Captains dismiss Lehman's lament

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The Independent Online

The European Ryder Cup captain, Sam Torrance, has moved to distance himself from comments made by the American player Tom Lehman concerning his omission from the United States team.

Lehman believes a confrontation between himself and Torrance at the 1999 event was behind the United States team captain Curtis Strange's decision not to include him as one of his wild card selections in favour of Scott Verplank and Paul Azinger for the forthcoming Ryder Cup, beginning at The Belfry on 28 September.

The controversy at Brookline two years ago happened when Lehman charged onto the 17th green to celebrate Justin Leonard's long putt before Jose Maria Olazabal had completed the vital hole. At the time Torrance, then assistant to Mark James, was outspoken in his criticism, describing Lehman's behaviour as "the most disgusting scenes I've ever seen. Tom Lehman may call himself a man of God but his behaviour was disgraceful."

Lehman believed his actions were justified by the emotion of the moment, "It was over-exuberance, no question about it. But I'm not going to apologise for being excited." He was upset by Torrance's criticism and was keen to challenge his European team at The Belfry.

Although it was felt that Lehman's inclusion might provide a flashpoint in this month's competition, Strange refused to acknowledge that this was the reason behind his decision, "Tom has wonderful past experience, but the bottom line is he just hasn't played very well. I'm doing what's best for the team. This is not about any individual."

Yesterday Torrance echoed Strange's sentiments in a statement: "I'm positive I speak for Curtis as well as myself when I say that we expect the 34th Ryder Cup to be played with passion and pride in a sporting atmosphere... in the best tradition of our game."

Rather than comment on the events at Brookline, and his feud with Lehman in particular, he concentrated on the future. "We are looking forward, not backwards, and I am not about to be deflected from my task by issues that as far as I'm concerned rest with the past."

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