Ploughing lone furrow in Seve Trophy

By Brian Keogh

Colin Montgomerie was giving thanks last night that the National Ploughing Championships in Tullamore are finally over.

Irish golf fans voted with their feet by staying away from the opening day of the Seve Trophy matches.

Over 80,000 turned up 20 miles away for Europe's biggest agricultural show but the golfers were left to plough a lone furrow in neighbouring Co Laois.

With no Irishmen to cheer, less than 50 fans watched Monty and Marc Warren share 20 birdies in a high quality opening clash with Swedes Robert Karlsson and Peter Hanson.

The Scandinavians won 3&1 as Seve Ballesteros' Continental European side snatched a 3-2 lead on the opening day.

But Monty was miffed that so few spectators turned up and called on Ireland's farmers to don their wellies and support the Seve Trophy for the next three days.

Montgomerie said: "The Ploughing Championships have to finish. The sooner they finish the better and they can come round and support us.

"I get that size of a crowd in a practice round in the evening and it is a shame. I think the atmosphere is limited and we need to get the Ploughing Championships over - I'm serious - and all the farmers can come over and support us."

The absence of crowd-pullers such as Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley has had a massive effect on the attraction of the event.

But Montgomerie pointed out that no-shows by the likes of Sergio Garcia, Niclas Fasth, Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood have hardly helped Tom Keane, the owner of the Heritage Golf & Spa Resort.

Asked about the Irish factor, he said: "I think it's had a slight effect but there would be 10,000 watching the Irishman play and still 24 watching me!

"At the same time, Gary Player picked Mike Weir (for the Presidents Cup in Canada) but it was a sell-out before that.

"The Heritage is a lovely place. There are some super games. It's a high standard and this is going to be another very close contest between the two teams.

"It's a pity it is an hour and a bit from Dublin. I don't know if it is expensive. It's good quality golf but we need the farmers to bring their wellies and get over here.

"This event has all the potential provided everyone shows up. Eleven alternates is clearly far too many. Two or three you can get away with."

Staring into a TV camera, event host Ballesteros told viewers: “Come out and support us. You don’t know what you’re missing.”

But he added: “It’s the first day in Ireland, the people work very hard. The economy is getting better and better and that’s thanks to the hard work of the people.

“It’s Thursday and they are supposed to be working and not watching golf...what are you laughing for?

“I didn’t really expect anything before we start. It was okay. I think as the week goes there will be more people.”

GB&I managed just two wins with Bradley Dredge and debutant Phillip Archer seeing off Spaniards Miguel Angel Jimenez and Gonzalo Fernandez Castaño 2&1.

Faldo was busier than he expected, bringing Nick Dougherty a latte on the ninth tee as the English ace teamed up with Graeme Storm to beat Thomas Bjorn and Soren Hansen with a birdie at the last.

But Faldo was also forced to give Paul Casey an impromptu swing lesson on the course after the Englishman found water three times in the first six holes of a 4&3 thrashing with Simon Dyson against French pair Raphael Jacquelin and Gregory Havret.

Faldo said: “I don’t want to jump in but I just said to Paul, hey, can I give you my observations.

“This is part of a learning curve for me. I got to know the guys who I can talk to or how to approach them or how they approach me.”

As for the lack of atmosphere, Faldo said: “You’ve got Europe’s best here and it’s exciting stuff now. I wasn’t thinking about crowds today. I have others things to do.”

Ballesteros was happy to emerge from the opening day with a one point lead and also to help Faldo with his Ryder Cup preparations.

He said: “I approached Nick on the 17th and said, you have very good material here for the Ryder Cup and he said yes.

“I’m just hoping we have more people here the next few days.”