James forced to step down over Ryder Cup book battle

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The Independent Online

Mark James, after displaying the sort of obduracy made famous by the batsmen of his adopted Yorkshire, finally bowed to the inevitable yesterday by resigning as a vice-captain to Sam Torrance for the 2001 Ryder Cup at The Belfry. The decision was forced on Torrance by the European Ryder Cup Committee after a lengthy meeting at Wentworth.

Mark James, after displaying the sort of obduracy made famous by the batsmen of his adopted Yorkshire, finally bowed to the inevitable yesterday by resigning as a vice-captain to Sam Torrance for the 2001 Ryder Cup at The Belfry. The decision was forced on Torrance by the European Ryder Cup Committee after a lengthy meeting at Wentworth.

James, the losing Ryder Cup captain at Brookline last year, refuelled the controversies of that match, which included the American players, wives and caddies invading the 17th green while Jose Maria Olazabal attempted to putt, with the publication of his book, Into the Bear Pit. James also took aim at Nick Faldo, revealing a good luck letter from the six-times major champion was "binned".

The Ryder Cup Committee, the body responsible for running the event in Europe and which includes representatives from both the Professional Golfers' Association and the PGA European Tour, usually only rubber stamps the appointment of the captain's assistants. But Torrance was left in no doubt of their feelings and immediately phoned James, who is on holiday in Spain.

"I have been advised by the Committee that, in the best interests of the Ryder Cup, the only way to end the controversy is for Mark to step down from his position as assistant," Torrance said in a statement. "I have discussed the situation with Mark and he is in agreement that the harmony and spirit of theEuropean Ryder Cup team is of paramount importance.

"Neither of us wishes to lose sight of the fact that the Ryder Cup should be played in the best possible spirit of sportsmanship and without rancour and that the last thing we need is for added controversy which might adversely affect our build-up for the Ryder Cup. I appreciate Mark's understanding in his matter." Torrance, whose first job after being appointed last December was to hold clear the air talks with the new United States captain,Curtis Strange, had stood by James throughout the controversy, even though weeksbefore he had told Jean Van de Velde, who thought a European should have been named instead of James, that it was time to put a stop to doing "our dirty washing in public".

Yesterday Torrance, who wrote the foreword for James's book, said: "It was wrong to put in about Nick Faldo's letter. In the book it comes across as flippant, but it is different in headlines. I think it has been the media interest that has sustained this controversy." Yet, James's offence was not so much writing a book as the sensationalised serialisation of it, surely the responsibility of the author, and the media war of words that followed with Faldo.

Tom Lehman, tagged the "Beast of Brookline", accused James of mud-raking and the moral high ground has slipped from under the Europeans. "It is almost like we are the culprits now," Torrance said.

Ironically, Faldo, and other leading players such as Bernhard Langer, had not called for James to lose his position, but said that he should have been disciplined for a breach of the code of conduct in attacking a fellow player. That is the provenance of the Tournament Committee, whose chairman is James and who remained in the room when it was discussed at Loch Lomond.

Torrance, who was also present, was handed unanimous support so ensuring the matter continued.

It is only recently that theassistants of Ryder Cupcaptains have been officiallyacknowledged. Bernard Gallacher helped out Tony Jacklin before assuming the captaincy himself. Seve Ballesteros had Miguel Angel Jimenez as anofficial vice-captain but also had James and Tommy Horton to help in monitoring the form of players during the week. James appointed bothTorrance and Ken Brown asofficial assistants, while Torrance named two of his closest friends on tour, Ian Woosnam and James, who said at Brookline he did not want to continue as captain.

Torrance, for whom the captaincy is the pinnacle of his career, has not considered resigning himself but admitted: "There is a huge weight off my shoulders. I know Mark is gutted but it would not have died if he had stayed. The press was not going to let it go, which is their job. I don't blame anyone, certainly not Mark. But it was time to let it go and get on with the Ryder Cup."

Though the European No 1, Colin Montgomerie, said he was "saddened it has come to this", there have always been controversies concerning the Ryder Cup team, usually about the number and identity of the wild cards, but team spirit has rarely been affected. It is notimpossible for both Faldo and James to make the team automatically when qualifying starts next month. Meanwhile, Ben Crenshaw, America's captain at Brookline, will not be at The Belfry, but his own book is due out shortly.

Present at Tuesday's meeting were the six committee members: Neil Coles, John O'Leary, Angel Gallardo, David Huish, Phil Weaver and Jim Christine. They were joined by the European Tour's executive director Ken Schofield, the Ryder Cup director Richard Hills, Ryder Cup official Mike Gray, Sandy Jones, who is the chief executive of the PGA at The Belfry, and Torrance.

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