GOLF / Faldo rebuffs Norman's `world tour' advances

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This is better than any lottery. The winner of the Johnnie Walker World Championship at the Tryall Club will receive $550,000 (£366,000) and the player who finishes last in the select field of 24 will take home $52,000 (£34,000), more than enough to buy a few goodies for the base of the Christmas tree.

The timing of this jamboree in Jamaica does not, however, appeal to everybody. Greg Norman, the world No 2, has missed the event to spend some time with his family, and Jose Maria Olazabal, ranked No 5, is shooting small birds near his home in Spain.

Qualification for this tournament is achieved by winning selected events during the course of the year. Carl Mason, for example, makes his debut here, courtesy of his victory in the Bell's Scottish Open at Gleneagles.

Norman and Olazabal both qualified but not for the first time they have mutineered, despite the bounty on offer. Nick Price, the world No 1 and the winner this year of the Open Championship and the US PGA, qualified for this championship on three counts and had he not agreed to play here it would have been a serious blow to the credibility of the "World Championship".

This is the fourth staging of the event and the first time Price has made an appearance. Earlier in the year he said he would be spending this week at home in Florida, but somebody somewhere has made him an offer he couldn't refuse. Price, who will play with Colin Montgomerie, the European No 1 in the first round today, sounded as if he was already beginning to regret his decision to travel to the West Indies. He flew to Montego Bay from Zimbabwe and during the 21- hour journey he caught a cold. He spent the weekend in bed.

"The hard work has been done for the year and anything now is a bonus," Price said. "I am going to try, obviously. But if I don't play well I'm not going to lose any sleep. I'm going to have some fun." He lists his interests as water skiing, tennis, fishing and flying, and he could accommodate all of them here and also get in a little golf.

Nick Faldo, who won this championship two years ago, got in this time through the back door. He did not win any of the nominated events but received an invitation on the basis of his world ranking which is three. After a comparatively poor year Faldo, once the clear leader at the top of the rankings, dropped to fourth place but rallied with a victory in the $1m (£666,000) Challenge in Sun City two weeks ago. Prior to that he would have won the Dunhill Masters in Bali, where he was six strokes in front with six holes to play and was disqualified for removing a piece of coral from a bunker.

" For me 1994 ended on 1 December," Faldo said, so presumably he is here just for the money. In September, during the Lancome Trophy in Paris, Faldo confirmed that he would be joining the US Tour next year. Almost beside himself with rage he said the principal reason for his decision was the treatment he had received in the British press. He criticised conditions in Europe and was in turn criticised by other players.

Yesterday Faldo changed his tune. The reason he was going to America, he said, was continuity. "This season I wanted to have a so-called easy year and it didn't work. I got my schedule wrong and took a break when everyone else was playing. You learn fromyour mistakes.

"Next year my season will be from January to December. It is a new experiment and golf is getting my full commitment. The main goal is continuity and the whole idea is to win some majors."

When he arrived in Montego Bay Faldo received a missive from the Greg Norman camp outlining the Australian's plans for a proposed "world tour". Faldo dismissed it. "What world tour?" he said. "It's not going to happen. There is nothing concrete at all and the proposals have not been thought out. I haven't got the time to go rushing around the world and play somewhere else. Nothing makes sense.

"If Greg had got the support of the leading players before making an announcement it would have made a bigger impact but he never spoke to anybody. The first approach I've had was when something was shoved under my door this week."

In the first round Faldo is paired with Seve Ballesteros who tried, in vain, to persuade Olazabal to play here. The event is the nearest thing to Norman's grand plan and yet he is also conspicuous by his absence.