Golf: Langer having his work cut out to keep up appearances: Masters champion denies pricing himself out of the market at the Italian Open and opts for the long-term solution in straightening his swing. Tim Glover reports

Click to follow
The Independent Online
FROM Tim Yeo MP to Bernhard Langer, the Masters champion, it was a day of reshuffling and a shuffling of feet. Yeo played at Wentworth yesterday in the Corporate Cup, a competition for guests of Volvo, the sponsors of the main event, the PGA Championship, which starts this morning. For different reasons both Yeo and Langer were advised to be on their guard.

With Cabinet changes afoot, Yeo, captain of the Parliamentary Golfing Society, decided to take a portable phone on to the first tee and before he hit a shot he learnt the news of the fate of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He also learnt something else: on the tee the new Minister of State for the Environment. After taking the call the newly promoted Yeo (Suffolk South) rejoined his party on the golf course. Does taking a divot amount to environmental damage? It could be a question for the House.

The fate that awaited Langer was not unrelated to matters that would concern a chancellor. The big question was why didn't Langer play in the Italian Open at Modena last week. After all, it was a course that he designed. The organisers say that the sum he, or rather his brother Erwin asked for, was ludicrously high. What the Italian Open did get for their lire were the appearances of Seve Ballesteros, Jose-Maria Olazabal and the American John Cook.

The word from Italy was that the Langer camp was asking for a sum of money three times the going rate. 'Totally wrong,' Langer said yesterday. 'Whoever said it was lying. I didn't want to play, I wanted a week off. I didn't have a contract to play. My deal was to open the golf course. That's all I had to do. This sort of thing is very upsetting to me. All the facts are wrong. I'll be having a word with the organisers.'

Leaving aside the fact that facts are not usually wrong, it is interesting to learn that Langer requires a contract to play in a tournament. Appearance money per se no longer exists on the European Tour but when Langer was asked if his usual fee had been increased on the grounds that he is the new Masters champion, he replied that it had not.

Some say that the going rate for Langer to tee up the ball is now dollars 75,000 ( pounds 49,000). 'I've always given my view on the question of appearance money,' Langer said. 'I don't want to talk about it. I run tournaments myself.'

The subject was not discussed by the Tour's board of directors who met here on Wednesday evening. Langer is a member of the board and his particular responsibility is 'Enterprises'. Some members complained about the lack of free sandwiches and the fact that there is not a players' lounge at every tournament.

As for his golf Langer, ranked No 2 in the world rankings, admitted: 'I know I'm not swinging as well as Nick Faldo at this time. It's not solid enough, not straight enough. In the past I've gone for a quick fix. Now I'm working towards the long term. I'm improving gradually, slowly.

'The changes are not as radical as Faldo's. He's a perfectionist. We are different personalities, different characters and we have different priorities. He is the best player in the world but whether he is doing as well at other things is not for me to say.'

In one respect Langer has followed Faldo's example by consulting the ubiquitous David Leadbetter. Faldo, a four-times winner of the PGA Championship, has been reconciled here with Leadbetter and whatever was wrong with the game of the world No 1 - nothing as far as the undiscerning eye is concerned - has been rectified. 'I'm hitting it good,' Faldo said. 'Lead seems to be happy and that's always a good sign.'

Lead, as Faldo calls his coach, studies videos of his number one pupil and then comes up with suggestions. 'Lead'll fix it,' Faldo said. 'Everything's checked out. Every time I walk in front of a mirror I have a practice swing.' In this daily mirror routine at least there is no appearance fee involved.

Comments