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Faldo backs "Majors Tour" plan

If the proposed series of tournaments for golfers aged between 37 and 55 who have won the game’s greatest prizes gets under way, then Nick Faldo would like to play in it. He would also like to meet the man whose idea it was. “Ha!” exclaimed Faldo, the holder of six major championships, when asked about the Major Champions Tour. “I wonder who thought that up because it is very similar to an idea I had myself. Where did they get it from?”

Such a tour was first mooted last month and the name of Fred Couples, the 1992 Masters champion, was associated with it. The Fox television network in the United States is interested in becoming the host broadcaster and letters to the leading players in that age group are to be sent out the week after the Masters, asking for their commitment to a proposed seven-event series to be staged between March and June that offers a minimum of $2 million (around £1.4 million) in prize-money for each event and a first prize of $400,000 or $500,000. If the tour is to start next year, 20 players must commit to join it by May 30, 2002.

There are more than 30 major championship winners who qualify now or will do by next year, including Faldo, Greg Norman, Davis Love III, Tom Lehman, Nick Price, Severiano Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam, Lee Janzen, Bernhard Langer, Paul Azinger, Mark O’Meara, Tom Watson, Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw.

Their appeal to golf followers remains considerable but, as Faldo, 44, pointed out, that appeal is based on their record rather more than their recent achievements. “In principle I like the sound of it,” Faldo said, “but it has to be entertainment. We can’t be competitive with the young guys any more. Our role now is to entertain people.”

Couples, 42, said: “People are saying . . . I am in favour of the new tour only because I want to have a chance to win a tournament again. I am not looking for easy money; I am looking for competition. I cannot compete with the young guys and I don’t see that changing. A lot of players my age end up rotting before they’re old enough to join the senior tour . . .

There are many others who are in the game’s no-man’s land. Fans still want to see us play and come down the stretch with a chance to win. I don’t care what the critics say. The majors tour would be good for golf and fading older golfers.”

There are considerable difficulties to be overcome before this tour can start: Hal Sutton and Love have already said no to it, and why would men such as Azinger give up competing on the main tour when they are clearly good enough to win there? The US PGA Tour is opposed to any drain of talent from within its ranks, and there is even talk of lowering the age qualifiction for seniors golf from 50 to 45 to stifle the Major Champions Tour at birth.

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