Solheim team rally round injured captain

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The Independent Online

Catrin Nilsmark, Europe's Solheim Cup captain who is suffering from a ruptured disc, may have to hand over her duties to the vice-captain, Alison Nicholas, when the women's version of the Ryder Cup begins tomorrow at Barseback.

Nilsmark spent eight days in a hospital in Stockholm after the injury virtually paralysed the 36-year-old Swede during a tournament in Wales three weeks ago.

On Monday and Tuesday she conducted team meetings from her bedside, and though the injury improved markedly yesterday, she has been provided with a specially adapted buggy that will allow her to lie in a reclined position to make it on to the course.

Should Nilsmark not be able to get out and watch her team in action she can hand over the on-course job to Nicholas, a former Solheim Cup player herself, for any series of foursomes or fourballs. "I have an absolutely fantastic vice-captain who has been very involved all along," Nilsmark said at a press conference, where she was hunched over crutches in obvious agony.

"I've only been able to get to the first tee and the putting green so far but everything is working out okay. We have an extra paragraph in the captain's agreement to say 30 minutes before any session I can give the rights to talk to the players to the vice-captain.

"It's not a matter of pride," she added. "If I can't do the job 100 per cent, she'll do it. I have no problem with that. My captaincy is not the most important thing, the team is."

Though she would not have planned it this way, Europe's team should need little in the way of inspiration following the courageously determined way Nilsmark has coped so far. "I'm on a mixture of LSD and morphine," she joked.

"She's been horizontal, but wherever we've been, at lunch, at dinner, she's been there, too," Scotland's Janice Moodie said.

Annika Sorenstam, the Swedish world No 1, added: "I don't know how she got through the photo session yesterday. It was two hours and tough, even for me. We have meetings with her lying down, [but] her mind is working perfectly. It's not a disadvantage at all. She is being such a trooper. We all want to help her, and the way to do that is to play good golf."

The match is being played in Sweden for the first time as Europe try to regain the Cup they lost at Interlachen last year.