Golf: Promoter preoccupied with missing maestros: Leading European men stay away from French Open but women's tour lures all the major attractions to Belgian event

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ABSENTEES attracted more attention yesterday in the build-up to the French Open than those who were in Paris preparing to compete for a share of the pounds 500,000 prize-money.

Despite a pounds 100,000 increase in the prize fund, none of the big names in the European game has entered. The reason, according to the promoter, Lionel Provost, was his unwillingness to offer them an added financial incentive. Appearance money is banned on the European tour, but the top players can be paid to appear in pre- tournament events like shoot-outs.

Provost had hoped to attract Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam, Bernhard Langer, Seve Ballesteros and Sandy Lyle to one of the longest-running events on the circuit, which all of them have won in the past. He alleged Faldo had wanted pounds 150,000 to play.

'When there are so many people out of work - one in 10 in some areas of France - it is unreasonable to ask for so much money,' Provost said. 'I am taking a risk because I don't have the best players, but a decision was taken not to pay for them.'

Claude-Roger Cartier, the French Federation president, added: 'We preferred to increase the prize-money to boost the reward for scores on the course, rather than for players who sometimes don't get through the half- way cut.'

John Simpson, Faldo's manager, said: 'Nick was always taking the week off. Money was never even discussed.'

Asked if the sum quoted was in line with what the Open champion might expect to receive, Simpson added: 'That is a private matter, but sometimes it is more. He is the world No 1 and a lot of people want him.'

Barry Lane, Jose Maria Olazabal, David Gilford and Anders Forsbrand have come straight from the US Open to Paris. Lane was the one European to return a happy man. His 16th place at Baltusrol earned him a US Masters debut next April.

Lane leads the Ryder Cup points table and is sure of a first appearance against the Americans in September. 'I'm proud of what I achieved,' he said. 'I've proved I can do it in a completely different context. I've played with the Americans now and seen there is nothing to be frightened of.'

------------------------------------------------------------------------ CARD OF THE COURSE ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Hole Yards Par Hole Yards Par 1st 415 4 10th 377 4 2nd 202 3 11th 191 3 3rd 530 5 12th 437 4 4th 437 4 13th 410 4 5th 405 4 14th 552 5 6th 377 4 15th 399 4 7th 443 4 16th 175 3 8th 208 3 17th 470 4 9th 563 5 18th 465 4 Out: 3,465 36 In: 3,440 35 Total: 7,056 71 ------------------------------------------------------------------------