Gary Player: Links golf in the spotlight

This time of year is great for golf fans as they get to see the best players in the world contend for prestigious championships on classic links courses in Scotland – The Home of Golf.

What an exciting time we’ve got ahead of us over the remaining weeks of July. With The Senior Open Presented by Rolex played for the very first time at the Old Course at St Andrews, preceded by the ASI Scottish Open at Gullane Golf Club (just down the road from Muirfield, where I won my first Open in 1959), and followed by The Open Championship at Carnoustie, where I won the second of my three Opens in 1968 – this promises to be a month to remember.

My only disappointment is that I never had the chance to win The Senior Open at the Home of Golf. There’s something magical about the Old Course and St Andrews. Some of the legends of the game will experience a special kind of atmosphere when they tee it up on the links at the Old Course, although the players might not be so pleased if the wind blows and they find their way into those deep pot bunkers. 

I wish I could be there competing with them in The Senior Open. All credit to the R&A for combining such an iconic event with the most historic golf course in the world, creating by far the biggest event in Senior Golf since the Championship began at Turnberry in 1987 (where Player won two of his three Senior Opens). It will attract huge galleries and, no doubt, attract substantial interest by much-needed sponsors.

Still, I have the honour of playing in the Rolex Pro-Am prior to The Senior Open and I know that it will be an emotional round of golf for me, surrounded by such tradition on a course steeped in history, where so many great players had trod the fairways and greens before. I’m also going up to the Trump course in Aberdeen, which I’m told is a spectacular layout.

I’ve been to Carnoustie on a couple of occasions earlier this year and I was impressed with what a wonderful job they have done with the clubhouse.

Most players are of the opinion that Carnoustie is the toughest course on The Open Championship rota and I share their opinion. I’d go further – I think it’s the toughest course by a long way. It’s where I won the second of my three Open Championships in 1968, beating Jack Nicklaus and Bob Charles by two strokes, shooting 289. That might sound like a big score but you’ve got to appreciate the conditions we were up against.

When the wind blows hard at Carnoustie, which it does most of the time, there’s no place quite like it and when you win a Major at Carnoustie you know you’ve achieved something monumental. But that’s what playing links golf is all about.

It will be interesting to see how the Bellerive Country Club course in St. Louis stands up in the forthcoming US PGA Championship. I remember in 1965 when I won the US Open there, that the grass had turned brown so they had to spray the course green. That was my fourth of nine Majors and a career milestone where I completed the Grand Slam of all four Majors. However, I would still say that The Open Championship is the most internationally-recognised tournament in the game. 

I must say something about the criticism Phil Mickelson has had to suffer for the spur of the moment incident when he trotted across the green in the US Open and stopped the ball with his putter as it appeared to be rolling off the green. Phil is one of the fairest, finest sportsmen in golf and he should be forgiven for a mere reflex action that did nobody any harm.

The manner in which his critics attacked his integrity was totally out of order. Phil has been among the sport’s greatest ambassadors throughout his illustrious career. He certainly didn’t deserve the ‘over the top’ comments that surrounded a harmless incident.

Let’s get back to focusing on where the action is, in Scotland, and let’s enjoy the golf as the spotlight shines on the Home of Golf.

Spread the love