Golf: Sandelin jilts his caddie

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THE RYDER CUP is only two weeks away and everything else, including the return of the British Masters to the Duke's Course here after five years, is overshadowed. Were it not for his involvement in the transatlantic contest in Boston, Jarmo Sandelin would not be undergoing a trial separation from his girlfriend, Linda Lundberg.

It should be quickly pointed out, before the image of a jilted lover stalking the fairways comes to mind, that the separation is only on the course. Lundberg, Sandelin's regular caddie, will be walking outside the fairway ropes as the Finnish-born Swede turns to a professional bag-carrier, Tim King, for the week.

King, an Oxford chemistry graduate whose impersonations of some of Europe's leading golfers are uncanny, caddied for another Swede, Per-Ulrik Johansson, in the 1995 and 1997 Ryder Cups. Sandelin has never tried a pro caddie before, either favouring friends, or Linda.

"It has worked well with Linda as my caddie but if I can save a shot anywhere thanks to the experience of a professional caddie then I have to do it for the team," Sandelin, 32, said. Some think Jean Van de Velde would now be the Open champion had he had a regular tour caddie on his bag at Carnoustie and although the Frenchman defended Christophe Angiolini at the time, he has now replaced him with an Australian, Graeme Heinrich.

"Of course, Linda agrees 100 per cent that if I can play better it is important for the team but this is only a trial this week," Sandelin added. "If I feel Tim can't make any improvements then Linda will caddie for me in Boston."

In the interests of the team, Sandelin has also lopped two inches off his extra-long, 50-inch driver. Lundberg, as a partner, will venture across the Atlantic on Concorde, but the other caddies have not been allowed to travel supersonic.

Along with Sandelin, four British Ryder Cup players are present in Colin Montgomerie, Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke and the Open champion, Paul Lawrie. Andrew Coltart, however, is at home with his wife Emma, who is expecting their first child at the weekend.

Montgomerie, who enjoys perpetrating his reputation for doing as little practice as possible, did not appear for the pro-am yesterday before the defence of the title he won a year ago. In fact, he played a dawn practice round on Tuesday.

The Scot, who has won his last two events in Europe, saw his lead at the top of the order of merit cut to pounds 320,000 by Westwood's victory in Switzerland on Sunday. Westwood is aiming for his fourth victory in four European tour events, a feat last achieved by Nick Faldo in 1989, a run that included a win in this tournament at this venue.

Seve Ballesteros, a former winner here, was partnered in the pro-am by, and gave a lesson to, Gary Lineker, while Mark James, the Ryder Cup captain, played with his Davis Cup counterpart, David Lloyd.

Lloyd's team faces an important match against the South Africans the same week as James takes on the Americans. "We had a good chat," said Lloyd, an eight-handicapper. "I think the most important thing as a coach or captain is to know how your players react in different situations and Mark has that experience.

"It is easier for me to have an influence because there is only one match going on at once, but during a match is not always the right time to say something.

"The most important time in coming together as a team is the four or five days beforehand when we make sure we do everything together, whether watching videos of players or playing nine holes of golf."