Golf: Palmer bedded down for the weekend: Hard times for old timers in the Lancome Trophy while young hopefuls suffer consequences of internal politics

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AN invitation to the Lancome Trophy is as welcome as a St Valentine's Day card. An elite field dips into a purse of pounds 600,000 and - this is the clincher - there is no half-way cut. They can sleep easy in the same bed until tomorrow.

This is just as well for Arnold Palmer and Lee Trevino. Arnie shot 79 in the second round yesterday and at 13 over par would normally be climbing into a Cadillac for a smooth exit from the golf club. This morning he can enjoy his croissants and coffee before taking another leisurely stroll in the sunshine around an attractive parkland course.

Arnie is 25 strokes behind the leader, Vijay Singh, who chipped in with a 63, and Trevino is 21 strokes adrift. This is unfamiliar territory for Trevino who probably cannot wait to return to the Seniors Tour in America.

Nick Price, who is having the year of his life and who has won two majors, leads the regular tour with dollars 1,442,927 (pounds 940,000). Trevino leads the over-50s with dollars 1,183,919.

Gary Player, another in the autumn of his career, fared rather better yesterday and he covered the back nine in 33 for a round of 70 which left him at level par. Another attraction of this championship is that the draw was not fixed. If it had been, as it usually is, you would probably have seen Palmer, Trevino and Player playing together. Instead all the names were drawn from a hat.

It was also rewarding to see Lee Westwood and Andrew Coltart in the field. They qualified as of right from the Volvo Order of Merit. Coltart, aged 24, is 38th in the money list and Westwood, who is 21, is 42nd. Both got their cards at the Qualifying School last year and have proved themselves to be outstanding prospects on the European Tour.

That is the good news. The bad is that neither played in the Dunhill British Masters at Woburn last week, nor will they play in the German Masters next week. 'We tried everything but we just couldn't get in,' Westwood said. 'There's a lot of internal politics. There's something wrong somewhere.'

It is a fair bet that had Westwood and Coltart been managed by IMG, who run the British Masters, they would have received invitations. They are managed by Andrew Chandler and most of the invitations went to South Africans, two of whom did not even turn up.

This is part of IMG's attraction. If the company is successful enough to run tournaments it can therefore help to protect the interests of players under its umbrella.

However, Westwood has a point. The Ryder Cup countdown has started and although he and Coltart are long shots they are at an unfair disadvantage if their schedule is restricted. What makes it worse is to invite South Africans, for whom the Ryder Cup is irrelevant.

IMG has extensive interests in South Africa and another factor is that Dunhill is owned by a South African company. After the Lancome, Westwood's season is virtually finished. Coltart, ironically, has the Dunhill Cup at St Andrews to look forward to after qualifying for Scotland.

Singh's 63 - he had six birdies in a row from the eighth - was a stroke outside the course record set by Mats Lanner in 1989 but yesterday they were playing preferred lies. His partners, the Spaniards Miguel Angel Jimenez and Seve Ballesteros scored 64 and 69. Singh leads by three from Jimenez, by five from Ian Woosnam and by six from Ballesteros whose first round of 65 earned him a Rolex. Seve needs another watch like Trevino needs another dollar.