Golf: Returning Norman heralds start of world tour: Montgomerie and Scotland have chance for revenge at St Andrews after last year's embarrassing loss to Paraguay. Tim Glover reports

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The Independent Online
IT IS possible that Greg Norman, the Great White Shark, was gutted by a piece of lettuce. Norman is back at the home of golf, leading Australia in the Alfred Dunhill Cup, his first engagement in six weeks since being laid low with what he described as chemical poisoning of the intestines. 'I may be a weak link,' the world No 2 said.

Norman lost a stone in a matter of days and the official medical bulletin was haemorrhoids. 'Reports came in from Australia that I had cancer and in America it was something else,' Norman said. 'I'm fine now. I had a blood test and the guy said I had chemical poisoning. It could have come from lettuce or fruit.' This would not please the producers of fruit and veg in Florida where Norman lives.

Let this be a warning to Nick Faldo who cannot wait to make his base in the Sunshine State next year. 'I think it's great that Nick is joining the US Tour,' Norman said. 'It's the start of a world tour with everybody wanting to play each other, on the best courses and with the best competition. With television networks and sponsors it would be the easiest thing to do and I'm surprised no one has done it. It will happen. It's inevitable.'

Faldo's motives for playing in America are mixed but the creation of a world tour is not one of them. A couple of weeks ago he categorically stated: 'We will never have a world tour.' In the double-speak of professional golf put your money on the appearance of a world tour before long.

What the Alfred Dunhill Cup has going for it, apart from pounds 1m in prize-money which means that even the poorest Paraguayan will not go away empty-handed, is the venue. What it does not have is Faldo, and England are represented by Barry Lane, Mark Roe and Howard Clark.

Considering that Faldo won the Open Championship here in 1990, when he demoralised Norman, and considering that the Open returns to St Andrews next year, it is surprising Faldo has stayed away. However, it does have Norman and Nick Price, the world No 1. Price, the winner of seven tournaments this year including back-to-back victories in the Open and the US PGA Championship, captains Zimbabwe and this must be the overriding reason why the bookmakers William Hill have made the former Rhodesia 5-1 joint favourites with South Africa.

Norman and Price have been holidaying together in Belize and they will have found the weather there, not to mention the lettuce, somewhat kinder than the windcheater stuff they will experience over the next few days. 'We just went fishing and diving and drinking and eating and things we haven't done a lot of this year,' Price said. At least it helped Norman to put on weight.

This is the 10th Alfred Dunhill Cup and it is not to be confused with the Dunhill British Masters at Woburn or the new Alfred Dunhill Masters in Bali. This one is the luxury goods division; the others promote, if such a thing is still permissible, cigarettes. The Cup has not had an easy run and after several refinements to the conditions of play (one year the Japanese, having won one match and halved two against England were under the impression they had won only to be reminded of a clause in the small print) the format has been changed again.

They used to have qualifying stages at exotic locations but that's been dispensed with, leaving 16 teams of three to play each other on a round-robin basis. Last year Paraguay, who came through the pre- qualifying, defeated Scotland which caused considerable embarrassment not only to the host nation but to its captain, Colin Montgomerie.

Big Monty had said: 'If we can't beat Paraguay we might as well go home.' They could not and they did. Today Scotland play Paraguay and Montgomerie, the leader of the European Tour Order of Merit, took a new line: 'They are very good golfers and not to be discounted at all. We know what we are up against and will be better prepared. It's going to be windy and that should be in our favour.'

Yesterday, Montgomerie played with Prince Andrew in the pro-am and it is clear that HRH (handicap of 10) is spending a lot of time on the fairways. He had more birdies than Monty who said of him: 'He hits the ball a long way. He was not far behind me. It is good that a member of the royal family is playing the royal game.' The Royal and Ancient, not to mention Buckingham Palace, would concur.

----------------------------------------------------------------- CARD OF THE COURSE ----------------------------------------------------------------- Hole Yards Par Hole Yards Par 1st 370 4 10th 342 4 2nd 411 4 11th 172 3 3th 371 4 12th 316 4 4th 463 4 13th 425 4 5th 564 5 14th 567 5 6th 416 4 15th 413 4 7th 372 4 16th 382 4 8th 178 3 17th 461 4 9th 356 4 18th 354 4 Out 3,501 36 In 3,432 36 Total 6,933 72 -----------------------------------------------------------------



Group Four: Sweden v Canada: 09.40 G Hjertstedt v D Barr, 09.50 J Parnevik v R Stewart, 10.00 A Forsbrand v R Gibson. Zimbabwe v Germany: 10.10 N Price v B Langer, 10.20 T Johnstone v A Cejka, 10.30 M McNulty v S Struver.

Group Two: England v Spain: 10.40 B Lane v J Rivero, 10.50 H Clark v M A Martin, 11.00 M Roe v M A Jimenez. Australia v France: 11.10 S Elkington v J Van de Velde, 11.20 R Allenby v J L Guepy, 11.30 G Norman v M Besanceney.

Group Three: South Africa v Taiwan: 11.50 W Westner v Chen Tze-chung, 12.00 E Els v Yeh Chang-ting, 12.10 D Frost v Chen Tze-ming. Scotland v Paraguay: 12.20 G Brand Jnr v A Franco, 12.30 A Coltart v R Fretes, 12.40 C Montgomerie v C Franco.

Group One: United States v Japan: 12.50 T Kite v N Serizawa, 13.00 C Strange v T Maruyama, 13.10 F Couples v Y Mizumaki. New Zealand v Ireland: 13.20 F Nobilo v D Clarke, 13.30 G Turner v P McGinley, 13.40 G Waite v P Walton.

TOMORROW: United States v Ireland, New Zealand v Japan; Australia v Spain, England v France; South Africa v Paraguay, Scotland v Taiwan; Zimbabwe v Canada, Sweden v Germany.

SATURDAY: United States v New Zealand, Japan v Ireland; Australia v England, France v Spain; South Africa v Scotland, Taiwan v Paraguay; Zimbabwe v Sweden, Germany v Canada.

SUNDAY: Morning: Semi-finals: Group 1 winner v Group 2 winner; Group 3 winner v Group 4 winner. Afternoon: Final.

Games are medal matchplay, ie they are decided by total strokes rather than hole-by-hole matchplay as in the Ryder Cup. Matches are best of three individual games.

SEEDINGS: 1 United States, 2 Zimbabwe, 3 South Africa, 4 Australia, 5 England, 6 Scotland, 7 Sweden, 8 New Zealand.

LATEST ODDS: 5-1 Zimbabwe, South Africa; 11.-2 Australia, United States; 6-1 Scotland; 10-1 England; 11-1 Germany; 14-1 Sweden; 16-1 Spain; 20-1 Ireland, New Zealand; 28-1 Canada, Japan; 50-1 France; 100-1 Paraguay; 200-1 Taiwan.