UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. - Career Grand Slam winner Gary Player showed up at the U.S. Open Thursday and teed off on the state of the game from the "mismanagement of the golf ball" to the impact increasingly long courses are having on amateur play.
Player acknowledged the robust health of professional golf but said, "Amateur golf, which is the heart of the game, we're getting less and less players. You can buy a golf course for a dollar today if you take over the debt, which nobody does. Rounds are down because they're making golf courses longer, putting bunkers in front of greens, making crazy undulating greens, and the members hate it. Then, they levy you, and so they resign out from the club."
Taking an oblique shot at the young Chambers Bay course, which plays 7,900 yards from the tips, Player said, "If they cut the ball back 50 yards for professional golf, we wouldn't have to waste hundreds of millions of dollars altering golf courses and making them 7,900 yards long and increasing expenses and getting less people to play.
"We're in dire straits at the moment. If you look at Augusta, if I'm correct, they're now buying the street on No. 2 and the street on No. 5, and they're making the back tee in the street. Augusta cannot go back any further, they cannot go in the streets. Well, they are."
Noting that two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson hit driver and pitching wedge to reach the par-5 13th and driver and 9-iron over the par-5 15th at Augusta National this year, Player added, "It's making a farce of the game. Our leaders [PGA, PGA of America, USGA and R&A] insist it's the same game. Well, go and watch some of these guys play, and you'll realize it's not the same game."
Player also took a shot at the PGA of America for creating a task force to figure out how to run the U.S. Ryder Cup team. "If a man beats me eight out of 10 times, I say, 'Well played. Next year, I'm going to whip your butt because I am going to practice hard.' I don't come up with all the crap and excuses."