Golf / World Match Play Championship: Couples keeping his promise

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FRED COUPLES, the US Masters champion, yesterday set the record straight over his non-appearance at the Toyota World Match Play Championship at Wentworth this week.

And the bottom line is that the 33-year-old American is determined to honour a long-standing pledge to play in the Honda Open in Hamburg starting today. Couples tees off today in search of a pounds 75,000 first prize instead of the pounds 160,000 which awaits the winner of the prestigious Wentworth event.

He said: 'The problem is that I entered this tournament back in January. I told the promoter, Harold Hartmann, that I would play and I am honouring that commitment.'

The Ryder Cup player turned down his automatic invitation to the World Match Play - much to the frustration of Mark McCormack, the chairman of the powerful International Management Group, which devised the successful Wentworth championship.

'I would love to be there and if I win the Masters again next year I guarantee I'll play,' Couples said. 'If I wasn't here in Hamburg, I'd love to be at the Match Play.

'I would imagine I am not the first Masters champion to miss the Match Play. Tom Kite, who is the US Open champion, is not there either because he is opening a course in the States but people don't seem to be looking into what he's doing. I've done nothing wrong.'

Couples faces stiff opposition for the first Honda title from his compatriot, Payne Stewart - another of the sponsors' invitees - Sandy Lyle and Bernhard Langer.