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McCormack defends appearance fee policy

Mark McCormack, chief of the International Management Group, has defended his company's decision not to pay appearance fees to players to compete in this week's IMG-run Cisco World Matchplay Championship.

"Once we start offering inducements the event loses more than it gains," said championship chairman Mark McCormack at Monday's draw.

"We have never done it and I am very proud of that. We've had a lot of players - and I am not going to name them - ask for appearance money and we've told them we don't pay it," McCormack told Press Association.

In spite of IMG's policy, the tournament manages year after year to lure the worlds top ranked players to Wentworth, and this year is no different.

Five of the world's top eight travel to Wentworth this year: South Africans Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, ranked third and fourth respectively, number five Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harrington in seventh and Vijay Singh eighth.

But although McCormack acknowledges that the field would be bolstered by the presence of the top two, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, he felt it unnecessary to pay them to compete.

"I'd love to have Tiger playing in this every year and I'd like to have Mickelson and David Duval here too," added McCormack.

"But the fact that even with five million dollars of prize money in the Dunhill links championship in Scotland two weeks ago they still could not attract any of the top Americans shows you where the sport has gone.

"Having said that, the prestige of this event is very attractive. I think this is a title when your career is over that you would like to have on your list.

"That's why I'm pretty sure that one day Tiger will come back."

Woods' one and only appearance at the event was in 1998. Having beaten this year's defending champion Ian Woosnam in the quarter final, and Lee Westwood in the semis, Woods lost to long time friend Mark O'Meara on the final green.

Mickelson's record is less impressive. Having started twice - 1n 1996 and 1997 - Lefty made first round exits on both occasions, first to Vijay Singh and then to Kiwi Frank Nobilo.

But McCormack could not convince Woods, his biggest golf client, to play this year.

"We don't control Tiger. Tiger controls Tiger and the demands on his schedule meant it was not possible for him to participate this year.

"We talk to him all the time, though, and he knows his invitation is there."

Woods was reportedly given two million US Dollars to play in the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open in Germany in May and is anticipated to collect a similar figure for turning up at next year's Dubai Desert Classic.

"The money is so big it's hard to contemplate," continued McCormack.

"Except for the majors and the regular US Tour events most players only go to places now where they receive guarantees."

But although the field for the World Matchplay will have dug in their own pockets to get to Wentworth, they will not leave empty handed.

Prize money for first round losers is £50, 000, while the winner will receive a hefty £250, 000.

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