Golf: Elite attack new horizons and age-old targets: Tomorrow Europe, then the world. Tim Glover reports on the Tour players following the sun in search of riches and Ryder Cup places

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The Independent Online
THERE was little danger of the clubs gathering dust or even of the tan fading. The Volvo European Tour, planned by cartographers who follow the sun with the determination of a heat-seeking missile, begins tomorrow in Madeira and by the time it runs its course in November the millionaires' club will be down to two a penny.

From Madeira the caravan takes the road to Morocco and then a camel train into the desert for the Dubai Classic. It is the same venue for the tournament in the Gulf but a different promoter following allegations of massive financial impropriety. The sheikhs have taken legal action to recover sums from contractors that, in one case, amounted to dollars 100m (about pounds 67.5m).

The big guns start loading at the beginning of February for the Johnnie Walker Classic at the Blue Canyon Country Club on the island of Phuket in Thailand. At Blue Canyon are the five top players in the world rankings: Nick Faldo, Greg Norman, Bernhard Langer, Nick Price, and Fred Couples. Norman and Price won so much money last year they could afford to turn their noses up at the Johnnie Walker World Championship in Jamaica before Christmas. IMG, which runs Johnnie Walker's tournaments, says Norman and Price will play in Phuket. It must be the old school Thai.

Faldo defends the title he won in Singapore 12 months ago when Colin Montgomerie had to be content with second place. Whereas Faldo's season in most other respects was unrequited, Big Monty won the Volvo Masters at Valderrama in November, thereby securing his place as No 1 in Europe. Montgomerie finished 52nd in the Order of Merit in 1988 (Rookie of the Year), 25th in 89, 14th in 90, fourth in 91, third in 92. In the world rankings he has gone from nowhere to 15th. 'My goal is to get into the top 10,' he said. 'Winning the Volvo Masters was the highlight. I've never had to make par down the last for a quarter of a million pounds before.'

As Europe's No 1 Montgomerie, who began last year by being fined for criticising an event in Morocco, should have a major tilt at the big four, the Masters at Augusta, the US Open at Oakmont, Pennsylvania, the Open at Turnberry and the US PGA Championship at Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Langer won the Masters, slipping the Green Jacket on for a second time. 'I had waited a long time,' Langer said. 'But I know that when I'm playing my best golf I can win anywhere in the world.' Langer hurt his neck just before the US Open and the injury stayed with him for three months. 'I wonder what I might have achieved had I been fully fit,' he said. He also wonders what might have happened in the Open at Royal St George's where he was going head- to-head with Norman until they arrived on the 14th tee in the final round. 'I had used an iron for three rounds off the tee but on the last day I felt I had to take a chance. I wasn't playing for second or third.' Langer hit a driver out of bounds and from that point was playing for second or third.

For the first time the Tour steps into the former Eastern bloc for the Mercedes German Masters at the Motzener See course in Berlin. In countryside south of the city, in what was East Germany, the course has been open for 15 months. 'It is probably the best in Germany,' Langer said. He owns and stages the event in partnership with IMG.

A new tournament, a rarity in that it is not a Mark McCormack creation, is the Gene Sarazen World Open Championship. It will be played at the Legends course at Chateau Elan in Georgia in November. The past two winners of all national open championships will be invited and, with prize-money of dollars 1.9m, offers the opportunity for the haves to have some more.

It may be a non-Ryder Cup year but there is no escaping Sam's biennial bash. The qualifying process for the United States team has already begun - Phil Mickelson has a head start - and will last for 20 months. Although the 31st Ryder Cup match, at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York, is not until September 1995, all 34 corporate hospitality chalets have been sold.

Lanny Wadkins, the successor to Tom Watson who led the US to victory over Europe at The Belfry last September, is talking about becoming the first American playing captain since Arnold Palmer in 1963. 'Hey, this is my baby,' Wadkins said, when he posed with the Ryder Cup in Florida. 'I'm planning on keeping this as long as I can.' Europe's countdown begins with the European Masters in September and next year, for the first time, performances in the three American majors will count. Earnings by a European will be converted from dollars to pounds, at the exchange rate on the first day of each championship.

As for the 1997 venue that will be announced before the Tour hits its first ball in Britain in May. We know it is Spain and Valderrama has long been the leader in the clubhouse. However, now that Seve Ballesteros has been appointed to the Ryder Cup committee the cause of Novo Sancti Petri in Cadiz will be championed. Ballesteros designed the course.

This season Sky gets wider coverage of the Tour but not everybody is convinced it is a good thing. 'Probably the best way to kill the commercial value of any sports event is to ensure it gets no television exposure,' Stephen Proctor, managing director of Sports Marketing Surveys, argues. 'Isn't it strange then that many events are going a long way down this road by selling exclusive TV rights to satellite channels with very restricted reach. For the satellite companies the high rights fees are justifiable to try and promote subscriptions but when they have achieved their targets, or if they fail to achieve them, what will the rights be worth? In the meantime, the event itself becomes forgotten, attendances may drop and sponsorship rights decline.'


Jan 13-16 Madeira Island Open, Santo da Serra; 20-23 Moroccan Open, Agadir; 27-30 Dubai Desert Classic, United Arab Emirates. Feb 3-6 Johnnie Walker Classic, Blue Canyon, Phuket, Thailand; 10-13 Turespana-Open de Canaries, Golf del Sur, Tenerife; 17-30 Extremadura Open, Guadiana, Badajoz; 24-27 Turespana Masters-Open de Andalucia, to be arranged.

Mar 3-6 Turespana Open Mediterrania, Vila Martin, Torrevieja; 10-13 Turespana Balearic Open, Majorca; 17-20 Portuguese Open, Penha Longa, Linho, Sintra; 24-27 Kronenbourg Open, Gardagolf, nr Verona, Italy. Apr 1-4 Open V33 du Grand Lyon, Villette d'Anthon, Lyon; 14-17 Rome Masters, Castelgandolfo, Rome; 21-24 Heineken Catalan Open, Pals, nr Girona, Spain; 28-May 1 Air France Cannes Open, Cannes-Mougins. May 5-8 Benson and Hedges International Open, St Mellion, Cornwall; 12-15 Peugeot Spanish Open, tba; 19-22 Italian Open, Marco Simone, nr Rome; 27-30 Volvo PGA championship, Wentworth.

June 2-5 Alfred Dunhill Open, Royal Zoute, Knokke, Belgium; 9-12 Honda Open, Gut Kaden, nr Hamburg, Germany; 16-19 Jersey European Airways Open, La Moye; 23-26 Peugeot French Open, National, Paris; 30-July 3 Carrolls Irish Open, Mount Juliet, Co Kilkenny.

July 6-9 Bell's Scottish Open, Gleneagles Hotel; 14-17 Open Championship, Turnberry; 21-24 Heineken Dutch Open, Hilversum; 28-31 Scandinavian Masters, Drottingholm, Stockholm.

Aug 4-7 BMW International, tba; 11-14 Hohe Brucke Austrian Open, tba; 18-21 Murphy's English Open, Forest of Arden; 25-28 Volvo German Open, Hubbelrath, nr Dusseldorf.

Sep 1-4 Canon European Masters, Crans-sur- Sierre, Switzerland; 8-11 European Open, East Sussex National, Uckfield; 15-18 Dunhill British Masters, Woburn; 22-25 Lancome Trophy, St Nom la Breteche, Paris; 29-Oct 2 Mercedes German Masters, Motzenerz See, Berlin. Oct 6-9 Alfred Dunhill Cup, St Andrews; 13-16 Toyota World Match Play, Wentworth; 20-23 Madrid Open, Puerta de Hierro; 27-30 Volvo Masters, Valderrama.

Nov 10-13 World Cup by Heineken, tba.

Dec 15-18 Johnnie Walker World Championship, tba.