Golf fanatic Gareth Bale insists he is the No 1 player at Real Madrid, but has revealed goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is the only other club team-mate who competes with him.
The Wales international has previously been criticised in Spain for appearing to prioritise international football and even a round of golf over his club duties.
His association with the sport has been magnified ever since he celebrated a Wales victory in November 2019 with his team-mates by showing a national flag with the words ‘Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order.’
Bale – currently out with a hamstring injury – was in attendance at the Club de Campo Villa de Madrid over the last few days as the Spanish Open took place in the country’s capital city, and he joked about the competition in Los Blancos’ dressing room about the sport.
‘There are only two of us playing golf in the Real Madrid dressing room, so without a doubt I’m the No.1 golfer on the team,’ the Wales international said via SPORT.
‘Thibaut Courtois is the other one who plays, but he’s not better than me.’ Belgium goalkeeper Courtois has previously revealed that among the Madrid squad, Bale is known as ‘The Golfer’.
Speaking about the Spanish Open – which was won by Rafa Cabrera Bello on Sunday – Bale added: ‘Whenever I get the chance and there’s a golf tournament nearby, I come to watch it.
‘It’s amazing the atmosphere, the crowd, the good weather and, on top of that, honestly, these guys play very well.
‘It’s unbelievable how well they play for the pressure they’re under. Football is different because you have pressure, but you also have a referee to deal with.
‘The thing is, golf is a much more mental game; I feel more pressure here than in front of 80,000 spectators.’
The 32-year-old has replicas of three of golf’s most iconic holes built on his estate in Wales: the 17th at TPC Sawgrass, with its famous island green, Augusta National’s 12th, the most celebrated hole at the home of the Masters, and Royal Troon’s Postage Stamp, perhaps the most famous par-3 on the Open Championship rota.
Bale was a supporting partner of the Cazoo Open on the European Tour which took place in his homeland in July, and insists he wants to get more children involved in the sport.
‘This year, with COVID-19, we had a hard time playing golf, but I’m hoping to come back to Wales this year and make the tournament bigger,’ Bale added.
‘My idea is to attract more kids to the sport and make it bigger and more affordable. We want to get a lot more people involved.’
The Welshman hit back at his critics and laid into the Spanish press in a defence of his hobbies in an interview last year.
‘A lot of people have problems with me playing golf,’ Bale told the Erik Anders Lang Show.
‘I don’t know why. I’ve talked about it many times and everyone thinks it’s fine, but especially in the media there is that perception that I should be resting, that it can lead to injuries.
‘I see people in America, for example Stephen Curry, who plays the same morning of the game. Here, if I play two days before the game it’s like: “What are you doing?”‘
Earlier this year, international team-mate James Lawrence defended Bale and said the infamous banner photo was a ‘completely spontaneous’ move.
The defender told Goal: ‘Someone of us saw the banner in the stands, took it onto the pitch and suddenly we were all behind it.
‘It wasn’t a planned thing, it happened completely spontaneously. We all found the slogan extremely funny, including Gareth.
‘Some people in Spain apparently felt differently, but it was a joke. You shouldn’t take it too seriously.
‘Gareth is an extremely laid-back guy with a great sense of humour. He loves to fool around, make jokes and laugh.’