Gary Player hits out over Phil Mickelson being 'crucified'

Gary Player has called for Phil Mickelson to be cut some slack over the controversial comments that led to his absence in The Masters for the first time in 28 years.

Mickelson, a three-time winner at Augusta National, is taking a break from the game after sounding off about both the PGA Tour and a Saudi-backed breakaway circuit being fronted by Greg Norman.

Speaking after joining Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson for the Honorary Starting Ceremony in Georgia, Player said: “I think we live in a time now when we are such a judgmental society, a litigious society, a critical society, where people get crucified.

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“The greatest PR man on the golf tour in the last five or X amount of years has been Phil Mickelson.

Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley is flanked by Honorary Starters Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player at Augusta National Golf Club on the opening day of the 86th Masters. Picture: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images.

“He has been the ideal man for a sponsor, for professional golf, for the public, the way he's handled the public, with dignity and with love.

“And he makes a mistake. We all have. And he said he's sorry. I said, ‘hold your head up high. You've made a mistake’. From the epitome of perfection, he's down there being crucified. It's not right. I think it’s pitiful”

Watson, a two-time Masters champion, is the 11th Honorary Starter in a tradition that was inaugurated in 1963 by Jock Hutchison and Fred McLeod.

“I was overjoyed and actually humbled because the way I look at these old goats right here, I can't carry their shoes,” said Watson of Nicklaus and Player. “I don't kind of belong in the same realm as these two players here.”

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