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Golf News - 2009/2010 Ryder Cup Bid
With Schofield in his corner, Matthews couldn’t lose
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To the Manor born, of course

John Huggan, Scotland on Sunday, 30 September 2001

Well, don’t say we didn’t warn you. When, in May, this newspaper first revealed to the nation that the 2009 - now 2010 - Ryder Cup wasn’t, after all, going to be bedecked in tartan, other sections of the Scottish media were oh-so quick to pour cold water on the very idea.

Of course the matches were coming to Scotland, they cried. How could they not be? With two sons of Caledonia in the shape of Ken Schofield and Sandy Jones in charge at the European Tour and the PGA, how could the biennial tussle with the United States go anywhere else?

Even for a press corps that at times more resembled cheerleaders for the Scottish bid rather than reporters of the facts, this was naiveté on a grand scale. If only they had focused on telling the nation what was actually happening behind the scenes. Fans with typewriters, indeed.

The real answers, of course, were to be found in Scotland on Sunday on May 27, 2001. Four months ago, we revealed that Schofield, provoked by the recommendations contained in an independent audit of the tour’s books and the knowledge that he had the full support of his players, was behind the venue that would provide the greatest financial benefit to the people he works for. In other words, Celtic Manor - backed by the millions of owner Terry Matthews - would get his full, not inconsiderable, backing.

And that, if we’re honest, was the end of the story. With Schofield in his corner, Matthews couldn’t lose. Here’s how it all worked out...

As things stand at present, profits from Ryder Cups played in Europe are split 50-50 between the European Tour and the PGA. That has been the case since 1991, when the PGA relinquished half of what had by then become a cash cow of considerable proportions (This year, the Ryder Cup was projected to earn profits in the region of £12m). Even that agreement, however, was hard earned. Only when the players threatened to withdraw their labour was an accord of sorts arrived at. To a man, they see little sense in their organisation giving away half of the Ryder Cup to a body who, as they put it, have nothing to bring to the table.

"The PGA has gotten away with this for too long," said a leading player recently. "Ten years ago, the tour thought it was a victory when we claimed 50% of the Ryder Cup proceeds. In reality it wasn’t. We gave away 50% of the cash.

"The match is between the top 12 American players and the top 12 Europeans. It is tour versus tour. We can call it anything. It would be a shame for it not to be called the Ryder Cup, but if the British PGA wouldn’t allow it to be called that, any good spin-doctor could have them crucified in the press. They have an indefensible position. Sooner or later it will change."

The "victory" to which that player referred came about when, in 1991, the PGA tried to exclude the tour from the Ryder Cup. "We had a meeting with the PGA a decade ago, and they announced they wanted all of the money," says Nick Faldo. "So we stood up - every one of us - and told them we wouldn’t play. Send out the B-team.

"The bottom line is: what does the PGA bring to the table? They own the trophy! That’s it."

With feelings running so high and with who knows what financial promises from Matthews still ringing in his ears, there was really only one course of action for Schofield. By backing Celtic Manor, he not only kept Matthews and his millions sweet, but was able to exert considerable pressure on the PGA, who had made it clear that they favoured Gleneagles - the new home of the Scottish PGA headquarters and the renamed PGA Centenary course.

So it is that, over the past few months, the Ryder Cup board - made up of three members each from the tour and from the PGA - have effectively been run by Schofield. Publicly, the PGA retained the casting vote in the event of a 3-3 tie in any vote. In reality, the PGA members - Phil Weaver, David Huish and Jim Christine - were neutered, so to speak, by the knowledge that negotiations were under way with the tour to decide what, if any, percentage of the Ryder Cup proceeds the club pros would retain.

How could it be otherwise? Can you imagine Schofield going back to Matthews, and telling him that he was sorry, but the matches were going elsewhere? Neither can I, even if European Golf Design, a subsidiary of - you guessed it - the European Tour had not been employed to reshape the Celtic Manor layout to the tune of £12m.

Had the PGA chosen to defy the tour and take the 2010 matches to Gleneagles, the tour would have walked away from the Ryder Cup, taking the players with them. Such an eventuality would have left the PGA with 100% of nothing. At least now, by going along with whatever the tour want regarding the Ryder Cup, the PGA will manage to retain some small percentage of the proceeds.

Also working for the tour in this little poker game is the fact that the PGA Tour in the United States at present derive no financial benefit from Ryder Cups played in the US: 100% of the proceeds go to the PGA of America. Given that reality, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that tour commissioner Tim Finchem would be only too happy to walk off into the sunset hand in hand with Schofield. Okay, so it wouldn’t be the Ryder Cup any more - and that would be a pity - but, hey, another name could be dreamt up. In time, the Ryder Cup would be just a memory, and a forgotten trophy sitting in the PGA offices at the Belfry.

And that’s why the Ryder Cup is going to Wales in 2010. It has nothing to do with what is ‘right’. It has nothing to do with the quality of the courses involved. It has everything to do with money and power, which should all come as no surprise to anyone.

For the past 20 years - ever since the 1981 matches at Walton Heath - and now for the next decade, European Ryder Cups have been, and will be, played on bad golf courses. The Belfry, Valderrama and the K Club are no-one’s idea of classic layouts. They are mediocre at best.

Ryder Cups go to such places because their owners have money. Lots of money. No, make that lots and lots of money. Money they have been prepared to contribute to the financial wellbeing of either or both of the European Tour and the PGA. So it is that Ryder Cup destinations are not the result of committee decisions. No, they are bought. By men such as Valderrama’s Jaime Pitino, Michael Smurfit of the K Club and now, Terry Matthews.

Yes, I know. It’s a depressing picture. And what makes this whole thing even more distasteful is the way in which Schofield and Jones kept insisting that the race was "wide open" - long after the former’s public bombshell in this newspaper. They knew the decision was as good as made. But they also wanted the Scottish Executive to keep throwing good money after bad in what was always going to be a forlorn hope of winning the day. Scotland was, in effect, milked dry before being bought off by the 2014 matches going to Gleneagles, by far the best of the Scottish venues in the race.

Through all of the above, it must be pointed out, former Scotland rugby captain Gavin Hastings, whose PR company were handling the Scottish bid, played with a straight bat. But these honest and hard-working people had no chance of success because, quite simply, they had no idea just who, and what, they were taking on.

Still, on the bright side, sending the Ryder Cup to Wales is perhaps no bad thing. The country, not the richest region in the European Union, will benefit from "Objective One" funding, and everyone surely hopes such a high-profile event will produce thousands of new golfers in the Principality.

But let’s not hold our collective breaths on that one. Those with longish memories will recall Schofield - in a stunning display of hypocrisy - claiming that one reason for the 1997 matches going to Valderrama was that "many Spaniards would be exposed to the game, and hopefully take it up". The crowds at perhaps Europe’s most exclusive course were mainly made up of Brits and a few Americans. Meanwhile, the average Senor and Senorita in the street waits patiently for an opportunity to try out Pitino’s course.

For all his secretive dealings, however, you have to give Schofield credit. Everyone involved in this sorry episode is leaving with something. Wales has its Ryder Cup. So does Scotland. So does the Continent in 2018, 2022 and 2026. And the PGA will retain at least a small part of the Ryder Cup proceeds, which is the best that they could ever have hoped for.

But the main beneficiaries are the European Tour, and Schofield himself. Not only has he mollified his membership by cutting the PGA out of the pie to an extent hitherto unheard of; he has presumably guaranteed that a Wales Open will be played at Celtic Manor well into the foreseeable future.

His next step, no doubt, will be to approach the PGA of America with a view to the European Tour receiving 50% of the proceeds from Ryder Cups played in the US. It’s hard to see how they could turn him down.

As Frank Hannigan, the former executive director of the USGA, once said: "You are no-one in golf until you have at least three conflicts of interest."

By that measure, Ken Schofield is a very big noise indeed.

A week in the life of a Labour MSP

Mungo MacKay, Scotland on Sunday, 30 September 2001

MONDAY, and bad news is about to break. The First Minister has staked all his credibility (admittedly that is not saying too much) on his revolutionary policy of transforming Scotland by securing a golf tournament 10 years down the line.

The reputation of a leader is made by such bold moves, grand stratagems and serious challenges. Roosevelt had the rebuilding of the American economy and the defeat of Nazism. Attlee built the welfare state. Thatcher turned back the tide of British decline. Dewar pushed through what was arguably the biggest constitutional shift in the last century and a half ("I do wish he hadn’t," says my Tory better half Mrs Mungo).

But Henry decided on arriving in office that his destiny lay elsewhere: he pinned everything on golf. Expecting a hole in one with his Ryder Cup bid, he finds himself stranded in a bunker instead. The competition is going to Wales, hitherto not famed for its connections with golf.

The public will get to hear about it by the end of the week.

TUESDAY, and in the canteen I sip coffee with a group of special advisers who are concerned about the effect the loss of the Ryder Cup will have on the First Minister. "Now that his big idea has been squashed by misfortune, what will he think of next?"

I think this unfair - his next idea is bound to be a good one. It’s the law of averages.

WEDNESDAY, and a memo arrives from one of Henry’s spindoctors, Tom Little - the mean, moody and magnificent former newspaper executive turned spinner. "Following our little setback with the 2010 Ryder Cup the First Minister has had an idea.

While we are still very much committed to using golf (in all of its varieties, including crazy golf) as a tool for re-engineering Scottish confidence, we want to open a second front on the war against our Scottish culture of down-in-the-mouth low expectations.

To that end, Henry has decided that "singing is the new golf".

"We are especially interested in the Eurovision Song Contest. To host the competition in 2007 we have to aim to have a winning song for the year 2006. Currently Scotland is not allowed its own entry to the competition. But with substantial alterations to the Scotland Act at Westminster, which would only take up four or five months of parliamentary time, we are confident we can bring this one off.

"The First Minister has already spoken to his extensive contacts in the world of showbiz - the Krankies, Fran and Anna and the Fife-born magic and light entertainment duo Wullie and Ethel from Methil.There is much enthusiasm for this concept.

"All ministers are asked to give these plans serious thought and attention. E-mail me suggestions on how to take this forward."

THURSDAY, and the silver-suited former Lanarkshire council boss turned First Minister’s fixer in chief, Tom McCabe, is in a little trouble.

McCabe managed to secure a flat for himself in Edinburgh on parliamentary expenses, even though his constituency is close enough to Edinburgh not to be entitled to it.

He did all this on the basis that he needed the flat because he was already spending so much on hotel bills.

Some Scottish parliamentarians have to work very, very late on weekdays: sometimes as late as 6pm. Now it is alleged his hotel bills were actually tiny. So why does he need the flat, ask envious MSPs? "This is an outrage," McCabe tells me. How is this an outrage, I ask.

He looks uncomprehending for a moment. "Because it just is." With that he is off down the corridor, his suit glinting under the artificial light of the parliamentary HQ Labour corridor.

FRIDAY. E-mail to Tom Little: "Dear Tom, Henry’s drive re Eurovision Song Contest is certainly a (what’s the word?) brave and eye-catching initiative. But might our critics not say, quite wrongly of course, that we are obsessed with trivia? They think we are a bunch of buffoons. Just a thought."

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