Golf: Faldo fires latest shots in Tour war: Threat of an exodus next year to the United States over state of European courses dominates the first round of the British Masters

Click to follow
NICK FALDO held his palms out, less an invitation to read them than the age-old demonstration that there was no Derringer or ace up his sleeve. 'In this game,' Faldo declared, 'nobody gives you anything. It's all in your hands.' His was the latest shot in the hand- wringing that has recently taken place in the heated debate over the state of the European Tour.

Faldo was not strictly accurate. He, and others of his stature, are given things, like large amounts of money to play in selected tournaments. He admitted that, but for the presence of appearance money, he would probably have played in America - where prize money was triple that in Europe - 15 years ago. To briefly recap, the first whiff of sour grapeshot came from Seve Ballesteros in Munich last month, when officials dared to put the stop-watch on him. That triggered a general attack on the Tour which last week became the target of both barrels when Ballesteros learned that he had been omitted from the World Match Play Championship at Wentworth next month. He claimed the Tour was in the hands of Mark McCormack's IMG.

This prompted a defence by the Tour's executive director, Ken Schofield, which was followed here this week by a critique from Faldo who said, basically, that the condition of the courses in Europe were so poor that he would probably join the US Tour next year.

In turn, Mark James, on behalf of the masses who get by without appearance money, accused the elite of being 'dominated by money to a ridiculous degree'.

On Thursday morning, when play in the Dunhill British Masters had been washed out, James reacted after reading Faldo's comments in the newspapers.

Yesterday morning, Faldo, before going out to play the first round, read James's remarks and whether or not he recognised traces of egg as he gazed in the bathroom mirror, he came into the press tent for a right of reply.

'I've been on the tour for 19 years and I don't want sensational improvements in 10 years time,' Faldo said. 'By then I'll be fishing. I would love some results in the next two or three years.'

Faldo, who scored 71 despite a double-bogey 6 at the sixth, responded to James by saying: 'I don't like his remarks. I think I am putting a fair share back into golf. Mark got the wrong end of the stick. All I was trying to get at was that there's not been the same improvement in golf courses here that there has been in America.'

This coming and going represents an extraordinary departure from the normal state of affairs: James and Faldo, who usually regard the press tent as out of bounds, have almost taken out National Union of Journalists' membership.

The tournament got under way a day late - the ground staff worked almost 24 hours and Woburn's sand base provided the blotting paper - and Ballesteros shot a 69, three under par and not a bogey in sight.

He used words like steady, solid and boring. 'Would I take 69 every day? Sure.' However, he soon joined the Faldo bandwagon on the question of America. 'He thinks very much the way I think,' Ballesteros said. 'The biggest problem in Europe is the condition of the courses.'

With Faldo leading the exodus west next year, Ballesteros pointed out that this could present Bernard Gallacher, Europe's Ryder Cup captain, with a few problems in that the creme de la creme may not earn enough to qualify on merit for the match in Rochester, New York.

Ballesteros is two strokes off the lead held jointly by the Englishmen, Andrew Murray and Martin Gates, the American, Steven Bowman and the South African, Ian Palmer. Another South African, Ernie Els, is at four under. 'It was tough,' the US Open champion said. 'The course was playing very long.' This would suit the game of Els who was under pressure to play this week in the inaugural President's Cup, a Ryder Cup style (an imperfect fake) contest between an international team and America.

'I was always going to play here,' Els said. 'There'll be more President's Cups.' Els was always going to play here because Dunhill is owned by a South African company. Els is another who is committing himself to the US Tour next year, where he will play 17 tournaments compared to five in Europe.

'I'd like to play all over the world,' he said, 'but it's not possible. The European Tour has been wonderful for my golf but I like the way they set up the courses in America. It's also warmer.' Els added: 'The guys here are a lot more relaxed. I'll miss that.' They don't have pint measures on the US Tour.

DUNHILL BRITISH MASTERS (Woburn) First round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 67 I Palmer (SA), A Murray, M Gates, S Bowman (US). 68 E Els (SA), P Walton. 69 G Orr, P McGinley, S Ballesteros (Sp). 70 M Davis, S Torrance, B Lane, R Boxall, A Oldcorn, M Miller. 71 J M Olazabal (Sp), V Fernandez (Arg), I Woosnam, M Mouland, M James, M A Martin (Sp), S Tinning (Den), R Drummond, N Faldo, B Langer (Ger), D Cooper, E O'Connell, D Ray, D W Basson (SA), H Clark, R Goosen (SA), R Chapman, G Levenson (SA), A Binaghi (It), J Robinson, R Wessels (SA). 72 D Gilford, A Gillner (Swe), J Hawkes (SA), S Ames (Trin), C Montgomerie, P Baker, C O'Connor Jnr, E Romero (Arg), P Lawrie, S Luna (Sp), B Gallacher, P Way, G Turner (NZ), J Van de Velde (Fr), J Haeggman (Swe), P Curry. 73 P Teravainen (US), J Bland (SA), P Price, K Eriksson (Swe), M Sunesson (Swe), M Clayton (Aus), R Rafferty, M McLean, P Eales, S McAllister, M Harwood (Aus), J Lomas, A Sorensen (Den). 74 D Williams, C Cassells, G J Brand, T Johnstone (Zim), D Clarke, M Pinero (Sp), P O'Malley (Aus), M Farry (Fr), S Struver (Ger), D A Russell, M A Jimenez (Sp), S Grappasonni (It), J Rivero (Sp), J Coceres (Arg), M Roe, R Davis (Aus), E Darcy, P Mitchell, R Claydon, J M Carriles (Sp), F Regard (Fr), P Mayo. 75 J Rystrom (Swe), A Bossert (Swit), P Fulke (Swe), C Davison, A Hunter, D Curry, S Lyle, C Rocca (It), S Richardson, J Hobday (SA), F Lindgren (Swe). 76 W Westner (SA), C Mason, D Smyth, D J Russell, D Hospital (Sp), D R Jones, J M Canizares (Sp), M Mackenzie, S Van Vuuren (SA), R Berhorst (Ger). 78 I Pyman, J McHenry, W Riley (Aus), P Fowler (Aus), R Karlsson (Swe). 79 B Marchbank, G Brand Jnr. 80 N Henning (SA). 81 J Spence, A Sherborne. 83 J L Guepy (Fr). Retired: J Townsend (US). Withdrew: I Pyman, J Spence, A Sherborne, N Henning (SA).

Comments