Excluded Martin threatens to sue

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The Independent Online
Just when Europe's preparation for the Ryder Cup could not get any worse, the Ryder Cup Committee has taken the unprecedented and undignified step of dumping Miguel Angel Martin, entirely against his will, from the team for the match against the Americans in three weeks' time.

Jose Maria Olazabal, who finished 11th on the qualifying table, now becomes an automatic selection. While captain Seve Ballesteros will finally name his two wild cards in Switzerland on Thursday, Tom Kite, his opposite number, has been happily in possession of his American line-up for over two weeks.

Martin, who had an operation on his injured wrist on 5 August and only had the plaster removed last week, refused to attend a fitness test at Valderrama today, fearing it would damage his recovery.

"Miguel has not played competitive golf since 18 July and had been requested to demonstrate that there was a reasonable likelihood that he would be fit and competitive for the Ryder Cup matches," said a statement of Mitchell Platts, the European Tour's director of communications. "Miguel informed the Ryder Cup committee that he did not think it was necessary or convenient in his recuperation to play 18 holes at Valderrama, which would have provided this opportunity. Following close consultation between the Ryder Cup Committee and Seve Ballesteros, Miguel has been informed that he will be replaced."

Ken Schofield, the executive director of the PGA European Tour, announced on Sunday that Martin would have to undergo a fitness test at a course in Madrid. But yesterday morning, by fax, Martin was informed he was required to play 18 holes at Valderrama, venue for the match on 26-28 September. An English sports medicine doctor and representatives of the Ryder Cup Committee and the Spanish Federation would be present.

"I answered the committee that I am not going to be there," Martin said. "I can't play 18 holes properly at this time." Martin's physiotherapists did not want him to go, either. "They say, `no, no, no, if you go there we will stop doing things that are very important'.

"They are doing things every day for my wrist and my recovery would be harmed by hitting shots now. That's what I want to avoid. I want to get fit - for the Ryder Cup, if possible, but if not for that then for the next tournament, or for next year or forever. I don't want to do any damage."

There seems little hope that Martin, who suffered the injury at Loch Lomond and last played at the Open, can be match-fit in time for Valderrama, but he wanted to be given as much time as possible. "I don't want to withdraw," he said. "This is my sport and I am going to be there if I can."

It is possible that Martin may start legal proceedings to regain his place. The 35-year-old Spaniard was never out of the automatic spots over the 12 months of qualifying and he won the Heineken Classic in Perth in February. Despite making only one cut since the end of May, no one knocked him out of the top 10.

Controversy over the selection of European Ryder Cup teams is nothing new. The system and number of wild cards has been a talking point not just this year, but for other recent matches. But clearly, Ballesteros will go to Valderrama to defend the cup with a stronger hand with Olazabal stepping into the team and the captain free to select Nick Faldo and Jesper Parnevik, or someone else who has demonstrated good form in the last few weeks.