Player praises McIlroy after Open triumphon July 22, 2014
Nine-time Major winner Gary Player walked away from this year’s Open Championship confident that Rory McIlroy will follow him as only the second non-American to win a career Grand Slam, that South African golf is still in a healthy state, and that the distance modern golf balls travel remains a threat to the game.
Player was speaking ahead of his Gary Player Invitational Europe at Wentworth this week, which forms part of his global series of charitable tournaments and which has drawn a world-class field including Rickie Fowler, who finished second in the Open at Royal Liverpool.
Still the only non-American to have won the career Grand Slam of all four Majors, Player said that watching McIlroy on the weekend has left him in no doubt that he will be the next player to join this exclusive club.
“What an extraordinary week. Rory is not just a great golfer but also a wonderful young man. He’s well behaved and I just can’t praise him enough. Now he’s won three of the four Majors, and I think he’ll be the next man to win the Grand Slam,” said Player.
And Player would be delighted to see McIlroy support his Gary Player Invitational tournament in South Africa at the end of the year, as well as the Nedbank Golf Challenge. The Northern Irishman played in the 2009 Nedbank Golf Challenge, but withdrew before the third round with a stomach virus.
“We’re obviously hoping we get great fields for both these tournaments at Sun City, and I think we have a lot to look forward to.”
Player said he was also pleased to see Charl Schwartzel have a good Open with his finish of tied seventh. Schwartzel is now the only South African ranked within the top 50 in the world, but Player says he remains optimistic about the state of the local game.
“I was really happy to see Charl play so nicely. George Coetzee also had a good week. Our golfers haven’t had a very good year after playing so well the last few years, but I’m optimistic they’ll start performing well again soon. And they’re all such great ambassadors for South Africa. They travel to every corner of the globe every week, and I hope our government appreciates what incredible ambassadors they are for South Africa.
With the third Major of the year now history, Player says he is still concerned about how far the modern golf ball flies and the impact this is having at the highest level of the game.
“The golf ball is going so far now it’s getting out of proportion. In the Open, the greatest championship in golf, you had players hitting irons off the tee. All my career you saw players hitting driver, which the public want to see. Now players aren’t even putting drivers in their bags for some Majors. At the Masters we saw Bubba Watson hit a drive and a wedge into a par five, and a drive and a nine-iron over the green on a par five. We’ve seen Jamie Sadlowski hit 10 drives all over 400 yards. I don’t know where we’re going, and the leaders of the game are going to have to give it serious thought.”