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Farce in the Sun
If what transpired at Valderrama last weekend had been scripted it would be considered satire. A point was certainly made and a lesson should be learned. But the European Tour has been through this scenario before at the conclusion of the Lanctme Trophy in 1986 and no lesson was learned then. So, it is fair to conclude that the 15th playing of the Volvo Masters was a farce and we can all sit back and have a good laugh. Pub quizzes for the foreseeable future will inevitably pose the question 'which two players won the Volvo Masters Title in the same year?'

Both Bernard Langer and Colin Montgomerie can lay claim to the Volvo Masters title for 2002 and both were shamefully proud of the result. Monty's playoff record on the European Tour reads 'played seven, won nil' so he was clearly glad to settle for the joint win for it puts him in the record books as having won every season on the Tour for 10 years. That Bernard Langer was equally enthusiastic about accepting a no-win win is baffling and must simply reflect indifference to the European Tour and its titles.

There is something unreal about a tournament being won by two players. There is also something-unreal about two great players settling for such a result. That the tournament director was happy to endorse the outcome surely makes a mockery of the whole event. Surely the two combatants should have been brought back at first light the next day to settle the matter.

Farce is certainly the applicable word for the whole event at Valderrama. With no cut in the tournament after 36 holes, the top 66 players in Europe played some very indifferent golf. Only 12 players were under par through 36 holes and only 3 through 72. The long anticipated shoot out for the European order of merit between Retief Goosen and Padraig Harrington proved to be more music hall than farce. Both played so spectacularly badly that Goosen ultimately triumphed at 12 over par, one shot better than his Irish adversary.

Valderrama is justifiably claimed to be the best course on continental Europe and it certainly proved to be a test last weekend. Yet it also proved to be something of a lottery with the farcical 17th hole contributing improportionally to the success or failure of a players performance. Robert Trent Jones built this course, which was originally Sotogrande New, and Seve Ballesteros tarted it up for a whacking great £1 million fee. Seve threw in the 17th green, reflecting either his bad humour or good humour that week depending on how you look at it, for it is either spiteful or comic. Jaime Patino, the Bolivian mega-rich owner of the place loves his 17th green and was said to be distraught that it did not figure in the play-off. Would he love it quite as much if he let the grass grow a little in front of the green so that quite perfectly struck shots stood a chance of not rolling hopelessly into the pond? Or would that take the delightful roll-of-the-dice risk out of the game, the object of which is to remove every aspect of chance and weigh risk with judgement?

What was really a very intriguing event, with the lead and challengers changing as frequently as Monty's facial expressions, was overshadowed by the ongoing farce. One looked at the starting times for the last round on Sunday with disbelief. Play was scheduled to start at 1.28pm and was expected to finish at 6pm. I can't recall when I last saw a pro tournament round of anything less than four and half-hours. Are they arithmetically challenged at Tour headquarters or are TV producers running the show completely? The speed with which darkness sets in on the Costa Del Sol clearly was going to make things tight for even a normal conclusion to the event and make a play-off nigh impossible. The fact that everyone got round in daylight and Monty and Langer played two extra holes before getting lost in the dark was nothing short of a miracle.

Saving the best for last, however, the ultimate farce was the marching off of Monty, at the conclusion of his round, to the TV compound to have a look at the monitor recording of his action on the tenth green. There was a question about Monty having addressed and hit a moving ball. Frankly John Paramor, the chief referee, was lucky not to escape with a punch on the nose for, had Monty done so it would have been an entirely acceptable bit of GBH. It is simply amazing that Monty's integrity was questioned. Surely, when Paramor got the word from the TV people that Monty might have addressed and hit a moving ball he should have left it to Monty to penalise himself. That the man did not penalise himself meant that the ball had come to rest or he had in fact cheated. Taking the man to look at the monitor is simply questioning the man's integrity and is not only farcical but also shameful.

Had the events of the Volvo Masters been scripted as satire it would have been Oscar winning stuff. But through it all the dreadful irony of Bradley Dredge's position was overlooked. Dredge takes the third place slice of the money cake when he must be considered to be in second place since the joint leaders are both deemed to have won. Were he awarded the second place pot - as he should be - he would find himself in the top-15 in the order of merit with automatic entry into next years major championships. Now, is that fair or is that farce?

©    12 - NOVEMBER 2002

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