Friday sees the start of the Volvo PGA Championship, with a record pounds 1.1m on offer. Today, the winner of the European qualifier for the Andersen Consulting World Championship will be looking forward to a trip to Arizona where the top prize is $1m (pounds 625,000). The total purse of $3,650,000 is the second highest in the world.
Last year's qualifier from these shores was Sam Torrance, who picked up the minimum guarantee of $300,000 after losing both his matches against Scott Hoch and Hisayuki Sasaki. Torrance has not won much since, but, canny pro that he is, he has run into form at the right moment.
In yesterday's first round, Torrance beat Ian Woosnam 4 and 3. Today he plays Colin Montgomerie, the man he beat 3 and 1 in last year's final, in an all tartan semi-final. Woosnam did not drop a shot to par round the Buckinghamshire course, but suffered under the matchplay format.
Torrance was one up at the turn and then holed a wedge shot from 69 yards for an eagle at the 11th. He then holed a long putt from 44 yards at the next and another birdie at the 13th put the result beyond doubt. "This is a game of highs and lows and most of this year has been a low," Torrance said.
"I feel better and more confident now. I feel I am back in the swing of things and it is all due to hard effort. I always felt it would just come back and I love matchplay golf."
The format is the game's version of head-to-head combat and is all the more interesting for that. In 1984, a young Spaniard holed a wedge shot and chipped in twice to beat a young Scot in the final of the British Amateur Championship. Montgomerie got his revenge yesterday by beating a bogey-free Olazabal 2 and 1 without holing a putt of any consequence.
"My putting has gone to a new level," Monty said. "I didn't know it could go any lower." The rest of his game, he knew, had to be of a higher order and it was. Always ahead from the first, he hit a six-iron to three feet at the 14th and a five-iron to four feet at the 16th.
"This was not really revenge," he added. "It's just great that Jose Maria is back and playing competitively at the highest level. I have had an admiration for him ever since 1984." The previous evening had been spent watching Tiger Woods' latest triumph in America. "He seems to will the ball into the hole," the awed Montgomerie said.
"His desire is unbelievable. His passion takes over on the back nine. We all accept that he's the best player in the world right now and we have to improve beyond what we thought was necessary to compete.''
Torrance had placed a small wager on himself, Montgomerie and Costantino Rocca progressing into the next round. The Italian kept him waiting to collect his money as Jesper Parnevik, on his first appearance in Europe this year, escaped from three down with five to play to take the match into extra holes.
At the second of these, which was actually the first, Parnevik drove into the water and could not beat Rocca's birdie. Rocca plays Darren Clarke, who was a prolific winner in matchplay events as an amateur in Ireland. A prospective Ryder Cup rookie later this year, where he could be a formidable fourball partner, Clarke made five birdies in beating Bernhard Langer 2 and 1.
ANDERSON CONSULTING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP (The Buckinghamshire, Denham): First round: C Montgomerie (GB) bt J Maria Olazabal (Sp) 2 and 1; S Torrance (GB) bt I Woosnam (GB) 4 and 3; D Clarke (GB) bt B Langer (Ger) 2 and 1; C Rocca (It) bt J Parnevik (Swe) at 20th.
n Sam Torrance, Bernhard Langer and Philip Walton are free to go on using broomhandle putters until at least the year 2000. The Royal and Ancient Club has confirmed it is examining the use of long putters, but changes to the rules of the game are made only every four years and the next will be in the new millennium.Reuse content