Spain's stylish end as Dunhill opts for glamour

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The Independent Online

When Jose Maria Olazabal was asked what the Spanish team learned from losing to South Africa in the final of the Alfred Dunhill Cup two years ago, he replied: "Just to try to the very last moment."

When Jose Maria Olazabal was asked what the Spanish team learned from losing to South Africa in the final of the Alfred Dunhill Cup two years ago, he replied: "Just to try to the very last moment."

So just as Australia won the first two tournaments, Spain won the last two, but only after leaving the drama to the very last. South Africa were only seen off after Miguel Angel Martin, a replacement for Sergio Garcia, had made a remarkable birdie at the 18th and then beaten David Frost at the first play-off hole. After 16 years, the Dunhill Cup is no more.

"I'm sad in a way," said Olazabal, "because we have done so well in the last three years. But obviously, life goes on. Hopefully, the new tournament will be a success."

Next year the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship will be played on October 18 to 21. The event will be similar to the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-am on the Monterey Peninsula. Each professional plays with an amateur with a team event as well as the individual. Over the first three days, they will play one round at each of the Old Course, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns, a new layout just outside the town.

Ian Botham liked the course so much he was there at least twice last week. Botham is likely to be among the stars donning their waterproofs and woolly hats. Others could be Steve Redgrave, Ivan Lendl and Chris Evans, not to mention the old stagers such as Jimmy Tarbuck and Terry Wogan.

There will no doubt be Hollywood glamour. Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones were in town last week while Kevin Costner and Samuel L Jackson have been guests of the sponsors in the past. Bill Clinton will have a free diary by then, although over here "mulligan" translates as "three off the tee".

While the chance to play at the home of golf is clearly a major attraction for the celebs, the ancient university town is an odd venue for such a tournament in one sense since stars pass through the Old Course Hotel without anyone blinking an eyelid. Former US presidents are regular visitors, while the Duke of York is a member of the Royal and Ancient and due to become the club's captain in 2003.

To grab the professionals' attention, the new tournament will offer a purse of over £3m, the same level as the World Golf Championships and greater than this year's Open. This represents a tripling of the current purse, but the pot remains roughly the same if appearance fees, which will no longer be paid, are included.

Without each countries' best players the tournament lost a little lustre, but nothing showed it had stood still more than the fact that the purse of £1m, once so impressive, remained constant for almost a decade. But money was hardly the point when the Australian trio of Greg Norman, Graham Marsh and David Graham beat America in the first final in 1985.

The Aussies won two titles, as did Spain, South Africa, Ireland and England. The United States, in 1989, '93 and '96, were the only nation to win three times. Yet the pipes were never played more proudly or loudly, or with more persistence, than when Scotland, who had to endure defeats by Paraguay and India on their home patch, won for the only time in 1995. It was always a quirky event. The medal matchplay format, although ensuring every match was subject to the treacherous 17th hole, was never as urgent as straight matchplay.

In 1992 the knock-out format was changed to a round- robin style event to guarantee everyone had three games and an afternoon of fevered calculations to find out who had qualified.

The wind could be bitter, rain and hail lashed down, but on one afternoon in 1987 it was warm, calm and sunny enough for Curtis Strange to take just 62 strokes in touring the Old Course. Six years later, Carlos Espinosa of Mexico took 25 more thrashes for the highest recorded round. In 1997, Joakim Haeggman played the front nine in 27.

Mark O'Meara birdied eight holes in a row from the second to the ninth in '96, but the Canadian Rick Gibson bogeyed the entire back nine in '94. Nick Faldo still holds the scoring average, Greg Norman the record for 11 successive wins between 1985 and '87. In 1998, Tiger Woods used the event to scout the Old Course. He lost to Santiago Luna then, but will always be the 2000 Open champion.