Lane sets standards for next generation
Tuesday 11 May 2004
Every week of the season, wherever they are in the world, the European Tour receives weather forecasts from the Met Office in Birmingham. For the Forest of Arden they could just look out the window, but after the equivalent of missing the cut they will be looking for better form this week in Shanghai.
No one was more relieved that predictions of floods and thunderstorms failed to materialise, allowing the British Masters to be concluded on time, than Barry Lane. The 43-year-old from Henley had waited 10 years and 252 tournaments since his last victory.
There must be something in the golfing water. Not only was Lane the fourth player in his 40s to win on the European Tour this season, but later on Sunday evening Joey Sindelar, 46, made Lane look impatient by claiming his first win for 14 years and 370 events at the Wachovia Championship in North Carolina.
Lane is a staunch supporter of the European Tour - he had earned over £4m in career winnings before banking his cheque for £266,660 from Sunday - but yesterday he decided not to join the exodus from Coventry to China and the BMW Asian Open. Instead his 500th tournament will be the Deutsche Bank Open in Heidelberg next week.
Lane hopes to rest his ailing knees. The right one has a split meniscus and the left needed to be strapped up for a tournament he almost was not able to start. Yet a final round of 66 and a three-stroke victory was a triumph of natural talent over the various rattling parts.
When he was an assistant at the Downshire club his head pro insisted he was too much of a natural to bother with lessons. His talents first came to prominence when he won the Scottish Open in 1988. He played in the Ryder Cup at The Belfry in 1993, losing a crucial singles to Chip Beck, and has moved up to 11th on this year's standings. His ambition is to get into the world's top 50 and he moved up to 133rd yesterday. His victory has already guaranteed an appearance in the NEC World Invitational at Firestone in August, where Darren Clarke won last year.
Lane said he loves competing against all the kids on tour but has some advice for them. "I would like to see the younger players putting more back into the game," he said. "I worked for eight years as an assistant and it is the spectators and the sponsors who pay my wages.
"I would like to see a bit more smiling or acknowledging the crowd, or more signing of autographs, just to be aware of who pays our wages. If you don't do that big corporations are not going to want to advertise in golf. They get a lot back from golf but the players have to remember they are not there just to take the money. Spectators feel bad for you as well if you are having a bad day. They want to see good golf but they understand if you are having a bad day."
Despite finishing tied for 16th at the Forest of Arden, Colin Montgomerie has dropped from 45th to 49th on the world rankings. He needs to stay within the top 50 after the Deutsche Bank Open to be exempt for the Open Championship at his home course of Royal Troon.
Ben Curtis, the Open champion, will return to Britain for the Volvo PGA Championship at Wentworth later this month. His presence will bring the number of major winners in the field to 10. It will be Curtis's second appearance over the West Course after the American, who turns 27 in a fortnight, reached the semi-finals of the HSBC World Match Play last October.
A new tournament called The Heritage, to be played at Woburn in September the week after the Ryder Cup, will commemorate the 30-year reign of Ken Schofield as chief executive of the European Tour. The event, promoted by the International Management Group, will have prize money of £1.3m.
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