Golf: James lets fly at Faldo and tour's 'greedy' elite: Europe's leading players 'dominated by money to ridiculous degree'

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The Independent Online
THE European Tour, under fire in successive weeks from two of its most illustrious, if not industrious, members, Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo, found a spokesman yesterday for the silent majority.

Mark James, kicking his heels in the clubhouse here as torrential rain washed out play in the first round of the Dunhill British Masters, had time to digest the morning papers and when he read Faldo's criticism of the Tour it almost stuck in his throat.

'I can't believe the things Nick said,' James remarked. What Faldo said, among other things, was that conditions were generally so poor in Europe he would probably join the US Tour next year. In America he said he would play on better courses, with faster greens, and in better weather.

'I think a lot of the top players,' James said, firing a scattergun at half of Europe's Ryder Cup team, 'are dominated by money to a ridiculous degree. Some of them won't contemplate playing where they are not guaranteed money for doing something. They have more than enough money already.

'I know a number of players who, if they won the Open, would say they would not take appearance money. I am one of them. I don't agree with appearance money and the top players don't need it. I don't think they should be given extra inducements. They should make their schedule according to where they want to play. To criticise the length of the Tour and then have your schedule dominated by money is incompatible.'

Appearance money, per se, does not officially exist - the term was banished from the Tour's directory three years ago - but it smells just as sweet under another name. For example, today (weather permitting), Faldo and Bernhard Langer will give a coaching clinic at Woburn. For that they will be rewarded handsomely by IMG, who run the event on behalf of Dunhill. Faldo and Langer also happen to be IMG clients.

'It is strange that none of these players are ever at the smaller events,' James said. 'We can ban appearance money, but if they get paid for doing something else at a tournament . . . if they think they need the money that badly there is nothing that can be done. It would be better if sponsors got together and made the fees more reasonable.'

The going rate to guarantee Faldo's appearance can be as high as dollars 100,000 ( pounds 66,000). When one of the Tour's main sponsors tried to impose a uniform ban on extra payments they failed to win unanimous support.

James, who is a member of the Tour's tournament committee, was so moved by Faldo's comments that he did a Captain Oates in reverse, walked into the press tent and announced he would be there for some time. In response to Faldo's claim that the European Tour had not improved in 10 years, James said: 'We've gone on by leaps and bounds. The number of tournaments have increased and facilities have improved enormously. I think Faldo is playing a different tour to the rest of us. As for the American Tour, it has stagnated over the last five years.

'Faldo has played in only seven events in Europe this year. It is difficult for him to get an overall picture of the venues. Over the past 15 years one reason for producing good players, of which Faldo is obviously one, has been the varying conditions in Europe.'

'It is not easy, everything is not laid on and courses are different. One week you are hitting drivers and long irons and the next you are trying to keep it on the course with a five-iron. This has developed stronger players in Europe.'

Faldo and Langer were noticeable by their absence from the European Open at East Sussex National last week, a tournament which, for the first time, failed to attract a sponsor. 'It is strange,' James said, 'that Faldo should miss one of our top events, relatively close to where he lives. There was no appearance money or extra payments that I know of.'

During the European Open, Faldo was in the Hebrides, negotiating the possible purchase of a golf club.

'The wishes of the top players are different from the bulk of the membership,' James said. 'I felt a point of view should be put from someone who is not in Faldo's position and maybe more in touch with the players. For players from the qualifying school or at the lower end of the Order of Merit more tournaments mean they are playing for more money. That's what we are playing for - our living. Those at the bottom end don't make a fortune. It's not handed on a plate.'

For all this, one thing James has in common with Faldo is admiration for IMG. 'Over the last 20 years they have done an awful lot to keep tournaments going,' James said.

The rain here was so heavy that the decision to abandon play yesterday was taken at midday. Play was scheduled to start at 7.15am today with the second round tomorrow and two rounds on Sunday, but the chances of pouring a quart into a pint pot are, like the forecast itself, extremely bleak.

Norman misses out, page 38