Golf: Charitable Faldo agrees to play for a song

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The Independent Online


reports from Carnoustie

In the field of public relations, Nick Faldo is about to lap Greg Norman. Last week poor old Norman took some stick for receiving about pounds 250,000 from Murphy's for promoting Irish stout and, incidentally, playing in the Irish Open. Faldo gave it a miss.

For the Scottish Open, which starts here today, Faldo plays, Norman does not and, for the first time in his career, the Englishman has waived his customary appearance fee. Instead Faldo struck a deal with Alan Callan, the chairman of Scottish Open Championship Ltd. "I agreed to play here if they contributed a significant sum to charity," Faldo said.

The charity in question is the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy, a form of treatment for people who are isolated through disability or illness. Callan has connections in the music industry and once ran a record company that promoted Led Zeppelin.

The Scottish Open has undergone a sea change, losing its title sponsor Bell's, moving from Gleneagles to Carnoustie and switching television coverage from BBC Scotland to Sky. "Appearance money is not something we are prepared to pay," Callan said although he admitted that in certain cases airline tickets and hotel bills would be met.

The significant sum referred to by Faldo will, he hopes, be a minimum of pounds 30,000. The idea is for Faldo to present the cheque to a member of the Dire Straits band here on Saturday. If the wind continues to blow, Faldo, who launched the Nick Faldo Charitable Trust with the first prize of pounds 100,000 when he won the World Matchplay at Wentworth in 1989, can see a lot of the players heading for dire straits.

"It's a tough brute," Faldo said, "especially in a strong wind. The back nine is playing so long." After hitting a driver at some holes Faldo called it a day after playing the 16th. "It's a great course," he said, "but it wore me out."

For reasons more to do with off course than on, Carnoustie fell out of favour as an Open Championship venue but is now restored to the Royal and Ancient's rota and will host the Open in 1999. Before this week Faldo, three times the Open champion, had never played Carnoustie although, as he said, he has good memories of the course. When the Open was last held here in 1975 - it was won by Tom Watson - Faldo, then 17, attempted to qualify. He had the services of the veteran Scottish caddie, Willie Aitchison, who promised him that if he got through he would get him a game with Lee Trevino, then Aitchison's main employer.

"I missed qualifying by two strokes," Faldo said, "but I got to walk around Carnoustie next to Trevino's bag. He played two and a half rounds before missing a green. He was quite something then."

The Scottish Open, coming as it does the week before the Open at St Andrews, and the fact that it is being held on a classic links, has attracted some of the world's leading professionals and amateurs including Ben Crenshaw, the Masters champion, and Tiger Woods, the American amateur sensation. There were 22 invitations on offer for which there were 68 applications. However, Watson, who was deliberately targeted, did not reply to his invitation.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Open, which will switch between the east and west coasts in the next few years, intends to build its own course, possibly beginning in the year 2000. "The Scottish Open Club will be our new national home," Callan said.

n Another possible row over Greg Norman's appearance fees was apparently avoided when organisers for next February's South Australian Open refused to confirm or deny reports that the world's No 1 would receive the same amount as the purse for the entire field - A$300,000 (pounds 137,000).