Golf: O'Meara puts pay on Cup agenda

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As natural as it is for words from Colin Montgomerie to be reported in large type in the popular press, it is not always easy to fathom what he is going on about. "Pay players? No, definitely not. There is no reason to," Monty spluttered.

With events at Valderrama only two weeks away, of course, we are talking Ryder Cup, but it is nothing new that the 24 players who participate do so for expenses only. But recently, in Sports Illustrated, Mark O'Meara questioned whether this should continue.

"It is a touchy situation," O'Meara said. "I've taken some heat in the papers." The American, who will be making his fourth appearance in the Ryder Cup, has made an early transatlantic journey to play in the Lancome Trophy in Paris. He will then return home for a week's practice before joining his team-mates in New York for the trip to Spain by Concorde on Monday week. A planned dinner with President Clinton the previous night has been cancelled as Clinton is accompanying his daughter, Chelsea, as she enrolls at Stanford University.

O'Meara believes that a professional golfer on public display should be paid accordingly. It can be assumed he is not here to improve his French, although he will be getting a significantly smaller portion of the sponsor's pot than the star attraction, Greg Norman. Of the Ryder Cup, O'Meara said: "It is not about greed.

"But if the Ryder Cup becomes big business for the European PGA and the US PGA, then I think it is something that should be looked at. The players are the ones who make it happen and somehow they could be compensated, maybe with a retirement fund or trust fund for their children." At the President's Cup, the much newer match between the USA and an International team excluding Europeans, the players and captains received $32,000 (pounds 21,000) each to donate to a charity of their choice.

The American found support in principle from Jesper Parnevik, the defending champion, whose delight at being called up by Seve Ballesteros was tempered by his sympathy for the injured Miguel Angel Martin.

The Swede, despite a strong year in America, would have understood if he had lost out in a straight toss up between himself and Nick Faldo. "Some friends said to me I should be on the team, but I said: `Who would you rather play, me or Nick?' They said: `Maybe Nick is more intimidating'. I wouldn't have been surprised.''

Parnevik is joined by six of his Ryder Cup colleagues, with the money list race between Montgomerie, Darren Clarke, Ian Woosnam and Bernhard Langer overshadowed by all else. Norman arrives having retaken the No 1 on the world rankings after his win in the World Series and his second place last week.

"I take no notice," Norman said. "It has no bearing on my life." This was hard to take for the press officer sitting next to him. "Thanks, Greg," sighed Tony Greer, who devised and compiles the ranking.

n An impressive final-hole birdie brought victory for Paul Lawrie and Jonathan Lomas in the Canon Shoot-Out curtain-raiser to the Lancome Trophy in Paris yesterday. The Anglo-Scottish pair defeated Per-Ulrik Johansson and Jesper Parnevik to win pounds 2,300 each. Seve Ballesteros and Eduardo Romero were the first pairing to be eliminated, with a score of one over par. Ballesteros was, however, cheered by the form of Johansson and Parnevik, with the Swedish duo a total of four under par for the seven holes played at the St-Nom-La-Breteche course.