Gary Player has jumped to the defence of the tour’s latest persona non grata, Phil Mickelson, believing people are far too quick to judge in this day and age.
Player, who has been no stranger to courting controversy throughout his own career, was speaking from Augusta National where he had Twitter talking following his decision to wear a Golf Saudi embroidered top on the first tee while undertaking his Masters honorary starter duties.
Like Player, Mickelson has had his own relationship with Saudi Golf and had long been the pied piper of the proposed breakaway golf league that ultimately led Mickelson into bother when he was caught on the record discussing among other things, the sports-washing motives of the rival Saudi-backed golf league and the “scary motherf******” he was about to go into business with.
Mickelson has since apologised for his reckless views and has stepped away from the game, or been handed a suspension, depending on how you read it. Regardless, Lefty’s words have had severe consequences with many of his sponsors fleeing the scene and his reputation in tatters.
For Player at least, the reaction to the 51-year old’s misgivings has gone too far.
“I think we live in a time now when we are such a judgmental society, a litigious society, a critical society, where people get crucified,” Player said.
“The greatest PR man on the golf Tour in the last five or x amount of years has been Phil Mickelson. He has been the ideal man for a sponsor, for professional golf, for the public, the way he’s handled the public, with dignity and with love.
“And he makes a mistake, which every one of you in this room have made a damn mistake. We all have. And he said he’s sorry. But even the Lord God will forgive you of your inequities if you ask for forgiveness.
“I phoned him. I said, ‘Hold your head up high’. You’ve made a mistake. Everybody makes a mistake. And he should go on with his life.
“It’s amazing. From the epitome of perfection, he’s down there being crucified. It’s not right. That’s my opinion. He said terrible things, but we all make mistakes.”
One man who’s made a few too many mistakes of late, in a golf context at least, is Rory McIlroy who again goes in search of golfing immortality and the career grand slam this week at Augusta.
McIlroy is bidding to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Gary Player himself in the most exclusive club in golf and the latter is really hoping the Northern Irishman can add his name to the list, believing it would be an almighty shot in the arm for the ancient club and ball game should McIlroy manage to do it.
“I’d like to see Rory McIlroy win because I think he is basically the most talented player I’ve seen in ages,” Player added.
“To have another Grand Slam winner I think would be just a big shot in the arm for golf around the world. It would encourage more people to play golf. They’d read about this profusely.”
McIlroy opened with a one-over par 73 on Thursday and lies in a tie for 31st ahead of round two.
- Full scoring HERE