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The game goes on
Le Trophee Lancome came and went with Sergio Garcia and Retief Goosen underlining their strengths and weaknesses in the most pronounced way.

The sad Goosen managed to bogey the last two holes - just as he did at Loch Lomond and in the US Open - in both instances, however, he ultimately triumphed. Garcia, on the other hand, came from a four shot deficit on the 14th tee to take the tournament with a one shot victory. Circumstances being different, he would again have writ his name large on the world of golf.

But world golf, like the sex industry in Thailand, is in the doldrums in the wake of the reaction to the catastrophic terrorist activity that so tragically befell the United States. The French needed to see Tiger Woods in action at St Nom-la-Breteche. It is a course waiting to enter the record books with the lowest round score in tournament golf - and Tiger was just the man to do it. No hole exists on any course in the world that is immune from the likelihood of his birdieing it.

But at Nom, the likelihood exists for some really crack long iron player birdieing every one of them. Sadly, the Tiger passed up the chance as well the $1.5 million that the sponsors had potted for his appearance. His absence from the lists did not, however, deter every French Gucci-golfer from taking to the fairways and wrecking such havoc that marshals and tournament officials were in a near traumatised state by the end of the event.

Trauma is not a superlative for what must be currently hitting the PGA and European Tour headquarters at the De Vere Belfry with the cancellation of this year's Ryder Cup. Certainly their reaction to events by postponement for a year to 2002 and playing it thereafter in every even year, that is: 2004, 2006, and so on is ill considered. Played in even years the event will coincide with the Walker Cup and the Solheim Cup.

With the efforts made in recent years to raise the profiles of these events in the interests of the game, this is a tragedy.

Cancellation of the Cup also means the loss of the anticipated £9m profit, which would have been ploughed back into the grass roots of the game and the European Tour fund. Although the event was underwritten by Long Reach International, it would be an unusual policy that covered a voluntary postponement of an event. Insurance companies are not renowned for their magnanimity and are not likely to be concerned with the fact that the Ryder Cup account is already £4 million in the red.

Although one can completely understand the levels of emotion and the desperation to show respect on both sides of the Atlantic and further, one can understand the concern of the American players about flying and being away from home at such times, there has been an astonishing lack of consequential thought. Life must go on and a determination to show that it does is surely the best weapon available to combat this sort of adversity.

By far the most moving and clearly sincere shows of respect were to be seen at the sporting events held throughout the world where the greatest of sportsmen stood together with their fans in a minute of silent mourning. The Ryder Cup could and should have been the most momentous show of solidarity and respect of them all. Instead, we are left with chaos and uncertainty.

The Dunhill Links Championship, played at Kingsbarns (pictured), St Andrews and Carnoustie from the 18th to the 21st October, is an opportunity to redress and both Tours should make every effort to see that the biggest and best stars in the firmament of the game are on show to the world. It is an opportunity in every sense. Not only is the prize fund the biggest in the European Tour calendar of events, it is also being held in the very cradle of the game on the east coast of Scotland. If ever there was a place for a symbolic rebirth of the game, this is surely it. These three links are the best in the world.

Kingsbarns is in itself symbolic in its youth as well as in its setting by the sea. It is also exceptionally telegenic. It is as yet a baby compared to the Old at St Andrews but measured against the spotty-faced youths that both major Tours engage week-in and week-out, it is a bonny, bonny baby embracing all that is great about links golf.

These three courses have had accolades enough, with Kingsbarns yet an infant. If the world's best golfers are not queuing up to make an early mark upon it, together with what is considered to be the Open's toughest venue at Carnoustie and the Old Lady herself at St Andrews, then it says little for them. Indeed, their disinterest could turn me cynical.

All of the great names from Europe, Africa and Australia have posted their intent. Now, it only remains for the Americans to do likewise and show the rest of the world that a mad minority has not crushed the true spirit of the game.


©    24 - SEPTEMBER 2001



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