Golf: A time it was nearly 'go home James'

Click to follow
The Independent Online
WITH THE European Ryder Cup team already assured of six debutants, the temptation was to go for a couple of old hands, Bernhard Langer or Nick Faldo. In opting for Andrew Coltart, who will also make his debut against the US at Brookline next month, Mark James, the captain, said: "In my experience, experience is over-rated."

In that case, what price James's experience? Had James qualified in the top 10 he would have played and handed over the captaincy to his assistant, Ken Brown, who works for Sky TV. What First Tee wants to know is how James and Brown will react if, heaven forbid, a couple of their rookies start acting like children? For this is how James and Brown behaved when they played in the 1979 match at The Greenbrier, West Virginia.

"They behaved unbelievably stupidly," John Jacobs, who captained the side in a 17-11 defeat, said. "From the word go when they appeared at the airport dressed as though they were going on a camping holiday, they set out to be as disruptive as possible. They didn't stand to attention for the national anthems, they covered their faces at the dinner and wouldn't have their pictures taken with the team."

When James pulled a muscle on the first morning, Jacobs paired Brown with Des Smyth. "Ken didn't talk to anybody. He just hit it and walked up the fairway. I had to apologise to Des in front of the whole team." Tony Jacklin, a member of the team, said that had he been captain he would have sent James and Brown home. "They played pranks that my children would never have played," Jacklin said. "It wasn't just childishness, it was an effort to disrupt everything. They were just like yobs."

Two years later Jacklin and Seve Ballesteros were omitted from the team that got hammered at Walton Heath. To make matters worse, Jacobs chose James. Of course, Jesse, as James is known on tour, and Brown have developed into veritable elder statesmen since then and doubtless they will have learnt from the experience.

An allowance for taste?

THE WIVES of the captains play an active back-stage role during the Ryder Cup and Jane James, Mark's formidable wife, has already made her presence felt. It is understood she was less than enamoured with the outfits being prepared for the players' wives and girlfriends and decided instead that it was every woman for herself. Whereas the partners of the American players will be seen en masse sporting red, white and blue or a variation of the stars and stripes, the European ladies have the choice of wearing something suitable from their own wardrobe. This prompted the wife of one of Europe's biggest earners to ask if, in that case, they would be receiving a clothing allowance. At least it makes a change from the players whingeing about not being paid to play.

On your Nike, Tiger

WHEN TIGER WOODS wakes up in the morning he has no decision to make about what to wear. He can't move in his bedroom for Nike gear. When he turned professional he signed a five-year contract with the company for $40m. Earlier this week he put his name to a fresh deal worth $90m and, with huge appearance fees and on-course earnings, the 21-year-old is well on the way to becoming golf's first billionaire. However Titleist, who paid him $4m a year to play their golf ball, have reduced it to $2m. They weren't happy with their TV commercials, which showed Woods wearing a Nike cap and shirt. Titleist felt the advertisements created the impression that Woods was endorsing a Nike ball. Woods has profited from the conflict between the two sponsors because it led to the restructuring of the Nike contract. "This way there are no lawsuits and no damage to Tiger, Nike or Titleist," Mark Steinberg, who handles Woods' affairs for IMG, said. And no damage to IMG.

Shirt shrift for the fakers

THE BUCK stops here. Cutter & Buck, one of the leading brands of golf- inspired sportswear, has successfully halted the activities of an international counterfeiting operation based in Italy and Britain. Cutter & Buck first negotiated a settlement agreement with the infringing party, Brand Search International Limited, in England, in which it acknowledged the infringement of trademarks in the UK marketplace and paid an undisclosed amount to resolve the dispute. Cutter & Buck, with the support of the Italian police, then raided a warehouse in Northern Italy. Investigators discovered large quantities of counterfeit Cutter & Buck merchandise, which has been seized.

Cutter & Buck, which is based in Seattle and has offices in Newcastle, suspects more than 10,000 counterfeits of one of its most popular shirts were produced in either Asia or Eastern Europe and sent for sale throughout Europe. They first started to show up in discount retailers in England, including Nevada Bob's. Had the counterfeiters called the shirts Butter and Cuck they might have got away with it.

Christophe's off course

JEAN VAN DE VELDE, whose triple-bogey seven at the last hole cost him the Open, has split from his French caddie. However, Christophe Angiolini, who, in some quarters, unfairly carried the can for Van de Velde's failure at the Open, has not been retrospectively blamed by his employer for the spectacular denouement in Scotland.

"It has nothing to do with what happened at the Open," Jamie Cunningham, Van de Velde's manager, said. "It's a combination of things. Since the Open, Christophe's caddying has not been completely professional. His appearance has got worse and in America he's had problems with the language. Maybe he was affected more by what happened at Carnoustie."

On the practice range, Van de Velde did not appreciate Christophe's attempts at doing impressions of Tiger Woods hitting a sand wedge but the final straw came in the BMW International Open in Munich last week. At a par four in the third round, Christophe handed Van de Velde a five iron instead of a three iron, the Frenchman's ball found a hazard, 50 yards short of the green and he finished with a nine.

There will be no excuses for the new bagman, Graham Heindrich, when the pair team up for the Ryder Cup. Heindrich, who has caddied for Nick Faldo and Greg Norman, produces yardage charts which he sells to caddies on the European tour.