Lehman's quest for peace begins - Golf - Sport - The Independent

Lehman's quest for peace begins

IN COMPARISON with the Ryder Cup, another of the game's international team competitions, the Alfred Dunhill Cup has always appeared far more low-key. After the events at Brookline, that is probably no bad thing. Any repeat of the excesses of two weeks ago and the game really would be for the dogs, but it is unlikely the American trio of Tom Lehman, Payne Stewart and Mark O'Meara will receive any retaliatory abuse at the "Home of Golf", even if the students are back for the new term at the university.

IN COMPARISON with the Ryder Cup, another of the game's international team competitions, the Alfred Dunhill Cup has always appeared far more low-key. After the events at Brookline, that is probably no bad thing. Any repeat of the excesses of two weeks ago and the game really would be for the dogs, but it is unlikely the American trio of Tom Lehman, Payne Stewart and Mark O'Meara will receive any retaliatory abuse at the "Home of Golf", even if the students are back for the new term at the university.

"We have a reputation in Scotland and Ireland for the best crowds in the world and there will be no problems. They will be applauding good golf," said Colin Montgomerie, one of 10 European Ryder Cup players representing their countries in the 16-nation event.

But while most of the players seem to want to move on, one of those who received a letter of apology from Lehman - considered one of the main offenders in whipping up the gallery on the last day at Brookline - the European captain Mark James, made his strongest statement yet on the subject.

"I'm surprised to hear Tom say he wants to get it all behind him," James said. "You can't pretend nothing happened. What we saw and experienced at Brookline was very sad. I think golf definitely has a problem and we must address it.

"We expected a bit of rowdiness but we never expected such rude abuse. We know Monty has often experienced a bit of crowd trouble over there but it all came as a shock to everyone. They just couldn't believe the sight of players inciting the crowds and getting them to display such vitriol."

James would like to see the match referee award an automatic one-hole penalty for any player trying to incite the crowd. "I don't believe there's any place on a golf course for that kind of behaviour," James added. "The sight of one player walking a few yards behind another with fist pumping shouldn't be part of the game. But it is unlikely the USPGA would initiate anything like that."

Lehman, who endorsed the idea of the former US captain Dave Stockton to have ex-captains walking with matches in a marshalling capacity, tried to smooth things over at the Americans' pre-tournament press conference. "What better place to try to set things straight than St Andrews?" Lehman said. "We are very much aware of the honour of golf and the courtesy and history of the game."It was never our intention to show any lack of respect or lack of courtesy to the European players. We're sorry for running on the green at the 17th but the excitement of the moment spilled over. I really hope the Europeans all know how much the American side respects them for the effort they put up. There was some phenomenal golf played on both sides. The European side had their foot on our necks and on Sunday we played a remarkable day of golf."

Among the attacks on the 1996 Open champion, Peter Alliss labelled Lehman a "monster". "I feel there's been a few remarks about me personally that were unfair. I never walked on anybody's line, I'm not a monster, I'm not a rogue, I'm not a hooligan. I am not here to throw any arrows or darts. I definitely don't think it's worth losing friendships over a golf tournament."

This is the players' last chance - indeed Sergio Garcia's first and last - to experience the Old Course under competitive conditions before next year's Open Championship. With Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez alongside the 19-year-old Garcia, whose victory in Germany on Sunday lifted him to 17th in the world, Spain should justify their billing as second seeds behind the Americans.

Despite his tender years, Garcia has been appointed the team's captain. "Sergio is amazing and has done everything right so far. Now we want to see if he can do everything right as our captain," Olazabal said.

"I thought one of the other guys would be in charge," Garcia said, "but they said the rookie was always the captain." There was no mistaking El Nino's status in yesterday's pro-am as his playing partners were Michael Douglas, Michael Jordan and the sponsors' top man, Johann Rupert.

Also walking with the group was Douglas's fiancee, Catherine Zeta Jones, who, after playing on Tuesday, is the only Welsh golfer to get a game on the links this week. Wales, along with Germany and Argentina, are unlucky to miss out given the strength of the competing teams from China, India and Japan.With England drawn in the same group as South Africa, whose trio of Ernie Els, David Frost and Retief Goosen are hoping for an unprecedented hat- trick of victories, Scotland have the best chance of reaching the semi- finals, where they would meet the Americans.

First the team of Montgomerie, the Open champion Paul Lawrie and Gary Orr have to get past Paraguay, something they failed to do in 1993. Monty has painful memories of losing to today's opponent Raul Fretes but a swelling on his right cheek was more of a concern yesterday as he quit the pro- am after five holes to go in search of a dentist.

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