Curtis Strange has taken home a lot of money from the PGA Tour this year, but because of his absence from the British Open, which begins today, he also has taken some heat. Yesterday, he replied.
Gary Player and Severiano Ballesteros were two of the British Open entries who this week said they thought Strange should be in Sandwich, England, and not Williamsburg, Va., where he lives and is pro at Kingsmill Golf Club.
"It isn't for me to tell Curtis Strange what's right for him," Player was quoted as saying, "but I think he's making a mistake. He's going to break the earnings record (set by Tom Watson in 1980) but, if he won the British Open, it would be worth five times to him in income what he's making playing in the States."
Ballesteros was quoted as saying he was sorry that Strange, along with 11 other top 20 money winners, would be missing, adding, "Maybe they (the Americans) are afraid of the course or maybe they don't want to travel. I do think Strange should be here, though."
The leading money winner on the tour ($530,000) responded to the criticism with an explanation and no apology. Strange is spending the week at home with his wife, Sarah, and two sons.
"First of all, I'll not respond to any one person's comments about me," Strange said. "People are entitled to their opinion."
Strange said his family was the first of three reasons for staying on this side of the Atlantic.
"When we first started a family, I promised myself that I would try not to be away for more than two weeks at a time," Strange said from his home, adding that he has managed to avoid that except for a couple of times. "If I played in the British Open, it would have meant being away for three or four weeks.
"Another reason was that winning in Canada (the Canadian Open, July 4-7) was tiring and then our tournament (at Kingsmill, July 11-14) was a tiring week," Strange said.
"The third reason, and this may sound silly, is that my first allegiance is to the U.S. tour. I've had success and want to continue that," he said. "If I go to the British Open, I would have to miss the Western Open and, maybe, another, and I didn't want to do that . . . "
Strange added that the British Open course this year, Royal St. George's, was not a factor in his decision.
"If I've stepped on some toes, I didn't mean to," Strange said. "But those are my reasons, and if they're good enough for me, they ought to be good enough for everyone else."