"Oh, they will," McCormack said. "Next time around."
Meanwhile, however, he has them nailed with long-term contracts, right?
McCormack laughed and said, "Actually, I'd rather not use the word 'nailed.' "
Mourgue d'Algue might have originated a real tournament instead of the present eight-man format had it not been for the philosophy McCormack formulated a few years ago on how to sell golf to Europe. He clings a bit to the same idea today: pay the big stars a bundle—that's whom the fans really want to see. The first Lanc�me in 1970 featured Palmer, Player and Tony Jacklin. It has always been a competition with prize money based on the order of finish, and it has been a 72-hole event for the past seven years, but it has never had more than eight players, most of them McCormack clients. And over the years the amount of money the big names have received for appearing in the Lanc�me could purchase a wing of Versailles.
It would seem Lanc�me has gotten its money's worth. This was the first time Palmer did not play. He won in 1971, attracting some attention to the perfume, and other stars have since captured the trophy: Billy Casper, Johnny Miller, Player, Severiano Ballesteros. Ben Crenshaw, Ray Floyd, Hale Irwin and Sam Snead have competed in the tournament. Still, Mourgue d'Algue's inspiration in 1976 to have Palmer drive some golf balls off the Eiffel Tower may have done more for the sponsor than anything else.
"I thought the idea up myself," Mourgue d'Algue says proudly. "We build a platform and Palmer hits toward a park, you see?" In 1976 and '77, Palmer hit several balls off the tower. One drive not only went toward a park, the Champ de Mars, it went through it and struck a city bus.
Before last week's golf began, Mourgue d'Algue took the eight players and their wives and friends to dinner at the Tour d'Argent. Most of the first-timers to the Lanc�me—Lee Trevino, Tom Watson, Andy North—did not know what the Tour d'Argent might be other than a neighborhood bistro overlooking the cathedral of Notre Dame. Slowly, however, they found out how many stars a restaurant could have. Trevino decided he could leave the Tabasco in his pocket. Watson noticed that you might need a brush to get the dust off the wine bottles. The ducks were registered. And everyone's dessert stayed on fire for two or three minutes. None of this kept the U.S. Open champion, North, and his wife Sue from ordering milk. Un milk, s'il vous pla�t.
While Linda Watson lit a cigar and spoke of buying out the Louvre for the new house in Kansas City, her husband was asked why he had chosen to play in the Lanc�me rather than the European Open, a new tournament with ambitions of becoming a world classic.
"They made me an offer I couldn't refuse," said Watson. Then he added, "Besides, I like barbecued duck."
The fact is, both Watson and Trevino were paid handsomely to take part in the Lanc�me instead of the European Open. By most everyone associated with golf in Europe, this year's Lanc�me was seen as an attempt by McCormack to harm the European Open because neither McCormack nor Mourgue d'Algue were running it. There were no hard figures available, but it is safe to assume that Watson and Trevino each received more than $25,000—maybe as much as $50,000—to spend a week in Paris rather than play at Walton Heath in the brand new event originated by Sven Tumba, the Swede with the Olympic ice hockey medal and backed, at least verbally, by Jack Nicklaus.