Golf: Ballesteros makes his peace with countrymen: Faldo is not the only one to do an about-turn as Seve suddenly decides diplomacy is the best policy in Ryder Cup controversy

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The Independent Online
SEVE BALLESTEROS brandished a piece of paper and informed Europe that it was peace in our time. Not everybody saw it that way for as Ballesteros was doing his Neville Chamberlain bit in papering over the cracks on the Ryder Cup issue, Nick Faldo was doing a runner.

Ballesteros, bitter and sour in the build up to Wednesday's announcement here on the destination of the 1997 Ryder Cup, was all sweetness and light yesterday as he read a prepared statement. The trouble is, is that as he was reading it Faldo was next in for interview. Not only was he not interested in what the Spaniard had to say he was not interested in waiting. He did an about turn and marched straight out of the press room and back into the rain.

Faldo, who was in his sick bed on Wednesday, played a practice round over the Burma Road in preparation for the Volvo PGA Championship which (weather permitting) will start here today but we have not got a clue as to how he is or how he played. He departed with the message that he had a party to attend.

Back in the interview room, Ballesteros was also beating a retreat although it was more dramatic than hurried. His speech, written in English and prepared in Spain, had taken him a long time to write. 'I had plenty of time,' he said, referring to the fact that he knew Valderrama and its owner Jaime Ortiz-Patino would win the vote from the Ryder Cup committee to stage the match.

In recent weeks Ballesteros had described the Royal Spanish Golf Federation as a 'cancer'; he resigned from the Ryder Cup committee after attending one meeting, saying, in so many words that they were all against him (none of them agreed that his choice of Novo Sancti Petri was a suitable venue) and then he sparked a good old bribery row by revealing that Valderrama had offered him dollars 1m to help promote their bid. For a variety of reasons Ortiz- Patino's course, he argued, was not fit to stage the Ryder Cup.

This was Ballesteros yesterday: 'I think it is great that Spain will be host. It will take golf in my homeland to a new level of excitement and appreciation for all golfers, rich or poor. My heartfelt best wishes are extended to Valderrama and Mr Patino who has worked long and hard and I'm sure the American team will enjoy Valderrama.

'I also send my best regards to all the members of the Ryder Cup committee. They have worked and laboured hard to make the right choice and the fairest selection. I know that all the other clubs who were hoping to be selected are greatly disappointed. I wanted Novo Sancti Petri but life sometimes is not so sweet. We do not always get what we want. Everyone must forget any hard feelings and work together in assisting Mr Patino, Valderrama and the Ryder Cup committee to show the world that Spain is worthy of hosting this magnificent golf event.'

Ballesteros thinks he will officially be offered the captaincy after next year's Ryder Cup in Rochester, New York State. 'The committee knows much more than me. I know nothing. I think Mr Patino should be the captain. Be careful. . . it's a joke. Nice weather, huh?'

The Burma Road was awash and the pounds 80,000 PGA Championship, the flagship of the Volvo European Tour, is in danger of sinking if the weather does not improve. Jose- Maria Olajabal reckons the course will be unplayable if there is any more rain. At the Tour's annual dinner on Wednesday he was made an honorary life member in recognition of his victory in the Masters at Augusta last month. Golf, Olazabal said, was a different game then. 'I'm playing so badly I don't want to talk about it,' he said. Ballesteros, of course, knows all about the swings and arrows. The last time he was at Wentworth, last October, he was hammered in the first round of the World Match Play Championship.

Since then he has won the Benson and Hedges International Open and is second in the Order of Merit. Ballesteros needs to be in the top two in the money list at the conclusion of this tournament on Monday to guarantee his place in the US Open next month. If he is not he will attempt to qualify. 'I'll play in it somehow,' he said.

(Photograph omitted)

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