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Tom Watson rejects Ryder Cup payment idea

Tom Watson came out in the opposite camp to Tiger Woods and Mark O'Meara on Monday in the great debate over whether players should be paid to appear in the Ryder Cup.

Watson, speaking on his return to the Carnoustie links where he won the first of his five Open titles in 1975, said: "I would not like to see it.

"I know how much an economic success it is and that's the issue. Who reaps the benefit?

"I still like the idea of playing for your country and not getting paid. I am from the old school."

A Sunday newspaper report said that Woods had suggested "100,000 dollars, maybe 200,000" as a suitable fee to the players nowadays.

But Sandy Jones, executive director of the British Professional Golfers' Association, reckons that if each of the 24 players received that amount the entire profit of the Ryder Cup, used to build golf at grass-roots level, would be wiped out.

Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal was questioned on Monday as well and said: "I don't know if it (payment) would affect the spirit. We have to think very carefully before doing anything. We don't have to rush a decision."

Watson has not been back to Carnoustie since the day he completed a remarkable Open debut 24 years ago.

He expects there to be some tears this week - not emotional ones, though, but ones caused by the fearsome test that the course is sure to be.

"I relish that," he said. "It's going to be a struggle. The caddies are the best people to talk to about this and they are predicting a winning score over par.

"You have to have a game plan. You just hope to avoid too many tragedies - everyone is going to have some.

"I don't know a tougher finish in golf. My goal this year is to par the short 16th - I didn't do it once in 1975."

And that was in five attempts as Watson tied with Australian Jack Newton and had to go another 18 holes the following day - Sunday then - before claiming the claret jug by a single shot.

On his 50th birthday in September the 1993 American Ryder Cup captain becomes eligible for the US Seniors Tour and he confesses to mixed emotions about signing up for that.

"I still like playing against the best players in the world. But it will be great to meet up with old friends," he said.

"I miss them and Father Time is telling that the Seniors Tour is where I should be."

As for this week, Watson picked out Woods, Colin Montgomerie and US Open champion Payne Stewart as three players to be "reckoned with" - and also 19-year-old Sergio Garcia.

"He reminds me of Seve (Ballesteros) back in 1976 and I would not be surprised if his name pops up there."

Ballesteros was second to Johnny Miller at Birkdale when the same age as Garcia.

Watson, honoured to be made captain of Ballybunion in Ireland next year, knows how tough Carnoustie is not only from his own recollections, but also a story told to him by Jack Nicklaus.

"He played with Gary Player and Arnold Palmer in a match in a 40mph wind and with the course baked out. Jack shot 77, Player 78 and Palmer 79," he said.

"And in greens in regulation Nicklaus led with four out of 18. Gary was on two, Arnold one. Now for this year you can add rough and length."