Golf: Player takes the side of technology: Technical developments derided

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The Independent Online
GARY PLAYER, playing in his 40th successive Open championship, reacted with disbelief at a claim made by Frank Thomas, the technical director of the United States Golf Association, that technology had not improved the lot of the modern player.

Thomas, speaking at the World Scientific Congress of Golf at St Andrews, said that players now are little better than their counterparts of 25 years ago. He said that any improvements are largely due to better coaching, better greens and the 'enormous financial rewards that success can bring'.

At Turnberry yesterday, Player said: 'That is utter bunkum. I know Frank very well but that is one of the most irresponsible statements I've ever heard. I'm involved in club manufacture and there's no comparison between the equipment now and the clubs we used to play with. The golf balls are also much better and it's impossible now to get a bad ball. They're made like Rolls Royces.'

Player believes that Ernie Els, who won the US Open at Oakmont, is destined to win 'many more' major championships. 'Sam Snead was the greatest player I ever saw, Jack Nicklaus the greatest scorer, and Ernie's swing reminds me of Snead,' Player said. 'All that power and a wonderful putting touch.'

Player, who is 59, plans to retire in the year 2000, when his exemptions run out, and he would like to play his last tournament at St Andrews. 'I will have played in more majors than anybody else. I don't want to carry on like an old turkey,' he said.

While Player had a practice round here in heavy rain, 480 players competed in the first of two qualifying rounds at four courses. At Glasgow Gailes, Colin Gillies established a course record of 64 after being informed on Saturday night that he had a place. Gillies, an assistant professional at Westerwood Hotel, came in for Miguel Martin, who gained exemption in a play-off in the Scottish Open at Gleneagles.

At Western Gailes, Paul McGinley shot 65. Instead of playing in the Scottish Open, the Irishman, armed with a match ticket from David Leadbetter, flew to Orlando to watch Ireland play the Netherlands in the World Cup. 'I played with several of the team at Lake Nona and the break did me good,' McGinley said.

At the same course a vacancy which should have been filled wasn't because of an administrative error by the R and A. Gary Murphy, the former Irish amateur champion, sent a fax to the R and A two weeks ago informing them that he was withdrawing but yesterday officials were under the impression that he was still in the field.

Andrew Crerar, an alternate from Blairgowrie, was at Western Gailes in the hope of getting a place. Had officials known of Murphy's message then obviously Crerar could have replaced him. As it was he left the course 15 minutes before the tee time that would have been occupied by Murphy and drove to another qualifying course, Kilmarnock Barassie, in the hope of getting on there. While Murphy's spot went begging, Crerar had to return home , his ambition to qualify frustrated at every turn.

(Photograph omitted)

Scores, Sporting Digest, page 37

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