James Lawton: A hunch, a belief, or a prejudice, but it is Woosnam's right to make the choice

Bjorn failed to be selected by right, so he is at mercy of someone else's judgement
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The Independent Online

Thomas Bjorn may live to regret his intemperate attack on the man-management techniques of the Ryder Cup captain, Ian Woosnam. After some reflection, he may just conclude that some things are more important than a place on his sport's most diverting and glamorous caravan of a tournament and that personal dignity is one of them.

But then maybe not. You don't get to be a top pro necessarily out of the width of your understanding of how the world works beyond the fairways, and how best to interact with those around you. Nick Faldo, by his own admission, is a classic example of someone who, for too long, couldn't see the flowers for the gleam of the silverware. Such perspective is probably lost for some time on Bjorn as he nurses his wounds and his anger at what he considers the dismissive behaviour of Woosnam, but when he is accessible to a little cold reason a friendly voice might whisper a few realities into his ear.

One of them is that nothing in the antecedents of Woosnam suggests Solomonesque wisdom. In his time he has has been a golfer of wonderfully thrilling instinct and he has a Green Jacket of Augusta to prove it, but an analytical mind has never been to the fore, least of all when leading a sing-song from on top of a table with a pint in his hand and a fag in his mouth.

However, as the Ryder Cup captain he has inalienable rights and included in these is his ability to use that instinct that served him so well on the course.

Woosnam's ultimate right is two wild-card choices. They belong to him. They can be a hunch, a firm belief, even a prejudice, but there is little Bjorn can do about any of them except stamp his feet in one of the most angst-filled personal protests in the history of a tournament which was seen by its founder Sam Ryder mostly as an amiable walk into the sun by golfers from either side of the Atlantic.

Or Bjorn might have bitten down on his lip and vowed to spend the next two years claiming, beyond argument, what he believes to be his right.

For his own image that second course would have been so much wiser. It is not as though his case is so egregious that it is one for the court of human rights. He is ranked 35th against Lee Westwood's 47th and if Darren Clarke's selection so soon after the death of his wife Heather is one of haunting uncertainty, again, it is the captain's right to go with his assessment of the superior potential. He may not be proved right, but he is the captain and Bjorn surely has to reflect that, once a contender has failed to be selected by right, he is then inevitably at the mercy of someone else's judgement.

In his raw anger Bjorn has now made himself captive to a devastating fate. If Woosnam's rough team methodology works, if Europe catch fire as they did in Michigan two years ago under the vastly more cerebral leadership of Bernhard Langer, where will that leave Thomas Bjorn? Ever more dependent on the need to shape his own Ryder Cup destiny out on the course, piling up the points and making his case unanswerable.

Meanwhile, the situation of Clarke, the man who did get the nod from Woosnam, inevitably, if in some ways unfairly, invites another charge against the subjective rage of the Dane. It is one of a killing loss of perspective, a failure to draw a line between those real tragedies which happen in life and the passing disappointments that come with the games we play.

As Clarke's place in the team was being confirmed, the England rugby World Cup hero Ben Cohen was scoring the winning try for his club Northampton against Jonny Wilkinson's Newcastle. Later, he reflected on the agonies of Clarke as the Ulsterman attempts to separate himself from the weight of grief in the Ryder Cup action. Cohen faced a similar dilemma when his father, Peter, died tragically following an affray in the nightclub he ran in Northampton. Just days after the shock, Cohen was due to play for England against Australia - a potentially decisive moment in a blossoming career. He said he would play, and make his performance a tribute to his father, who had been so thrilled by his son's progress. But it was then that his uncle George, a World Cup winner under Sir Alf Ramsey in 1966, intervened. Cohen told his nephew that he was asking too much of himself. How could he guarantee his emotional control in the heat of the action? What would his father most want? It was for his son to play for England when he could think cleanly through the challenge.

Now Ben Cohen says, "No doubt the circumstances are different, in that what happened to me was sudden. Darren Clarke has had a longer ordeal and, of course, he is the best judge of when he is capable of delivering the best of himself. I will say something, though; when I did play for England, I was properly focused and had a much surer idea of what I wanted to achieve. Eventually, I know the experience made me a better player, I asked more of myself - I had better values."

For Clarke there has been no lack of companionship in his own game in the matter of dealing with pain which outstrips any of the convulsions of sport. Jack Nicklaus was persuaded back on to a golf course - in Augusta of all places - after the devastating loss of a beloved grandson who died in a swimming pool accident. Nicklaus agreed that playing golf was a valuable piece of therapy. On the other hand, Tiger Woods, who reacted so emotionally when winning the Open in July, confessed recently that he had come back to golf too soon after his father's death.

Clarke can only know the wisdom, or not, of his decision to play when he goes out on to the course. For Thomas Bjorn, in another world of regret, there will be no such easy litmus test. He has to live not with what he has done but what he has said. The suspicion here is that soon enough he will be wishing he had reserved comment for the next time he steps on to the first tee.

Behind lustre of Argentines' arrival lies betrayal

First reaction to the curious affair of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano was one of resignation: how do you control a sport that at times seems about as self-regulated as a gold rush?

However, weekend revelations insist that this just will not do. Kia Joorabchian's deal with West Ham, and subsequent takeover move, are based on little more, it seems, than a desire to exploit football's potential for easy money.

It is an ancient, but rewarding belief, that a league is about proper competitive levels being maintained not by chance but relentless supervision. The fact that Manchester United dismissed the terms that went with signing Tevez and Mascherano as completely unacceptable is good news.

It is to be hoped that West Ham, the team of Moore and Hurst and Peters, and the suberb guidance of the late Ron Greenwood, have not made a deal on the same terms.

After the brilliance Agassi's farewell sails over top

Sports perspective, case No 2: Andre Agassi's emotive farewell at the US Open. Was it genuinely moving, or did it become a mawkish exercise in self-indulgence? Admiration for the brilliance of Agassi's career, for the adventure of his play and the mostly graceful demeanour on the court, and not least the technical mastery which enabled him to become one of only five players to win all the Grand Slam tournaments, does not have to diminish with the belief that, in fact, he sailed well over the top.

But then Agassi has always been a product of his times ... and his environment, which of course is Las Vegas, a place where perhaps moderation is not the ruling motif.

A personal preference is for the style of thought displayed by the teenaged Boris Becker on losing the Wimbledon title. "Hey," he told a roomful of his seniors, "nobody died out there." At the very least, Agassi's leaving didn't make that fact quite so clear.

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