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Els calls for PGA board to resign as compatriot Christo Lamprecht keeps composure to lead Open

Els calls for PGA board to resign as compatriot Christo Lamprecht keeps composure to lead Open
Ernie Els pictured here at the 2022 Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek Country Club. Els has called on the PGA Tour board to resign after merging with the PIF. (Photo: Tyrone Winfield/Sunshine Tour/Gallo Images)

Two-time Open winner Els has blasted the PGA Tour after their merger with Saudi Arabia’s PIF while amateur Lamprecht made headlines for different reasons.

Christo Lamprecht, the 2.06-metre tall, 22-year-old amateur was the talk of Hoylake on Thursday after sharing the lead of the 151st Open after an opening five-under 65.

He recently won the British Amateur, which secured his invite for Royal Liverpool and the 2023 season’s final major. And he’s taken that opportunity with both of his very large hands.

Lamprecht, who plays collegiate golf out of Georgia Tech has no intention of turning pro for a while yet, which means he will have to wait a little longer to earn his share of the billions set to be sloshing around the sport.

That’s after the PGA Tour merged with the Saudi Arabia-backed Public Investment Fund (PIF) to form a new entity. The details are not finalised but there is one certainty — it won’t be short of money. The PIF is valued at $600-billion with $1-billion already confirmed to fund the new body.

But the entire golf ecosystem is short of harmony with players still angry at how the PGA and PIF reached an agreement. They did it without so much as a courtesy call to the most important part of the deal — golfers.

Resign

Ernie Els, South Africa’s four-time major winner and former world No 1, is fuming at the betrayal. Coming from one of the greatest players of the modern era, his words carry weight, especially as he’s at the back end of his career and not in line to be a PGA/PIF beneficiary. As the saying goes, ‘he has no real skin in the game’.

Els, coming off an opening round 75 at The Open, has called for the PGA Tour’s board to step down.

“If this happened in my day, in my prime, there’s no way he (PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan) is around. No way. And the board has to change,” the 53-year-old told Sports Illustrated after his round.

“I’m sorry, it’s not right. Talk to us, tell us what you’re going to do, plan on negotiating. Don’t just go rogue as a member of the board and come back with a deal and think we’re all going to say ‘yes’.

“You’re affecting people’s lives. You’re affecting the professional game. It’s just so bad.”

‘Circus Golf’

He didn’t stop there. He mocked the format of the breakaway LIV Golf circuit, which is funded by the PIF and the reason the PGA Tour were forced to do a deal with Saudi Arabia. It started a golf arms race that the traditional golfing structures could not match — at least financially.

“This (LIV) is circus golf. Team golf doesn’t work,” said Els, who won the British Open in 2002 and 2012. “It works maybe in a two-month, three-month happy season.

“Get these guys together, get teams together and play around the world. But then play real golf.

“That’s what this thing is all about. That’s what I prided myself on, like Tiger (Woods) and some of these guys, getting yourself into majors and grinding.

“I spent almost 30 years on Tour, playing against Tiger … people don’t mention me, but I was there, he needed somebody to beat,” he added.

“There’s a lot of guys who did a lot for this Tour; they helped the Tour and helped build the game. Are you kidding me? And then this bullshit.”

And Els challenged PIF chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan to make his intentions clear.

“I know Yasir, I know some of those Saudi guys,” said Els. “They love the game. But this (LIV) is circus golf. That’s not where I stand.

“I think Yasir needs to come out and say what he’s thinking. He’s going to be chairman of this NewCo, chairman of the board. Whoever is the commissioner, whoever is left, they are going to be answering to him. I don’t know how the hell they can’t see that.”

Lamprecht won’t go pro immediately

Lamprecht meanwhile, oozed confidence after his round that saw him share the lead with English favourite Tommy Fleetwood and Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo.

But he said he would honour his promise to his college coach to see out his amateur career whatever happens at the Open.

“I really don’t think anything will change (regardless of what happens), to be honest,” Lamprecht said. “At the start of my college career, I made a promise to our head coach I was going to stay four years, and I think you’re only as valuable as your word.

“I’m definitely planning on staying in college for the next year and planning on turning pro after that.” DM

Gallery

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