Golf: Teed-off Faldo fires his riposte: Brilliant Ballesteros has a ball at Woburn while Britain's leading golfer goes ballistic over criticism

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The Independent Online
CONTROVERSY continued to whip through the chill air around Woburn yesterday despite the valiant efforts of Seve Ballesteros to remind us that the Dunhill British Masters is doubling up as a lively golf tournament as well as a slanging match for disgruntled golfers.

Seve set the moaning mood by complaining about being fined for slow play by the European Tour two weeks ago and then attacking Mark McCormack's IMG for leaving him out of the cast-list for the World Matchplay tournament. Yesterday, he cheerfully got on with the golf and let others take up the baton of belligerence.

Mark Roe had put his oar in as Seve teed off at 7.55am, revealing to BBC Radio's Tony Adamson that Nick Faldo's criticisms of the European Tour had upset more players than just Mark James, who had crossed swords with Faldo on Thursday. Faldo, who has played in only seven events in Europe this year, is threatening to play more in the United States where, he claims, the courses, and especially the greens, are largely superior. Such views have infuriated those lesser lights who owe their livings to the continuing prosperity of the European Tour, particularly as players of Faldo's stature receive appearance money of dollars 100,000 just for turning up and taking part in some extra activity like the clinic he gave yesterday with Bernhard Langer.

'Faldo doesn't choose to play a course because of its quality but because he's getting appearance money, or the equivalent,' Roe said. The accusation that it was greenbacks and not the greens that had most appeal to him was not well received by Faldo when he finished his round. 'How does he know what I will do? Is he a mind reader?'

Then he rounded on those who had thus far escaped even a walk-on role in all the argy- bargy. I refer, of course, to the press. 'If you try to say something constructive you get a verbal bashing. I will go back to describing the birdies and bogeys and leave it that,' he declared to a shocked press tent.

Had he been misrepresented, then? 'If you open your mouth you are bound to be,' he answered. 'I've been misrepresented for 19 years.' Having identified the true culprits, he kindly reiterated: 'The reasons I am going to America are the same as 1981. Sunshine, quality golf courses and competition.'

Unlike 1981, however, he is now our best golfer and the thought of him disappearing even further from the presence of his countrymen will not be a comfort to those million or so of us who have to make do with the conditions from which he wants to flee. Is that an endearing move, we have to ask?

Indeed, there have been times at Woburn over the past three days when the priority subject for discussion should have been appearance money for spectators not players. Deluged upon on Thursday, frozen half to death on Friday and forced out to face the elements extra early yesterday, they have displayed a stoicism that might not always be available if the big stars embark on their threatened defection.

There were plenty still willing to keep faith with Faldo yesterday, even at a start time of 7.35, although he lost many to Ballesteros who was playing two groups behind.

But there were plenty still arriving at the not unreasonable time of midday to find that Faldo, Montgomerie, Ballesteros and Langer had already completed the rain-delayed second round. Some would have found another reason for complaint. There were nine retirements over the first two rounds for various causes including knee, flu, neck and back. Perhaps someone should charge disappearance money.

(Photograph omitted)