Golf: Pressure for Ryder Cup change

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The Independent Online
Sentiment for change in qualifying rules for the European Ryder Cup appears to be growing as it becomes increasingly clear that several major European players will not qualify.

Seve Ballesteros, the European captain, complained last week that his players should be able to pick up Ryder Cup points in the more significant PGA Tour events, such as this week's Doral-Ryder Open, and wants to be allowed to make four choices this year and not two, as the case now is.

But while Colin Montgomerie supports the Spaniard's line, Sam Torrance, who plays in the Moroccan Open in Agadir this week in search of Ryder Cup points, thinks three picks plus nine selected automatically would be the ideal choice.

Montgomerie leads the European Ryder cup points list, but Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer and the Swede Jesper Parnevik are among the leading players who do not look likely to qualify. Faldo's victory on Sunday in Los Angeles earned no points since only the major championships played in the US count for European Ryder Cup points.

Parnevik has two seconds and a third on the PGA Tour this year but has received no Ryder Cup points for his efforts.

Another European likely not to make the Ryder Cup team is Jose Maria Olazabal, who returned very strongly at Dubai last week after missing 18 months of competition because of foot problems.

"I'm sure Seve would love Olazabal at 85 per cent," Montgomerie said. "He can handle the pressure and that's what it's all about."

Olazabal, who teamed with Ballesteros in several Ryder Cups to form a virtually unbeatable duo, proved he can still play by shooting a 65 in the third round at Dubai.

"It's not too late to change," Langer, who is 18th on the European list, said about altering the selection process. "We've got seven months to go. I would strongly support any move to get more picks."

The European team can establish its own qualifying rules but officials have shown no inclination to modify the rules.

Torrance, hoping to play in his ninth successive Ryder Cup in Valderrama, Spain, in September, thinks that for the captain to have four picks is too many. "It is imperative to play our best team. But I would suggest three picks, not four," he said. "That's because I think you also need to give more opportunities to the players on the European Tour. Then there would be no controversy.

"We had only two picks last time, Ian Woosnam missed out and only got into the team because Jose Maria Olazabal dropped out. You don't want to go into a Ryder Cup without someone like Woosie.

"With the way Jesper Parnevik is playing in the United States, he is looking like a certain pick and Nick Faldo will be in the team whether he qualifies or not. Then there is Olazabal coming back, and Woosie and Bernhard Langer to consider.

"They may all play more in America and what if only two of them qualify? Someone we need in the team will miss out."

Torrance is ninth on the Ryder Cup points table but he has made no headway since the beginning of the year. That is because he missed the half-way cut in the two Australian tournaments at the end of January and has had the last month off.

"It was sad to miss the two cuts in Australia, but now I've got to get in there and get in four good rounds this week," he said.