Faldo cannot make excuses now

Sport-BY-SPORT GUIDE TO 1995: Trinidad's finest to set tempo for visit of calypso cricketers as Ryder Cup heads for Rochester : GOLF
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The Independent Online
Although the financial rewards are slight, the Ryder Cup match between the United States and Europe at Rochester, New York State, in September, is likely to be the highlight of the year.

In a sport in which the rich get mega-rich, the biennial competition, which is played only for Samuel Ryder's modest trophy and an ocean of pride, remains the classic team event.

The qualifying process reaches its conclusion in August, the top 10 players on both sides qualifying automatically with the captains, Lanny Wadkins and Bernard Gallacher, choosing the remaining two.

Seve Ballesteros goes into the new year as leader of the European standings, followed by Bernhard Langer, Jose-Maria Olazabal and Ian Woosnam. Costantino Rocca, currently in ninth place, had a nightmare in the singles during Europe's defeat at The Belfryin 1993 and needs a chance for atonement.

Loren Roberts, pipped by Ernie Els for the US Open last summer, leads the American list, ahead of Corey Pavin, Tom Lehman and Fuzzy Zoeller.

Before Olazabal defends the Masters at Augusta National in April, Els and Nick Faldo will have been in full swing as new members of the US Tour. Europe's loss is America's gain, although both will be seen from time to time on the European Tour.

Faldo will be more comfortable dealing with the American press and it may be that the uniformity of courses on the US Tour will help him regain his stature as a major contender, although when he won the Masters in 1989 and 1990 he did not complain about conditions in Europe. If 1995 is not Faldo's year he will have no excuses.

Els was recently voted European player of the year, although a strong case could have been argued for Olazabal and Colin Montgomerie. For the second year running, Big Monty won the marathon, the Volvo Order of Merit, and he won it convincingly with £762,719 to Langer's £635,483.

Ignoring Faldo's advice to follow his example and head west, Montgomerie will play most of his golf in Europe. Having advanced from 14th in the world rankings to eighth, Montgomerie has to do what the seven ahead of him have done: win a major championship.

Olazabal and Els made the breakthrough in 1994 and more can be expected from them while Nick Price, who won the other two blue riband events, the Open and the US PGA, seems to get better with age. For the 124th Open Championship, Price will take the old silver claret jug to St Andrews.

As for Laura Davies, she showed Faldo the way by finishing top of the LPGA Tour in the US with $687,201 (£450,000) and was also third in the European Order of Merit. Davies became the first golfer, male or female, to win on five tours - European, Americ a n, Asian, Japanese and Australian - in one year. Even Thomas Cook would have trouble following that.