Golf: James' Ryder problem

MARK JAMES last night revealed that he has delayed his decision on whether to give up the Ryder Cup captaincy in order to play in the European team in September.

James, ninth in the qualifying points standings, had originally planned to make an announcement at next week's European Open in Dublin. But the 45-year-old's indifferent form - he was 43rd at the Open - has prompted him to put off his decision.

"At the moment things aren't going so well," said James after a one-over- par 72 in the first round of the TNT Dutch Open at Hilversum yesterday.

James' decision appears sensible given the fact that after this week players will have four more chances to earn Ryder Cup points and less than 700 points (around pounds 50,000) separates himself, at ninth, and Patrik Sjoland, at 20th, in the table.

One of those who could claim a place in the top 10, Swindon's David Howell, will not be doing so this week, however, after he was forced to withdraw from the pounds 800,000 event. The 24-year-old from Swindon only managed to play three holes before withdrawing with a toe injury. Time is now running out for him to gain enough points to move up into an automatic qualification place from 15th in the standings.

The top of the leaderboard on a rain-lashed day saw a six-way tie between Argentinian duo Angel Cabrera and Eduardo Romero, Spain's Ignacio Garrido, the Netherlands' Rolf Muntz, Italian Emanuele Canonica and Japan's Katsuyoshi Tomori.

Romero's 67 was one of his best rounds of the season, but the progress of his old friend Cabrera pleased him even more.

"I've known him since he was seven or eight years old. He lived just two blocks away from me in Cordoba and is like my little brother," said Romero. "I encouraged him to play and when he came on the European Tour I helped him financially as you need a lot of money to play here."

Scores, Digest, page 25

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