Golf: Return of the august master of Augusta: Mize was as happy as Larry but the Johnnie Walker World Championship was low on spirit. Tim Glover reports

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The Independent Online
PARADISE lost, Larry Mize won. By winning the Johnnie Walker World Championship at the Tryall Club, Montego Bay, on Sunday, Mize went home with dollars 550,000 ( pounds 370,000), about four times the amount Greg Norman received for winning the Open Championship during what was laughingly called British Summer Time.

Mize filled Norman's boots when the Australian declined to play in Jamaica. Mize then proceeded to fill his own boots by compiling rounds of 67, 66, 68 and 65 to win by 10 strokes. He was 18 under par and the most significant yardstick of that statistic is that when Nick Faldo won the championship 12 months ago he was six under par.

Mize said he played the best golf of his life, which was all too apparent. It was also clear that his scores were not the result of the course getting easier. The majority of his competitors were in disarray, so much flotsam and jetsam in his wake. It was Mize's biggest win since the Masters at his home town of Augusta in 1987, when he chipped in from a ridiculously long distance to break Norman's heart at the second extra hole, the 11th.

The 11th is the beginning of Augusta's trinity of holes called Amen Corner and while the hallelujahs were proceeding heavenwards for a miracle that had been delivered to a God-worshipping Augustan, Seve Ballesteros was walking, with a tear- stained face, back to the clubhouse after making his exit at the first extra play-off hole, the 10th. 'I'm just trying to be the best I can be and I think I'm getting there,' Mize said. 'What I am pleased with is I am getting . . . I am playing to my potential, near my potential or whatever.'

Larry's Sunday best meant that he moved up 20 places to 21st in the Sony world rankings. Faldo, who won this title last year, defeating Norman in a play-off, remains No 1 for the 75th consecutive week. Norman is second. 'I'll have to buy Norman a Christmas present,' Mize said. The sponsors may not feel as charitable. Does winning the world championship make Mize the world champion? Hardly. It certainly makes him happy as Larry but there endeth the lesson.

It was a bad result for Johnnie Walker, especially compared with last year when Norman stormed through the field only to self-destruct in the play-off against Faldo. A runaway winner is not big at the box office. Mize, who is not renowned as a whisky drinker, owed his place to Norman's decision not to be here but the sponsors were sold short.

Norman's excuse was that he was tired after extensive travelling. He sponsored a tournament a few weeks ago in Australia - Curtis Strange won it, thereby qualifying for the world championship - and said that rather than clock up more air miles he would remain in the land of his fathers and enjoy a leisurely build-up to Christmas. The official line from Johnnie Walker was that they sympathised with the man's exhaustion but unofficially I suspect their patience was almost as exhausted as that of the beached Great White Shark.

Norman, having hosted his tournament, did not throw another shrimp on the barbie. He flew to his other home in Florida, a state that is within easy striking distance of Jamaica. His absence was equally as striking and not just because of his status but also the fact that he is with IMG, the company that runs the championship. A coconut shy of the full bounty.

United Distillers (Johnnie Walker) will evaluate the return on their investment and announce in the new year whether there will be a fourth world championship.

As to the venue, the Jamaican Tourist Board has its fingers crossed. Apart from putting the island on the map in golfing terms, the championship is a rich source of employment in an area that is badly in need of the odd job. It may be peanuts compared with the prize- money but it is welcome none the less.

SEVE BALLESTEROS will replace Tony Jacklin as a member of the European Ryder Cup committee from January. The PGA European tour executive director, Ken Schofield, said this was because the 1997 match will be held in Ballesteros's native Spain.

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