Perhaps figuring that at age 41 his best earning years are numbered, Greg Norman last week threatened to file a restraint of trade lawsuit against Ken Schofield, executive director of the European tour, after Schofield called for a reduction in the appearance fees offered by tournament sponsors. As both the world's No. 1-ranked player and top gate attraction, Norman commands a reported $300,000 to play in events outside the U.S.—where such payments are strictly prohibited—and claims that any change discriminates against him.
"Eliminating appearance money is up to the sponsors," Norman said in Perth, Australia, where he was playing in the Heineken Classic. "They cannot be dictated to. They can do what they like. No one is ever going to change that."
Schofield, who was also in Perth, doesn't think Norman or his manager, Frank Williams, has much of a case. Schofield has written to the sponsors of the Dubai Desert Classic, the Murphy's Irish Open and the Canon European Masters recommending that they not pay an appearance fee of more than 25% of the purse to any single player.
"If a fellow is qualified to enter, it is hard to say that he is being restrained," Schofield says. "We are doing what is best for the majority. If Frank and Greg say they are being restrained, I say to them, 'You must test that.' I have talked to our legal counsel and am pretty relaxed about our position."
The European tour banned appearance fees several years ago, but sponsors have gotten around the rule by offering star players huge sums to appear at cocktail parties or outings connected with their tournaments. Schofield's letters went to the three events that most egregiously breach the appearance fee rule ( Norman, not coincidentally, played in all three last year). At Dubai, for example, he received a fee equal to 44% of the purse, plus jet fuel. And at the Irish Open, Norman said that if he had known Murphy's was going to use his face on beer mats for a six-month advertising campaign, he would have asked for more than $300,000. Norman promised to return half of his fee when he missed the cut at the European Masters.
In his farewell speech, outgoing USGA president Reg Murphy said he hopes to see the day when spike marks can be legally tamped down and ties in the U.S. Open will be decided in a nine-hole playoff that begins immediately upon conclusion of regulation play. Judy Bell, Murphy's successor, offhandedly dismisses both suggestions. Nine holes on a Sunday evening makes sense, Bell agrees, because it would avoid the anticlimactic Monday playoff, but isn't practical given TV's scheduling needs. Bell was especially adamant about the spike-mark rule, saying, "If there is only one rule, it would be this: play the course as you find it, and the ball as it lies."
Last year wasn't a total wash for Robert Landers, the Texas farmer turned Senior tour player. Although he didn't play well enough to keep his card, "Farmer Bob" made hay on the tour—more than $200,000, including endorsements, which allowed him to pay off his mortgage, buy a tractor and a pickup truck, and dole out cash to needy people in Azle, Texas, over the holidays. "We know a lot of very poor people because we were poor ourselves," says his wife, Freddie.
Landers was in Key Biscayne, Fla., last week at the Royal Caribbean Classic marking the one-year anniversary of his much-hyped Senior tour debut. This time, playing on a sponsor's exemption, he had no Moo Crew to cheer him on or nosy reporters peppering him with questions. The lack of attention seemed to suit him. "It was kind of quiet out there, but that's O.K.," Landers said.
Because of Landers's uncertain schedule—he is allowed an unlimited number of sponsor's exemptions and must qualify to get into any other events—Freddie has taken over as his caddie, a job she successfully performed during his triumphant run through the Q school for the 1995 season. Freddie does all the work a regular caddie would do, but draws the line at one task. "I don't do sand traps," she says.