Torrance puts in a welcome appearance

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The Independent Online
The subject of appearance money is one of the great taboos of a European Tour. Everyone knows some players are paid to play, it is just couched in different terms these days. A shoot-out can be pre-tournament entertainment, for example, but then again it can be a smoke screen for bungs.

Officially, appearance money is banned, but then so was remuneration of any kind for Rugby Union players not so long ago and some of them still have problems getting their boots on for wads of fivers stuffed inside. It goes on, although just about the only truism on the subject is that no one who is anywhere close to it speaks openly on the subject.

Or they did not - until Sam Torrance joined the abolitionists yesterday. "It's a dodgy subject," he said after shooting a four- under-par 68 in the second round of the Murphy's Irish Open. "I had the chance two years ago and I said I wouldn't ask for it then and I still wouldn't now."

To his credit Torrance, a Ryder Cup veteran of 14 years, has instructed his management to reject inducements too, but on the minor side he has a naive faith in his peers, some of whom give the impression they would not turn up for their own funeral unless a large cheque was pushed inside the coffin.

"There are money grabbers," he continued, "but it's not the players. It's down to the sponsors and the management. Nick Faldo has said he wouldn't take it if other people weren't being paid and it's a big help that Colin Montgomerie has said he's against it. It's turning round. It would be to everyone's benefit if there was no appearance money."

It would be of particular benefit to the sponsors, who would know that their commitment would bear some relation to the official prize money. There is pounds 650,000 on offer here at Mount Juliet, but how much Greg Norman has received to tee off here is anybody's guess - although pounds 225,000 is a figure that has been mentioned.

That dwarfs the first prize of pounds 108,330, although that is more than enough to concentrate the mind for Torrance, who estimates he is one big win away from making the Ryder Cup team. Five birdies in the second round yesterday pushed him to an eight-under-par total of 136 and a share of second place with Montgomerie behind Germany's Sven Struver, who shot 70 yesterday, on 135.

Montgomerie, who refutes he has been paid to be here, nevertheless appears to fit an ominously rich seam of form. He is rankled that five top 10 finishes in Europe have not yielded a win but after finding two bunkers and dropping a shot on his opening hole, the 549-yard par-five 10th, he did not look remotely like making a bogey again in the 68.

Montgomerie has cherished his driver, a Callaway Big Bertha for four and a half years, a huge length of time in a world where clubs are discarded at a whim, and yesterday he showed why. Two drives from the fifth and eighth fairways brought him to eight feet from the flag and on each occasion he was rewarded with a birdie.

"It's a marvellous club," he said, "and I've taken care of it. I've also had copies made but it's difficult to replicate a graphite shaft and I've not found one as good."

Norman, who describes his clubs as his 14 best friends, was also looking for something yesterday but in his case it was the right direction for his putts. "I can't read the greens," he said after a 71 left him six shots behind the leader. "If I think it's right lip the ball goes off to the right, left lip and it goes left. My stroke's okay, it's just the line that's missing."

The rest of the field will hope he continues to blunder about in the dark, because for a man with no bearings he is sitting nicely at 141. "He's a class act," Philip Walton, the Australian's playing partner, said. "He could go berserk here. When he does, watch out."

n Tom Watson, the five-times Open champion, battled 40mph winds yesterday for a four-under-par 68 to take the first-round lead at the Western Open in Illinois. He birdied four of the final six holes to stand one stroke ahead of fellow Americans Ed Fiori, Jay Haas, Steve Lowery and Joel Edwards, and Australia's Brett Ogle. The defending champion Nick Price struggled with a 75.

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