Golf: Faldo ruled out of Ryder Cup as Monty strides on

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The Independent Online
COLIN MONTGOMERIE could scupper the chances of a number of potential Ryder Cup players with his fifth win of the season in the BMW International today. But not those of Nick Faldo, who was lying 14 strokes behind his former Cup partner after yesterday's third round. For the first time since 1975, a Ryder Cup will take place without Faldo, the event's chief record- setter.

Not even a victory here, it became clear, would have made much impression on European captain Mark James, who today announces his two wild cards to go with the 10 who qualify automatically. They should be Jesper Parnevik and Bernhard Langer but, with James, the hearing will be the believing.

With a day to go, some issues have become clearer, others less so. Padraig Harrington, with a brave 66 considering the circumstances, kept track with Monty's 65 to be just one behind the Scot and, at 17 under, five ahead of four players in third, who included Ian Woosnam.

"I will not be focusing on those behind me," Harrington said. "I'm going to worry about winning the tournament. If Monty finishes in front of me I'll be disappointed, but if two people finish in front of me I'll be very disappointed."

With a top-two finish, Harrington, who missed out by two shots on the final day two years ago, should overtake the 10th placed man, Robert Karlsson. Should he slip to third, Karlsson can retain his spot with a top-39 finish. At five under, he is currently 35th. Andrew Coltart was at seven under, still 10 strokes behind the second place he needs. But Jean Van de Velde should be safe, despite a 73 that included a quadruple-bogey nine at the sixth where he was twice in the water.

One other player might still qualify and he is the captain himself. James scored a 66 to move up to 11 under and seventh place. He needs a top-three to have a chance. Langer, at seven under, feels he may not qualify but thinks his chances of a wild card are "fairly good".

Woosnam, another with the sort of experience to counterbalance the number of rookies in the side, thinks he might be too far down the queue, like Faldo. "I feel I am coming into form and I've had some good performances in the majors," Woosie said. "I've done more than Nick but I still probably haven't done enough."

Still, when the axe fell on Faldo, it was savagely done. Faldo approached the captain in their hotel lobby on Friday evening to enquire how he stood in the wild card debate. "Even if you win," James told the former world No 1, "you are unlikely to get a pick. You are too far down the ladder."

Faldo, at 42, has played in more Ryder Cups (11) and won more points (25) than anyone else in the history of the competition. He won exactly half his 46 matches. But presumably James could not bring himself to select a player ranked 192nd in the world.

Yet few others have exhibited such determination, however fruitless, to make the team. His reaction to the news displayed Faldo's genuine desire to make a contribution to the European cause at Brookline next month.

"I'm gutted," Faldo said unprompted after a round of 72. "Let's hope he has more motivating lines for the rest of the team. I'm just walking around now and hitting it. The amount of golf I've played I could do with a rest."

James response to Faldo's evident disappointment was less than sympathetic. "He complained that I didn't speak to him and now he doesn't want to hear what I had to say," James said. "He's a long, long way down the list and I always said I was unlikely to go too far down. For someone like Nick you would go further down but there is a limit.

"I would love to have Nick on the team playing anything like his best. I know he can still win majors and make the team again. Professionally, I admire what he has done to get his game in order. But it would not do anyone any favours to pick them out of form."

For James to make his statement suggests he will be the captain and will not play if he should qualify, in which case the 11th player on the rankings will step up. He once again refused yesterday to clarify the situation and admitted he had not thought about a scenario today, possibly affecting Harrington, where his decision would make a difference to how a player plays the last few holes.

As for Faldo, Montgomerie said: "Our team will be weaker for not having Nick Faldo on it. No one else starts one-up on the first tee like Nick. Let's hope whoever takes his place will do Nick and the team justice. But Nick has not played like Nick Faldo can. If he had, he would have made the team. I would take him at 75 per cent, but maybe Mark thinks he is not at 75 per cent."

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