Comment: First Tee - Appearance money: the worms turn

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The Independent Online
ONE OF the many features that sets the Ryder Cup apart from the humdrum of stroke-play events on the European Tour is the fact that the players don't, per se, get paid. They may travel on Concorde and they may receive more eye-catching outfits than Naomi Campbell but they do not play for cash. Last year Mark O'Meara suggested it was time this quaint notion of putting altruism before mammon was reversed.

Mark James, Europe's captain, is unlikely to agree. In any case he is working on something far more radical. James is also chairman of the European Tour's tournament committee and they have been looking at the vexed question of appearance money. This is the iniquitous system whereby a sponsor, who may already have put up pounds 1m in prize money, has to invest as much as again to ensure the presence of some of the top players. Nice work if you can get it, except that it's not work. It's understood that the going rate for Tiger Woods is $1m (pounds 620,000). Several years ago Ken Schofield, head of the European Tour, announced he was declaring "war on the agents" and the system of appearance money. Nothing happened.

One solution would be for the sponsors, who hold the purse strings, to act in unison and refuse to pay any more inducements. The leading players would have to play somewhere but, for reasons of competition, the sponsors have never got it together.

There are now signs of unilateral action. Lyle Anderson, the owner of Loch Lomond, refuses to pay an extra bung for those competing in his championship and the Murphy's Irish Open has also decided against a top-up. Simultaneously James' committee wants to end appearance money and introduce a safety net for the less fortunate. As it stands anybody who misses the half-way cut doesn't receive a penny but has to fork out for travel and accommodation. In tennis a first-round loser gets paid and the professional golfers want a similar form of recompense.

Of course, not everybody has to pay for their hotel bills. At the English Open last week Colin Montgomerie and Nick Faldo stayed on site at the five-star Hanbury Manor. It is owned by the Marriott Group, who also pay Monty and Faldo to represent their interests. After the second round Faldo, convinced he was going to miss the cut, checked out of his suite and headed for the motorway. In fact, he made the cut by one stroke and they had to call him back. Fortunately for the sponsors, perhaps less fortunately for Faldo, you can't get very far very quickly on the M25.

Blast from the past

WHEN PETER ALLISS and Alex Hay, commentating on the Masters, compared Augusta National's manicured masterpiece with Woburn, viewers were left shell- shocked. More specifically, Augusta reminded Alliss and Hay of Woburn's new course, the Marquess.The fact that Alliss designed it and Hay, at the time, was managing director of Woburn, is entirely coincidental.

According to Eddie Bullock, the new MD at Woburn, the Marquess, which opens next year, is indeed worthy of inclusion in Shell's Wonderful World Of Golf, particularly after the events of last week. Ground staff clearing a ditch unearthed a total of 62 mortar and mustard bombs. Work was halted on the course while police, bomb disposal units and finally the Royal Engineers cleared the site. It is as well the explosives were found now for Woburn, which hosts the British Ladies Open and the British Masters later in the summer, could have been hoist by its own petard. "They're British bombs from the Second World War," Bullock said. "The Home Guard were in the area and we think they just left them when the war ended." The bombs were found near the 17th hole. "We think we might call it "Bombs Away" or the "Mortar Hole," added Bullock.

End of the Pia show

IN THE cut-throat world of professional golf, the female of the species are proving themselves as adept as the men in putting in, if not the stiletto, then the stiletto heel. Not content with ditching Sunningdale as venue for the Solheim Cup next year (Loch Lomond came in with a better offer), the Ladies European Tour has also discarded Pia Nilsson. "It hurts," Nilsson said, on learning that she has been replaced as Europe's captain by the Scot Dale Reid for the match against the United States. "I'm disappointed with the players and officials."

Nilsson, Sweden's senior head coach, was in charge when Europe were beaten 16-12 by America last year. Laura Davies compared Europe's Cup approach to a "Swedish junior training camp". Nilsson, who had organised team competitions in a bid to develop spirit, said: "The Swedes were fine but obviously the British players didn't have the same trust. There was no communication from the Tour and no feedback." When it suits the ladies, mum's the word.

Flights of fantasy

GLASGOW IS promoted as one of the gateways to golf in Scotland, but getting a weekend flight from London that costs less than a set of Wilson Fat Shafts is harder than hitting a one iron. A group of golfers who had an assignation at Loch Lomond (not something to be given up lightly) discovered that to fly from Heathrow to Glasgow on a Sunday morning with British Midland would cost pounds 248 return.

However, if they flew on Saturday night the fare was pounds 73 return. Even allowing for a night in the Glasgow airport Post House, the saving would be considerable. The quote from the hotel for a single room for one night without breakfast was pounds 39. With breakfast it was actually reduced to pounds 35. Don't ask. Take the car.

In bloom at last

FINALLY, LET'S hear it for Justin Rose, the boy wonder who had people wondering whether the boy was ever going to make it. Yesterday morning Rose shot 71 in the rain-delayed second round of the Austrian Open to end 11 months of purgatory. Last July, the 17-year-old Rose finished fourth in the Open, turned professional and missed 20 cuts in a row. In the Austrian Open, his first event on the Challenge Tour, Rose opened with a 64. No matter that the money is small, and the course short, Rose has made the cut.

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