New format set for next year


An anticipated change of format means that, starting next year, the Alfred Dunhill tournament will be a links championship with a pro-am format and a prize fund of $5 million. But the sponsors have made it clear that no appearance money will be paid to attract the game's top players.

In effect, two competitions - an individual event for the professionals and a team competition for one professional and one amateur - will be played concurrently over the Old Course, Carnoustie and the stunning Kingsbarns Links near St Andrews. It is scheduled from October 18th to 21st, when the final round will be played on the Old Course.

Kingsbarns, about two miles from St Andrews, has been described as a blend of Ballybunion and Royal Dornoch, with a little bit of Pebble Beach thrown in.

As a further change, it will be an officially-sanctioned, European Tour Order of Merit event, carrying Ryder Cup points. So, it adopts a similar format and status as the successful AT&T Pro-Am staged in early February each year at Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Poppy Hills on the Monterey Peninsula.

Interestingly, the $5 million purse, as opposed to £1 million for the tournament just ended, will not mean an additional outlay for the sponsors.

"As a traditionalist, I feel it is wrong that appearance fees are sometimes more than the prize money," said sponsor's representative Johann Rupert. "If the top players don't want to come, then we are going to have fun anyway, celebrating links golf."

Clearly, the belief is that celebrities such as Catherine Zeta Jones, Michael Douglas and Ivan Lendl, who played in the pro-am last Wednesday, will more than compensate for the absence of big-name professionals.

Meanwhile, Ireland had genuine reason to feel disappointed with runner-up position to South Africa in their group, given that they produced the best cumulative scoring of the qualifying stage.

From their nine matches, the trio of Des Smyth, Paul McGinley and Padraig Harrington were 30 under par, compared with 26 from Spain, 22 from South Africa, 17 from Wales and 16 from the fourth semi-finalist, Argentina. Still, a 3-0 win over France in their final match of the group was sufficient only for runner-up position and a reward of £15,000 each.

At an individual level, McGinley (67, 71, 67) was their best scorer on 11 under par, two behind Ernie Els, the leading player at group level. Harrington (68, 69, 69) was 10 under while Smyth (69, 68, 70) nine under.

"I think the whole team played well, but the margins between success and failure can be very slight in this event," said Smyth. "I felt some pressure coming into the week, taking Darren Clarke's place, but I don't think I let myself down."

Saturday's Result: Ireland 3 France 0 - P McGinley 67 bt R Jacquelin 69; D Smyth 70 bt J F Remesy 76; P Harrington 69 bt T Levet 74.