We’re only nine days into a New Year and the great game of golf is under attack like never before and it’s down to just one individual – U.S. President Donald Trump.
Also caught-up in the backlash of the scenes last Wednesday in the American capital are two of the greats of the game in Annika Sorenstam and Gary Player. Each is under intense fire for accepting a ‘Presidential Medal of Freedom’ honour with Player’s own son, Marc, attacking his 85-year-old, nine-time Major winning father for his insensitivity just a day after one of the darkest days in American history.
Player has been savaged on social media with people incensed that he went through with a decision to be at the White House last Thursday. Marc tweeted: “I wish my father would simply & politely decline this ‘award’ at this time. Tone deaf. In denial. Wrong!!”
The eldest of Player’s six children also had a go at renowned Republican supporter, Jack Nicklaus and also Tiger Woods, both ‘Medal of Freedom’ honourees, with Woods being honoured by Trump mid-2019. Player’s son was asked by the Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan: “If we all understand the concept of tone deafness, what word best describes the decision of Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam to accept an award from a disgraced President TODAY, of all days?”
Player responded: “One word simply cannot provide any justification. Nor should Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods accept being condoned. Shame on all of them.” No surprise but all four, Nicklaus, Woods, Player and Sorenstam play golf with Trump.
Scotland was dragged into Trump’s false claims of 2020 election fraud when it suggested he may be considering jetting-over to his resort in Turnberry but Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was having none of it. Sturgeon cautioned the outgoing U.S. leader that playing a round would not be deemed an “essential purpose” for transatlantic travel into the country during the ongoing COVID crisis.
Administrators of the game are also reacting with the PGA & European Tour to announce a decision post U.S. Inauguration Day on Wednesday, 20th January in moving the WGC Mexico Championship from Mexico City and back to the U.S. for fears of the pandemic. No doubt waiting till after January 20th will ease any likely Twitter backlash from Trump as Trump Doral in suburban Miami played host to a PGA Tour event from the year it opened in 1962 and then hosted the WGC – Cadillac Championship from 2011 to 2016 but that all came to an end in June 2016.
Then PGA Tour Commissioner, Tim Finchem denied at the time that moving the event was a ‘political exercise’ and said the event was heading to Mexico City as a sponsor could not be found for Trump Doral for 2017. Trump reacted to the news in a typical manner and chose then good media friends, Fox News saying: “They’re moving the event to Mexico City, which, by the way, I hope they have kidnapping insurance. It is a sad day for Miami, the United States and the game of golf, to have the PGA Tour consider moving the World Golf Championships, which has been hosted in Miami for the last 55 years, to Mexico.”
There have been some rumours that the 2021 WGC may return to Trump Doral but surely the PGA or European Tour’s would not be so blind or insensitive to even consider such a decision. The PGA of America is also being called upon to strip Trump’s course in Bedminster, New Jersey as host venue for the 2022 PGA Championship.
John Feinstein, the highly-respected golf journalist wrote last Thursday, a day after the Washington riots: “Golf, as a sport, has been embarrassingly quiet in the seven-plus months since (George) Floyd’s death. This is the time for the sport’s leaders to speak up and take tangible actions. It needs to start with PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh saying, ‘We are looking today for a new site for the 2022 PGA Championship’.”