Seedy goings-on as Lawrie gets the short straw

FOR ONE of the shorter and apparently straightforward examples of the genre - with eight of the 12 players seeded and only four to come out of the hat, how difficult can it be? - the draw for the Cisco World Match Play Championship again delighted for its flirtation with embarrassment and controversy.

FOR ONE of the shorter and apparently straightforward examples of the genre - with eight of the 12 players seeded and only four to come out of the hat, how difficult can it be? - the draw for the Cisco World Match Play Championship again delighted for its flirtation with embarrassment and controversy.

Given the number of conflicts of interest exposed in an event run by Mark McCormack's International Management Group and contested for by a number of their clients, that is never surprising. It was Paul Lawrie, the Open champion and an IMG man, who could feel most aggrieved yesterday. As a reward for bothering to show up, something Tiger Woods and Payne Stewart could not do this year, the reigning major champions usually receive a bye into Friday's quarter-finals.

Not only was Lawrie missing from among the top-four seeds headed by the defending champion, Mark O'Meara, he was not seeded at all, while the Masters champion, Jose Maria Olazabal, got the seventh seed. Even worse, the Scot did not come out of the hat. Much to the embarrassment of McCormack, who had just read out the list of seeds, and the tournament director, Peter German, the phrase "Craig Parry will play" was followed by the name "Craig Parry".

Accusing glances followed as McCormack turned to German and said: "You gave me the wrong seeds." German hurried on with proceedings and when there was no sign of a piece of paper with the name of Lawrie, the Open champion was paired with the previously singular Parry.

McCormack explained that the seedings this year were determined straight from the world rankings, giving Colin Montgomerie, Ernie Els and Nick Price a day off tomorrow. "It was difficult not to seed the Open champion but the world rankings are increasingly accepted by the game's governing bodies and we decided to get up to date," McCormack said.

Lee Westwood declined an invitation on the grounds that the event had "lost stature". But Price, a former runner-up, said: "I feel sad if he doesn't see this as a big event. With the history and the champions this event has, I feel my career would not be complete unless I won here."

Montgomerie, who won the Asprey and Garrard Golfer of the Month award for September for his outstanding display at the Ryder Cup, is still suffering from the tooth problem which forced him out of the Dunhill Cup last week. The Scot will undergo an operation today to try to reduce the swelling but contingency plans are in hand if he is not fit for Friday.

DRAW AND TEE-OFF TIMES (for first round of Cisco World Match Play Championship at Wentworth tomorrow, seeded positions in brackets): 0845 and 1300: (8) C Parry (Aus) v P Lawrie (GB). Winner to play (1) M O'Meara (US). 0900 and 1315: (5) S Garcia (Sp) v R Goosen (SA). Winner to play (4) N Price (Zim). 0915 and 1330: (6) C Franco (Par) v P Harrington (Irl). Winner to play (3) E Els (SA). 0930 and 1345: (7) J M Olazabal (Sp) v N Begay (US). Winner to play (2) C Montgomerie (GB).

* Curtis Strange will be named captain of the 2001 Ryder Cup team, according to an American newspaper report.

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