Ballesteros felt it was a mistake for him to be offered a place on the committee and it was a mistake for him to accept it. 'I found myself in a very difficult decision because I have stated clearly and strongly that in my opinion Novo Sancti Petri is the best venue for the Ryder Cup,' he said. Ballesteros was promoting Novo Sancti Petri, a public course near Cadiz that he helped to design, before replacing Tony Jacklin on the committee only four months ago. In that time, he has attended one meeting.
The venue in Spain for the 1997 Ryder Cup will be announced later this month and from the Ballesteros barometer it appears that Novo Sancti Petri has not got a prayer. Valderrama, owned by the Bolivian billionaire Jaime Ortiz-Patino, has long been the leader in the clubhouse. Ballesteros, who is playing in the Benson and Hedges International Open here, was asked yesterday about the timing of his decision. 'It's the best thing to do,' he said. 'It makes it much easier for the committee to make its decision. I don't want to talk about this any more.'
But he did. He emphasised that Novo Sancti Petri was owned by a Spanish company. 'What is wrong if I have got an interest?' he asked. 'Don't you think that Jack Nicklaus had an interest when they played the Ryder Cup at his course, Muirfield Village?'
Ballesteros said he would respect the committee's decision if indeed Valderrama was chosen. 'Sure. What can I do? I may say something later.' Nevertheless, of Valderrama he asked: 'What have they done for the game of golf?' Plenty, according to Nick Faldo, who yesterday was full of praise for Ortiz-Patino and his course.
Ballesteros began his tirade against virtually everybody when he played at Montecastillo in Jerez, a course designed by Nicklaus and another Ryder Cup contender. This was when he said: 'I've learnt I have a few friends, many acquaintances and very many enemies.' He does not appear to have many friends in the United States Golf Association, which has not issued him with an invitation to play in the US Open. 'I think I should have got a place rather than Arnold Palmer or Johnny Miller,' Ballesteros said. For the first time, the USGA has invited the top 15 from Europe's Order of Merit but Ballesteros was not among them.
However, there are also places open for the top two players in the money list at the end of May and should Ballesteros win here (with a first prize of pounds 108,330) then that would probably be good enough. This, though, will take some winning. Apart from the quality of the field - Europe's finest with the exception of Ian Woosnam - there is the quality of the course. St Mellion is one of Nicklaus's more imaginative designs (ie, a hellfire corner of Cornwall) and when the wind blows, beating par is virtually impossible.Reuse content