Ken Jones on Monday: Greed ruling the fairways

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The Independent Online
IT WOULD take a convincing advocate indeed to discredit the notion that tournament golf today is pervaded by an atmosphere of greed.

You may feel this is travelling over well-trodden ground, but the glories available to the galleries at Woburn yesterday could not entirely suppress the dissension that has again risen up over extra-curricular payments to guarantee the appearance of star players.

As it has never been the habit here to take up cudgels on behalf of millionaires, no sympathy can be felt for Nick Faldo, who has come under heavy fire from lesser golfers since declaring that conditions on the European Tour may persuade him to play more frequently in the United States.

In expressing despair with locker room complaints about his attitude, Faldo fails to comprehend that his great career could not have taken shape without a stage to appear on and the public's growing awareness that there is now no more significant sound in sport than the tap of an agent's calculator.

As there is every reason to suppose that Faldo, in common with others of a similar status, may be responding to persistent suggestions that opposition to appearance money is growing up among sponsors, the issue cannot be ignored by the European Tour.

For the benefit of spectators who expressed puzzlement over the decision to exclude Seve Ballesteros from next month's World Match play championship at Wentworth, he is not a client of IMG, who are staging the event.

As with all major sports, nothing in golf is ever quite what it seems from the outside looking in. What you see on the fairways is seldom the complete story.

Doubtless to the great delight of sponsors, the Dunhill Masters came good in the best way imaginable.

By mid-afternoon on a final day of 36 holes made necessary by inclement weather, some of the tournament's top attractions, Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam, Bernard Langer and Colin Momtgomerie were log- jammed at the top of the leader board. Ironically, Faldo, who shot rounds of 70 and 65 to finish at eight under, was not among them.

It left Faldo eight shots adrift of the winner, Ian Woosnam, whose welcome return to form was blemished by some fatuous references to criticism. When it was put to the Welshman that his efforts of late have not been best received, the response was less than gracious. 'I don't read what's written about me in newspapers,' he said grumpily.

What Woosnam reads today (in common with beleaguered football managers he was probably telling less than the truth) will be more to his taste.

From the moment that he struck a rich vein of form in the morning round, equalling the course record and almost going one better, Woosnam played stirring golf.

The driver and the putter have always been a source of frustration for him, but this time they worked like a dream. You could see confidence in a stride that always looks jaunty when things are going well and if he smoked enough of the sponsor's brand to be a mobile advert for them, he never looked like cracking up.

Four birdies announced his charge over the back and soon it was clear that the rest did not have the game to catch him.

What is it about golf that can turn last week's pussy cat into this week's tiger? Unfortunately, that's not the only question currently being asked about the most humbling of games.