LIV Golf is no stranger to criticism. The latest shot at the Saudi-backed circuit, however, could be considered friendly fire.
Gary Player was the latest golf personality to come at the fledgling circuit, calling LIV a “tour for people who don’t have confidence in their future” during an interview with BBC 5 radio.
“I wouldn’t take a billion dollars for my nine majors on both tours,” Player told BBC 5. “I worked hard. I had desire. I traveled the world. It was an education, I met wonderful people. How can you ever be a champion playing a tour with 54 holes and no cut?
“They don’t have the confidence they can be winners.”
While that’s been a common assessment of LIV Golf, what makes it surprising is the source. Player is an ambassador for Saudi Golf, the organization that spurred the birth of LIV Golf and a controversial outfit given its direct ties to the government’s Vision 2030 initiative. In the spring Player received backlash for wearing a Golf Saudi logo during the Honorary Starters ceremony at the Masters and an Aramco Team Series patch—a women’s five-tournament tour that is also backed by Golf Saudi—during events at the Open and Senior Open Championships this July. In June Player said he’s also been hired to design courses in the kingdom.
Given that relationship, along with his backers’ low tolerance for disapproval, one would think Player would be a LIV Golf supporter, and as of June did state he doesn’t like the confrontation between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour. “This tour [LIV], which the Saudis, who by the way are our allies, let’s never forget that,” Player told Sky Sports. “I hear a lot of detrimental things being said, but 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.”
That was a far departure from the BBC 5 interview, where Player said LIV members shouldn’t expect to play in the majors or the Ryder and Presidents Cups.
“You can’t have your cake and eat it. That’s the bed you’ve chosen, that’s the bed you’ve got to lie in,” Player said. When asked if he thought LIV could ever overtake the PGA Tour, Player replied, “No chance.”
Player also questioned the decision of Cam Smith, who is the latest LIV addition. The nine-time major winner believed Smith could have been a superstar but now wonders about his future.
“Will [Smith] be able to realize this great dream of being a champion? I don’t know,” Player said. “I don’t blame [Henrik] Stenson for going. He had no money, so he had to go.
“But this is a potential superstar. I think his advisors have given him the wrong advice.”
LIV Golf is hosting its fourth event in its inaugural season this week at the International outside of Boston.