Whirr of celebrity detracts from professional business

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The Independent Online

Michael Vaughan, Andrew Strauss, Ian Botham, Sir Steven Redgrave... sporting heroes one and all, while Michael Douglas needs no introduction, especially to the mirror. But would you expect to see Colin Montgomerie in an Ashes Test or a Hollywood movie? (Mrs Doubtfire apart, of course.)

And therein lies the obvious answer to the by-now annual befuddlement over why it is the Scottish eschew the chance of seeing free golf for the Dunhill's first three days. Not only this, but they then cough up their £15 by the thousands to get on the Old Course for the final day when 60 chase a £450,000 first prize that could propel them at least halfway towards the K Club next September.

Regardless of all the other generalisations thrown at this race, it still holds true that Scotland knows a serious golf event when it sees one and until most of the "celebrities" whirr up their helicopters and blessedly head back to their own area of expertise, this is anything but a serious tournament.

Instead, for the first three rounds at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns, it is simply a corporate love-in masquerading as a pro-am with those such as Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington desperately pretending to enjoy partnering amateurs who wouldn't know their brassie from their Els blows. With rounds expected to take up to six hours - especially at a gale-ravaged Carnoustie where Douglas' basic instinct should be purely to survive - these perfectionists who love to play in the zone may find themselves playing in the twilight zone.

"It's going to be hell for some of us pros out there," said Rich Beem, one of only two Americans in the 168-strong field. "So what it's going to be like for the poor amateurs, I just don't know."

It might even be worth turning up to find out, although Montgomerie, an avowed windophobe, might not agree. As the home hope battens down, he will leave the shutters ajar enough to keep an eye on David Howell and Paul McGinley. Like the 42-year-old, both could take advantage of the absence of Michael Campbell and Retief Goosen to stake a late claim in a quite gripping Order of Merit race.

The competition does not begin and end with themselves, however, as Harrington's presence adds an extra frisson as does that of Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood, and it is a good thing these old European Tour favourites are in Fife as not one of the world's top 10 is in attendance.

But perhaps this crying shame merely follows the cry-offs of other A-listers. When the Dunhill event began in 2001, organisers persuaded the likes of Samuel L Jackson, Dennis Hopper and Kevin Costner to play. Now they have the cheek to boast about Tico Torres being here, whoever he happens to be. An indignant PR representative said last night that Mr Torres just happens to be the drummer for Bon Jovi (whoever they happen to be).

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