare eras. We played golf with 100 spike marks on every green. We raked the bunkers with our feet when I started. Now they’ve got machines that make it all the exact same … The greens are like snooker tables. We never played a green like that in our lives!”
7. Weight training
“Golf has changed to such a degree. When I started weight training in 1953, and came to the United States in 1958, I was ridiculed. They said I was a nut! … Today everbody is doing weights. If you don’t do weights today, you will be left behind. Look at [Bryson] DeChambeau — he’s taken golf to another level.”