Golf: Haeggman handed ticket to Ryder Cup: Gallacher settles on a blend of the old and the bold in shaping his European team to confront the United States at The Belfry: Tim Glover reports from Wentworth

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The Independent Online
HARRY LIME was too old, so yesterday Bernard Gallacher announced that the Third Man would be Karl Sven Joakim Haeggman. In case the name does not provide a clue, Haeggman is the first Swede to play in the Ryder Cup. When Gallacher revealed his hand here he did so to applause from sets of hands that were put together in a spontaneous act of recognition that he had done the right thing.

If Gallacher was in any doubt about that, the applause must have been music to his ears. Nine players qualified on merit following the Volvo German Open at Dusseldorf on Sunday, the last event in 39 steps, the first of which was taken last September. It left Gallacher, the captain of the European team to meet the United States at The Belfry from 24 to 26 September, with his three wild cards.

The Spanish two-step of Seve Ballesteros and Jose-Maria Olazabal, neither of whom qualified on merit, had already been informed that their places were secure. That left the captain with one floating vote and it went to Haeggman, ostensibly on the advantage in the pecking order of about pounds 5,000 but there is probably more to it than that. Haeggman finished 10th in the Ryder Cup table, Ronan Rafferty 11th. The Swede, 24 last week, was joint sixth in the German Open, the Northern Irishman joint 20th.

It was not quite game, set and match. Ballesteros, who has a loud voice in these matters, and Bernhard Langer, who won the German Open, both wanted the third man to be an experienced Cup player. Gallacher did not make up his mind until Sunday evening. He tried to drop a hint to Haeggman but it was not caught. Gallacher asked Ken Schofield, the executive director of the European Tour, to get Haeggman's phone number. When Gallacher bumped into the Swede in the locker room at the Hubbelrath course he asked him: 'Have you given Ken your phone number?' 'Yes.' 'Then go home and have a good night's sleep.' The penny didn't drop.

Not until 7.30am yesterday morning when Gallacher rang Haeggman at his mother's home in Sweden. Haeggman was sworn to silence until the official announcement at high noon although he told Gallacher he would probably tell his coach. 'Whatever you do don't change your swing,' Gallacher told him. The captain also had to go to Rafferty's home in Berkshire yesterday morning and tell him that his services at The Belfry, where he won his singles in the tied match in 1989, were not required. 'It was one of the most difficult things I've had to do,' Gallacher said. By all accounts Rafferty made it easier. 'He took it very well,' Gallacher said. 'He told me I'd made the right choice.'

At the end Gallacher's choice was made, if not simply, then fairly, on the money list. There was a strong argument for introducing Sweden into a match that, until Britain and Ireland opened its doors to Europe, and specifically Ballesteros, had become almost as one-sided, in America's favour, as the Walker Cup. One of the European Tour's biggest sponsors is Swedish. Volvo's commitment is about pounds 25m and there will be plenty of Swedes walking over what was once a potato field at The Belfry.

'It is,' Gallacher said, 'an historic day.' Costantino Rocca had become the first Italian in the team; now Haeggman. 'Some people might be surprised at his selection but he has fully justified it,' Gallacher said. 'He's a very good, solid player. A straight hitter and a good putter. He is keen to do well. I have a very high regard for his play.'

In 1985, when Europe won at The Belfry, Tony Jacklin, the captain, predicted that the Swedes were coming. He did not think it would take so long. Haeggman, on a personal level, thought it would take longer. 'I thought I'd be taking Ryder Cup week off,' he said. 'I was thinking of making the Ryder Cup in 1995. To be selected is wonderful because it confirms that people appreciate your game. It is nice for me to give back something to Swedish golf by making the team. It will help the game at home. We have waited a long time.'

Haeggman, who has never attended a Ryder Cup but has watched it on television, has not waited as long as some: Forsbrand, Sellberg, Lanner, all of whom won in Europe before Haeggman emerged from the pack with victory in the Spanish Open this summer. Haeggman was closely monitored by Gallacher and others in Dusseldorf on Sunday and the Swede's reaction to a warning about slow play impressed Gallacher. 'He has a very good temperament,' Gallacher said, acknowledging that he also has a very fine temper. Haeggman is not of the Bjorn Borg school of cool Swedes. His club throwing can be of Olympic standard and his swearing has earned him a fine this season. The trouble is he swears in English.

As for Ballesteros, who finished 38th in the Cup table, and Olazabal, 12th, Gallacher has a pairing whose record is unsurpassed. He read it out to justify a selection that he felt did not need to be justified: in fourballs and foursomes they won three and a half points out of four at Kiawah Island in 1991; they won three and a half out of four at The Belfry in 1989 and won three out of four at Muirfield Village in Columbus in 1987 when the Americans were defeated on home soil for the first time.

'I don't believe there is a partnership in the world,' Gallacher said, 'that would look forward to stepping on to the tee against them. They form an outstanding partnership. Seve has proved time and time again he is an inspiration. In the Ryder Cup he has special qualities. This will be his seventh and I believe it will be his best. I had no doubt about Seve ever. He has the support of everyone in the team.' Gallacher spoke to his senior players and their view was that the only way the Spaniard could be left out was if the Spaniard wanted to be left out.

Ballesteros wanted in. Despite the fact that he has barely been able to hit his sombrero this year he is remarkably bullish. 'We have more than enough for the Americans,' he said. 'The Ryder Cup always inspires me. It will be good to play with Jose-Maria again. It is a guarantee when you play with Jose-Maria that you will have a good game. And that you will win points. I am sorry I have not played better this year but you never know with this game.'

In a team of four Englishmen, two Scots, a Swede, an Italian, a Welshman and a German, Gallacher has wagered massively on the record and pride of two Spaniards. He regards them as a home banker.

(Photograph omitted)

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