Golf: Europe attacks exclusion zone

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The Independent Online
THE biggest handicap facing the European Ryder Cup team this year will be prohibition in America. Not that Bill Clinton is thinking of turning the clock back, but the fact that the majority of the EC's finest cannot find a market in the United States.

Three of the four major championships are held in America, which explains why the fields are predominantly American. The explanation continues to confound Ken Schofield, the executive director of the European Tour, and at a Ryder Cup press conference at Wentworth yesterday he emphasised the anomaly that exists between the two tours.

Many Americans will play in the Open Championship at Royal St George's in Kent, which is sandwiched between the US Open and the US PGA Championship. Apart from the high-fliers, neither of those events will see many European faces. Nor will the Masters at Augusta in April.

In Georgia, out of an invited field of less than 90 competitors, Europe has six automatic representatives: five former champions in Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle, Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam, plus Colin Montgomerie who gets in by virtue of his third-place finish in the US Open at Pebble Beach last summer. There are only three invitees: Jose-Maria Olazabal, Tony Johnstone and Anders Forsbrand.

'A maximum of two-thirds of our Ryder Cup team will play in three of the four big tournaments,' Schofield said. 'It means four of our team will not have had the pressure of playing in the Masters, the US Open or the US PGA, whereas probably every member of the American team will play in all four major championships. That is the major problem in European golf. It is a dreadful negative.'

Schofield added that several leading Australian players, who have prospered on the European Tour, have switched to the American circuit because it offers more opportunities of competing in major championships.

Bernard Gallacher, the captain of Europe, who play the United States in the Ryder Cup at The Belfry in September, said he and Tom Watson, the American captain, had been in discussion on several issues - including the increase in hype.

'I've warned my players about over-reacting,' Gallacher said, 'but I don't think it's my problem, more theirs. I wouldn't like to hear our team being chanted on to the greens. There's no place for that.'

Gallacher, who succeeded Tony Jacklin after the tied match at The Belfry in 1989, was referring not so much to that occasion as the 'war on the shore' at Kiawah Island in South Carolina two years ago. 'Some of their players were really wound up and they exploded on the course,' Gallacher said. 'Their antics made their supporters around the greens more vociferous. Watson wants to see the competition go back to a more gentlemanly arrangement. It is up to the Americans to do that.'

John Daly, the former PGA champion, will return to the US Tour in the Phoenix Open next week, his agent announced yesterday. Daly underwent a month of alcohol rehabilitation treatment after he was arrested on charges arising from an incident at a holiday party at his home in Castle Rock, Colorado, in December.