Golf: Elite pass up the bucks

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The Independent Online
THE scenario here is hard to stomach. Murphy's put up pounds 550,000 in prize money with pounds 91,660 to the winner. The Belfry, at the heart of England, is the venue for next year's Ryder Cup but none of the players who are expected to form the heart of the European team could be bothered to support this tournament.

Next week Ian Woosnam, Sandy Lyle, Bernhard Langer and Seve Ballesteros will travel halfway up the Swiss Alps to play in the European Masters at Crans- sur-Sierre. The day before the championship starts they will play in an abbreviated form of knock-out golf called a shoot-out for which they will be handsomely rewarded by Canon, the sponsors. It is a form of appearance money.

Appearance money, per se, is proscribed by the European Tour and this week Murphy's, toeing the official line, did not brandish the cheque book. At least not officially. The Tour and the sponsors were painfully aware that the cupboard was bare. In addition to the above four, Nick Faldo and Jose-Maria Olazabal were also absent.

Ken Schofield, the executive director of the Tour, went out of his way in Germany last week to make a personal plea to Woosnam to play at The Belfry. Schofield, who does not do this often, was rebuffed and it came as something of a shock to the system. Woosnam's price was, is, dollars 95,000 (pounds 50,000). Murphy's, unofficially, of course, were prepared to compromise. They might have gone to dollars 75,000 but Woosnam would not budge.

The show, of course, goes on and a healthy crowd - a record for the first round of this championship - watched the play yesterday. The going was heavy underfoot, for the spectators and the players. A 37-ton Murphy's trailer, containing Irish stout, sunk into the tarmac in one of the car parks. At 7,276 yards, the Brabazon course is a long, hard slog and a strong wind made life even more difficult.

The vast majority of the field failed to break par and the outstanding exception was Rodger Davis. Davis, who won the English Classic at The Belfry in 1981, has been bedevilled by putting problems. He adopted the Langer method (right hand above left). 'I told my caddie that if it didn't work I would try the broomstick putter and if that didn't work I would take four months off,' Davis said. He finished with a 67 to stand at five under par, two strokes clear of six others.

The Australian started at the 10th hole and took three putts from from 20 feet for a bogey five. It was his only dropped shot. From the 17th he had five birdies in a row. The 18th, the Brabazon's signature hole which has produced some bloodcurdling results in the Ryder Cup, held no terrors for Davis. He smacked a drive over the water and then hit a three-iron to 18 feet and rolled in the putt.

He went out in 35 and came back in 32, making putts for birdies from 15 feet at the first, 15 feet at the second, 10 feet at the third and 12 feet at the fifth. However, even he could not birdie the ninth. It is one of the holes that has been remodelled by Dave Thomas, the course designer.

Normally the par four of 433 yards is tackled with a drive and an approach to the green with a nine-iron or even a wedge. Yesterday they had to whack it in with a three or four-iron. Still, the Langer method obviously worked for Davis. The great pity is that Langer himself is not here to demonstrate it.

After playing in the English Open yesterday, Tony Jacklin was informed that his mother had died. Jacklin, the former Open and US Open champion, said he would play in the second round today. He shot 82 in the first round.

MURPHY'S ENGLISH OPEN (The Belfry) Leading first-round scores (GB or Ire unless stated): 67 R Davis (Aus). 69 M Poxon, P Broadhurst, F Lindgren (Swe), V Fernandez (Arg), M Roe, J Rystrom (Swe). 70 L Tinkler (Aus), B Lane, S Grappasonni (Italy), S Bowman (US), A Murray, S McAllister, G Evans, J Haeggman (Swe). 71 P Smith, J Van de Velde (Fr), C Montgomerie, G Cali (It), M McLean, P- U Johansson (Swe), K Waters, S Bennett, B Malley (US). 72 J Coceres (Arg), M Hallberg (Swe), J Townsend (US), P McGinley, P Lonard (Aus), D R Jones, J McHenry, E Darcy, J Bland (SA), D Smyth, M Davis, D Gilford, C Williams, R Chapman, B Ogle (Aus), P Price, C Rocca (It), K Dickens, C Moody. 73 D Mijovic (Can), C Van der Velde (Neth), A Binaghi (It), M Miller, R Claydon, V Singh (Fiji), H Clark, A Hunter, S Hamill, M Clayton (Aus), T Charnley, S Luna (Sp), M Mackenzie, J Parnevik (Swe), G Ralph. 74 P Hall, M Pinero (Sp), A Sorensen (Den), T Levet (Fra), D Curry, R Rafferty, M James, B Gallacher, A Sherborne, J Robinson, G Turner (NZ), P Way, R Hartmann (US), W Westner (SA), K Trimble (Aus), J Rutledge (Can), M Allen (US), P Fowler (Aus), R Drummond. Selected: 75 S Richardson, G Brand Jnr, S Torrance. 80 D Feherty. 82 T Jacklin.

Davies trails, page 48

(Photograph omitted)

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