July 18, 2007. Wednesday before the start of the 136th Open Championship at Carnoustie.
Usually a quiet day, the eve of a major championship. Usually, players are rounding the course one last time in preparation. Some try to work out the kinks on the range; others just try to relax by joking around with one another on the practice green, or hanging out at the hotel.
This Wednesday, the 18th of July, Colin Montgomerie, Sergio Garcia and Nick Faldo were set to speak, along with a couple of important figures from the Royal and Ancient.
Oh yeah, and a guy who won this major championship way back in 1959 and 68 and 74.
If ever there was a scene stealer in golf, it would be Gary Player. If ever there was someone who liked to regale their sporting accomplishments, it would be Gary Player. And if ever there was someone to kick up dust relating to a subject most in the sport of golf wanted to stay buried, it would be Gary Player.
The interview session started innocently enough, with the 71-year-old talking about, naturally, himself, and how he won on this very venue over the great Jack Nicklaus in 19-hundred and 68.
This lasted for a little while, before he was asked to talk about Tiger Woods and his accomplishments. He went on to discuss Ben Hogan and modern equipment; his perception of Carnoustie now and then; and Seve Ballesteros retirement, which was announced two days prior.
And then someone asked Player about fitness, following his first question with a second one that went as follows: when the Tour starts testing for steroids next year, would it surprise you if a player tested positive?
No, not at all, Player responded. He then went on to talk at length about fitness and how players were stronger back in his day, and how Arnold Palmer would have put down Tiger in an arm wrestling match.
Then the steroid question was reiterated. And Player took the bait.
No, (it would) not surprise me because I know that there are golfers, some of them are doing ' whether its HGH, whether its creatine or whether its steroids ' I know for a fact that some golfers are doing it, he said.
I know for a fact that some golfers are doing it.
The use of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs is THE hottest topic in professional sports (and rising in temperature on the amateur level).
The topic, however, was lukewarm at best in the world of golf. Until Players spark.
Player was asked to guess what percentage of professional golfers around the world use performance-enhancing drugs. He estimated no less than 10 percent.
That might not seem like a great number, but consider that people like PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem have asserted that there is no need for drug testing in their sport because everyone is so obviously clean.
That Player believed otherwise was no big deal. That he said he knew for a fact that players were taking steroids and the like was.
When asked to elaborate on how he could be so certain, Player responded: Because one guy told me. One guy told me and I took an oath prior to him telling me and somebody else told me something that I also promised I wouldnt tell that verified others had done it.
Somebodys and someones. People wanted names. Not just the reporters in attendance, but players and fans, who later heard, read and were told of his assertions.
Player never would fess up and name names. Because of that, players like countrymen Ernie Els and Retief Goosen denounced his statements. If youve got proof, they said, give us proof. He claimed to have it, but felt compelled to hide it.
'He knows two (players who have used steroid)? I know zero,' six-time major winner Nick Faldo said. 'Never heard of anybody.'
Players comments hovered over Carnoustie like a dark cloud. Padraig Harringtons stirring playoff victory over Sergio Garcia meant that this Open Championship would be forever remembered by the actions on the course.
But the accusations made off it would not be forgotten.
I don't think there's even a remote chance that will happen,' Phil Mickelson said of a golfer testing positive for steroids.
Well find out next year. The PGA TOUR (and LPGA Tour) announced it would implement a drug policy in 2008.
This likely would have happened, at some point, without the Gary Player-induced firestorm. But his flammable comments certainly had to help put some heat on pushing up the process.
Of all the interviews in all the press conferences from all the players this year, none were more memorable ' or controversial ' than the one provided by Gary Player on July 18.