Golf: Gravy train may be growing too rich: As golf's ever-expanding European Tour gets underway, the jostling for Ryder Cup places begins. Tim Glover reports

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The Independent Online
THE European Tour begins the new year tomorrow by taking in a glass of fortified wine on the Portuguese island of Madeira and will finish on a global scale, probably in Jamaica, with the Johnnie Walker World Championship just before Christmas. A rum cove indeed. In between, it will visit the Middle East, the Far East and Africa as well as offering a well- heeled hitch-hiker's guide to many of Europe's finest watering holes.

It is, of course, longer than ever and richer than ever. Since 1971, when there were 19 events with average prize money of pounds 10,450, the Tour boasts a growth rate of 4,410 per cent. It has, as the man said, got everything: wit, colour, boredom, the lot. Even the earthworm. Not everybody is satisfied. Seve Ballesteros, whose swashbuckling victories in the major championships provided the Tour with a launch pad, wants less haste, less speed.

'In the middle 1970s the Tour lasted no longer than six months,' Ballesteros said. 'Now it's a one- year schedule. I think this is wrong. We need quality not quantity. European tournaments should only be played in Europe. Before, it was like a group of friends. Now it's big business and I don't like it. It's not Europe any more. In America they have such a long schedule they do not have stars any more. Europe is becoming more like the US Tour. That is why I believe it will be the death of the European superstars and a shorter golfing life for the players.'

To Ken Schofield, the executive director, and the increasing number of players who want a ticket to ride on the gravy train, Ballesteros's comments will make no sense. Even the player who finished 137th in the Volvo Order of Merit last year won more than pounds 30,000. Ballesteros and the other multi-millionaires plan their schedules not just around the big tournaments but on what sponsors will pay to get them there.

Schofield reckons that Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam would not have competed in more than 50 tournaments between them in the last three seasons. And when they complain of tiredness they can be reminded that nobody forced them to make a couple of flying visits to Japan or Sun City to boost their fortunes.

In any case, this year is different. This is Ryder Cup year and therefore a time for Ballesteros to begin swashing his buckle. A horrible year ended with him finishing stone cold last in Montego Bay. He must be hoping there is a pattern to all this. In 1991, when he was the player of the year, he was outstanding in Europe's 14 1/2 -13 1/2 defeat to the United States at Kiawah Island. That season, Faldo was so subdued he did not qualify for the team and Bernard Gallacher, the captain of Europe, was forced, prematurely, to pick him. Yet in 1992, Faldo set new standards.

The sight of the Stars and Stripes is like a red rag to Ballesteros, but he has said that if he does not qualify on merit he does not want to be one of Gallacher's options. 'I'm not at all worried about Seve,' Gallacher said. 'He has reached the point where he obviously has great difficulty getting into the right frame of mind every week, but I'm sure the desire is still there and I'm sure he'll win his way in. He knows what he has to do and he's not the type to sit back.'

Both teams have altered their selection process for the 30th Ryder Cup match, which will be held at The Belfry in September. Europe, who simply work off the money list, extended it by counting tournaments from September 1992, which incorporated several big money events, to the end of August this year. The United States work on a points system from January 1992 to the US PGA Championship, in Toledo, Ohio, in mid-August this year. Points are awarded to players who finish in the top 10 in US Tour events and the revised system gives double points for performances in 1993. For example, the winner of the Phoenix Open last January got 75 points. This month, it will be worth 150 points. They also give more weight to the majors.

The top 10 on the points list qualify for the 12-man team and Tom Watson, the captain, selects two. Gallacher has three wild cards. A number of Europeans staked a claim last autumn and struck it rich. Barry Lane was second in the Piaget Open and then won the German Masters, while Sandy Lyle's victory in the Volvo Masters was worth pounds 110,000 and 110,000 Ryder Cup points. That is 10,000 more than the winner of the Open Championship at Royal St George's will receive in July.

'I wouldn't have thought Lane had a lot more to do to get in the team,' Gallacher said. 'He is reaching a maturity and I expect him to continue to have a good season. It would be great if Lyle makes it and I expect a strong challenge from the Swedes. Tony Jacklin said as much years ago, but this time there's more of them and they're more experienced. I expect the hard core to remain. They're still young.'

By that Gallacher means Faldo, Woosnam, Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer and Jose-Maria Olazabal. Colin Montgomerie and Steven Richardson, who made their Cup debuts at Kiawah, are already well placed.

Gallacher will play in about 20 tournaments this season - 'it's good to get to know the young players' - but he and the hard core will delay their appearance until the Dubai Desert Classic at the end of the month. Ballesteros, who won at the Emirates GC last year, defends his title. If he has the game to do so.

And the earthworm? Its biology and life cycle are being studied by the Sports Turf Research Institute to ensure that the greens for the 122nd Open are free of 'unsightly worm smear effects.'

Players and caddies have been told to smarten up for the start of the European Tour. Greeting them as they arrived for the start of the Madeira Open this week was a notice stating that the wearing of denim jeans at tournament venues this year was banned and that 'this will be enforced.'

RYDER CUP STANDINGS

EUROPE: 1 Barry Lane, England, 219,458.95. 2, Sandy Lyle, Scotland, 172,109.01. 3, Bernhard Langer, Germany, 154,944.34. 4, Colin Montgomerie, Scotland, 150,252.61. 5, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Spain, 138,120.08. 6, Nick Faldo, England, 133,202.50. 7, Jamie Spence, England, 132,670.15. 8, Mark Roe, England, 127,371.27. 9, Steven Richardson, England, 92,088.50. 10, Robert Karlsson, Sweden, 88,512.50. 11, Ian Woosnam, Wales, 85,932.71. 12, Anders Forsbrand, Sweden, 77,200.21. 13, David Feherty, Northern Ireland, 75,010.00. 14, Darren Clarke, Northern Ireland, 74,330.09. 15, Mark James, England, 73,422.41. 16, Christy O'Connor, Jr., Ireland, 17, Jim Payne, England, 69,501.51. 18, Jose Maria Olazabal, Spain, 66,500.00. 19, Jose Rivero, Spain, 65,311.39. 20, Ronan Rafferty, Northern Ireland, 56,241.67. 21, Russell Claydon, England, 48,083.66. 22, Seve Ballesteros, Spain, 47,764.23. 23, Peter Mitchell, England, 47,689.61. 24, Per-Ulrick Johannson, Sweden, 47,069.01. 25, Costantino Rocca, Italy, 44,231.27.

UNITED STATES: 1, John Cook, 657.5. 2, Fred Couples, 635.5. 3, Tom Kite, 530. 4, Davis Love III, 520. 5, Mark O'Meara, 398.75. 6, Corey Pavin, 392.5. 7, Jeff Sluman, 360.83. 8, Paul Azinger, 338.41. 9, Brad Faxon, 323.33. 10, Dan Forsman, 308.833. 11, Raymond Floyd, 307.5. 12, Jim Gallagher, Jr., 297.5. 13, Steve Pate, 280.893. 14, Gene Sauers, 255. 15, Chip Beck, 237.5. 16, Lee Janzen, 227.143. 17, Bruce Lietzke, 222.5. 18, Mark Brooks, 220.893. 19, Tom Lehman, 219.296. 20, Keith Clearwater, 219.166. 21, Duffy Waldorf, 218.334. 22, Jay Haas, 188.333. 23 (tie), John Huston and David Peoples, 187.500. 25, Jeff Maggert, 182.500.

1993 Volvo European Tour

JANUARY: 14-17 Madeira Island Open, Santa Cruz, Funchal. 28-31 Dubai Desert Classic, Emirates, Dubai.

FEBRUARY: 4-7 Johnnie Walker Classic, Singapore Island. 11-14 Turespana Tenerife Open, Golf del Sur. 18-21 Moroccan Open, Royal Dar- es-Salam. 25-28 Turespana Masters, tba.

MARCH: 4-7 Mediterranean Open, El Saler, Valencia. 11-14 Turespana Balearic Open, Santa Ponsa, Majorca. 18-21 Portuguese Open, Vila Sol, Algarve. 25-28 ProServ-Tour Italy, Cervia, nr Bologna.

APRIL: 1-4 Lyon Open, Vilette d'Anthon. 15-18 Rome Masters, Castelgandolfo, Rome. 22-25 Catalan Open, tba. 29-May 2 Credit Lyonnais Cannes Open, Cannes Mougins. 29-May 2 Alfred Dunhill Cup qualifying, Taipei.

MAY: 6-9 Benson and Hedges International Open, St Mellion. 13-16 Peugeot Spanish Open, RAC Madrid. 20-23 Lancia Martini Italian Open, Modena, nr Bologna. 28-31 Volvo PGA championship, Wentworth.

JUNE: 3-6 Dunhill British Masters, Woburn. 10- 13 Carrolls Irish Open, Mount Juliet, Co Kilkenny. 17-20 Jersey European Airways Open, La Moye. 24-27 Peugeot French Open, Le National, Paris. 30-Jul 3 Monte Carlo Open, Mont Agel.

JULY: 7-10 Bell's Scottish Open, Gleneagles. 15- 18 Open championship, Royal St George's. 22-25 Heineken Dutch Open, Noordwijkse, Leiden. 29-Aug 1 Scandinavian Masters, Forsgadens, nr Gothenburg.

AUGUST: 5-8 BMW International Open, Munich. 12-15 Austrian Open, Gut Altentann, Saltzburg. 19-22 Murphy's English Open, Forest of Arden. 26-29 Volvo German Open, Hubbelrath, Dusseldorf.

SEPTEMBER: 2-5 Canon European Masters, Crans-sur-Sierre, Switzerland. 9-12 GA European Open, East Sussex National. 16-19 Lancome Trophy, St Nom la Breteche, Paris. 24-26 Ryder Cup, The Belfry. 30-Oct 3 Mercedes German Masters, tba.

OCTOBER: 7-10 Piaget Open, Royal Zoute, Belgium. 14-17 Alfred Dunhill Cup, St Andrews. 14-17 Honda Open, Gut Kaden, Hamburg. 21-24 Toyota World Match Play Championship, Wentworth. 28-31 Iberia Madrid Open, tba.

NOVEMBER: 4-7 Volvo Masters, Valderrama. 11-14 World Cup by Philip Morris.

DECEMBER: 16-19 Johnnie Walker World Championship.

(Photograph omitted)

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