Golf: Ballesteros joins party and heads for the show: Spaniard arrives at Lancome Trophy in anticipation of invitation for World Match Play as Scottish course receives go-ahead

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The Independent Online
IT was a high-powered four-ball all right, but they are not getting any younger and perhaps it was just as well that the pro-am was reduced from 18 holes to six. Mark McCormack can fix most things but not the weather and fog threw a blanket over the party.

McCormack, president of the International Management Group, was playing with Arnold Palmer, the man who helped to create Big Mac's empire 35 years ago, Gaetan Mourgue d'Algue, who devised the Lancome Trophy and sold it to IMG, and Philippe Dailey, the president of the golf club here. The pro-am was restricted to holes 1,2,3,7,8 and 9 and it was at the ninth that McCormack was showing signs of fatigue.

He spooned his drive and the ball floated no more than 60 yards. 'I got under that one,' McCormack lamented. Palmer, who is 65, looked in rude health compared with McCormack, 63, whose swing was rusty not to mention rustic.

This is the 25th anniversary of the Lancome Trophy and to celebrate, Palmer, Lee Trevino and Gary Player have been invited to join the select field of 69. Seve Ballesteros, who has won the title four times and has been runner-up four times, has also deigned to play. When the smouldering Spaniard learned two weeks ago that McCormack had not invited him to the World Match Play Championship at Wentworth next month he said he may not play here.

On Tuesday evening, when they assembled the star cast at a dinner, a photocall was arranged and

McCormack was thrust into the heart of the gathering. He found himself standing next to Ballesteros who has recently been critical of IMG, accusing the management group of having an unhealthy influence on the European Tour.

However, the withdrawal of John Daly from the World Match Play gives McCormack the chance to put Ballesteros back in the picture. 'I would like to play,' Ballesteros said, 'but I haven't heard anything yet.' It seems in

conceivable that Ballesteros, who has won the World Match Play five times, equalling the record of Player, will not get the call. His omission in the first place made no sense whatsoever.

'It is obvious that Mark McCormack and IMG favour their own clients,' Ballesteros said. 'Maybe I will have to sign with him to get in the Match Play in future.' Ballesteros was runner-up last week to Ian Woosnam in the Dunhill British Masters at Woburn and the Welshman is the defending champion here. Ballesteros's aim is to accrue as many Ryder Cup points as possible before the end of the year for he does not plan to participate in the European Tour next season, with the exception of the Johnnie Walker Asian Classic, before the Benson and Hedges International in May. Last year Ballesteros did not qualify for the Ryder Cup team and was chosen by the captain, Bernard Gallacher.

'I don't want to leave myself in that position again,' Ballesteros said. 'The world is full of surprises so it is better to be in the team by right.' Nevertheless he will miss most of the early season tournaments in his home country and instead will keep Nick Faldo company in America. Last week Faldo was critical of the courses in Europe and yesterday Ballesteros supported him. 'He probably did not say it the right way but others got it wrong,' Ballesteros said.

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