Out of Order
Here it is May, the European Tour has held 12 official events, and Fred Couples leads the Order of Merit by $135,000 over Robert Karlsson of Sweden. Two places back is Nick Price, the No. 1 player in the world. Couples and Price may look great on the marquee, but they have played in only two European events this season, neither of them in Europe. Couples won the Dubai Desert Classic and the Johnnie Walker Classic in the Philippines back-to-back in January, and Price finished tied for third and second, respectively, in those events. Since then nobody has come close to taking command of the European Tour, and the main reason is obvious: Nobody has been playing the European Tour, where courses and conditions are generally worse than they are here.
Colin Montgomerie, the No. 1 player in Europe in 1994, has entered three events. Bernhard Langer and Seve Ballesteros have played two each. Jos� Mar�a Olaz�bal has played one. European Tour insiders fear that Nick Faldo's success on the PGA Tour will lead to an exodus by Montgomerie, Langer and Olaz�bal.
Asked if he worries about a domino effect, European Tour executive director Ken Schofield says, "Our tour is not about any one player or players. It has not been and never will be."
It hasn't? The European Tour is not about Faldo, Ballesteros, Langer, Montgomerie and Olaz�bal? Schofield is kidding himself if he believes that. He must face the fact that behind that group of elite players, there are no rising stars. Steven Richardson, who played in the 1991 Ryder Cup, is currently 71st on the Order of Merit. Peter Baker, who was 3-1 at the Belfry in 1993, is 81st. That leaves Andr� Bossert, Alexander Cejka, Andrew Col-tart, Adam Hunter, Karlsson and Jarmo Sandelin to take up the slack. Those are hardly household names, even in Europe.
"We are developing a broader base of champions," Schofield says. "Unlike some, I believe the batch back in Europe is going to be very competitive."
It had better be. If not, Ken Schofield will have little more than the European equivalent of a Nike Tour on his hands.
While Ben Crenshaw was coming apart emotionally on the final hole of the Masters three weeks ago, his regular caddie, Linn Strickler, was patching himself together physically.
Strickler, who has caddied for Crenshaw in Tour events for the last three years but defers to Carl Jackson at Augusta, got so excited when Crenshaw's 12-foot birdie putt on the 71st hole dropped that he leaped up to touch the ceiling of his Clearwater, Fla., home. He forgot that he was standing beneath a ceiling fan.