By Andrew Both
AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) - Cameron Champ, the only American player of Black heritage at the Masters, said he was disappointed in the new voting restrictions in Georgia, where the Augusta tournament takes place.
The legislation, passed last month, makes voter identification requirements for absentee ballots more stringent and shortens early voting periods for runoffs, making it a crime to offer food and water to voters waiting in line.
Critics say the law passed by Georgia's Republican-led state legislature aims to suppress voting among Black people and other racial minorities who tend to vote Democratic.
"As you can tell, it really targets certain Black communities and makes it harder to vote, which to me it's everyone's right to vote," Champ said, two days ahead of the first round at Augusta National.
"For me to see that, it's very shocking. Obviously, with MLB (Major League Baseball) and what they did and moving the All-Star game was a big statement. I know there's a bunch of other organizations and companies that have moved things."
MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred last week ordered the sport to relocate its 2021 All-Star Game after Georgia instituted the new voting rules.
While Champ was speaking to a handful of reporters outside the clubhouse, back in the press building three-times Masters winner Phil Mickelson said he was unfamiliar with the details of the new voting restrictions.
"I do believe in the rights and treating all people equal, and I hope that as a Californian we lead by example and that others will follow suit," he added.
Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy also chose his words carefully.
"I have to be respectful and somewhat careful what I say because I'm not a citizen of this country, but I certainly think all great countries and democracies are built on equal voting rights and everyone being able to get to the ballot boxes as easily as possible," he said.
"I've chosen to live in this country because I believe this country is the best country in the world. America is the land of opportunity, and it's the American dream. You work hard; you get rewarded. So I believe in all of that stuff."
World number 86 Champ said he felt compelled to keep the issue of race in the spotlight, and wanted to raise his game to the next level to elevate the platform from which he could speak.
"There's not many people (on tour) who are willing to talk about it," he said.
"It kind of gives me a little chip on my shoulder just to get to where I know I can get because then, once I get there, then I know I can do a lot more things."
(Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by Toby Davis)