The Last Word: Giving the Ryder Cup to Spain 'for Seve' is misguided sentiment

Sport could do with a bid which was won purely on merit. Here is the chance
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The Independent Online

They say one of the five stages of grief is anger and for the sake of the Ballesteros family – and yes of dignity itself – we can only pray the decision goes their way on Tuesday. Otherwise, if the Ryder Cup committee announces that somewhere else other than Madrid will be the host venue for the 2018 match, there is a clear and present danger that bitterness will sully the blessed celebrations of Seve's life.

The Spanish golfer was the patron of his capital's bid and on Friday his brother, Baldomero, backed by Seve's sons, Javier and Miguel, made an emotional plea. "I appeal to the sensitivity of the European Tour to agree the greatest honour that could be bestowed on Seve is to award the competition to Spain," he said. And so the decision-makers were jammed into a dark and wretched corner.

Undoubtedly, the family could be excused any tactlessness as they cope with their loss. But, in truth, the yanking on the heartstrings was not really fair. Now, if the committee opts for, say France, they will be accused of disrespecting the great man's memory. And, as the relationship between the Ballesteroses and the Tour has become increasingly strained, the fear must be the accusations will come from a source all too close to home.

The Tour will be aware of this and, if wise, will act before the Wentworth unveiling to ensure his legend is enshrined in a fashion which could only be described as truly fitting. Perhaps they could reveal tomorrow how they will replace the image of Harry Vardon on the Tour's official logo with the unmistakable silhouette of Europe's most-loved figure. Who knows, maybe they are even in a position to declare that the sponsors Vivendihave decided to drop their name from the event which was originallyintroduced in his honour. Certainlythe Seve Trophy would ring with more resonance than it did before and thus attract more of the current crop of European superstars than it did before. That would be an appropriate tribute.

What plainly wouldn't is the selection of Madrid based purely on sentiment. If they do win the bid, it should be for the right reasons and, in essence, have nothing to do with the timing of Seve's passing. Are we saying that if he had died next month, after the announcement, Madrid would not have been as worthy and neither would his involvement? That makes no sense, and we trust the powers that be acknowledge as much. In fact, there would be no tribute less fitting as it would disrespect the importance of the Ryder Cup, just as it would disrespect Seve's huge influence on the Ryder Cup. There can be no argument that he, more than any other player, helped establish the biennial dust-up as one of the top sporting events on the calendar. Notwithstanding the rather daft logic which places it only behind the World Cup and the Olympics in importance, it is no exaggeration to claim that to the sporting public it dwarves any other golfing attraction, including the four majors. That is largely thanks to the passion brought by Seve and even the edge brought by Seve as the new Europe ended all those decades of monotonous US dominance. His inspiration afforded the Ryder Cup every facet that good sport requires – competitiveness, tension, friction, camaraderie, colour.

Suddenly the grimly inevitable became joyously irresistible and the interest soared accordingly. Predictably, the finances took similar flight and so too did the stock of the European Tour. That's what his legions of devotees meant last week when hailing him for "making" the European Tour. Without the great cash cow that is the Ryder Cup, there is no way the Tour could even dream of competing with its US counterpart. The match is the crutch, the vital prop, the post on which the entire Big Top hangs. It's that important.

And that's why the bid committee have introduced strict criteria for the bidding nations. "The provision of ancillary facilities and infrastructure commensurate with the staging of an international sporting event, government and private sector support, commercial opportunities and the development of golf," or so goes the corporate bumf.

Granted, the cynics are probably right when they harrumph that it's all about money. But so what? There is a long-term financial view to this as well. Nations such as France and Portugal would invest more in the European Tour if they were selected,just as they would invest more in golf and in their would-be golfing champions. We are not merely talking about fast bucks here, but long bucks and young bucks and bucks that could safeguard the Tour's future. For that reason, the boxes must be ticked, the best bid must prevail.

Naturally every bidding process should be this way but just as naturally many bidding committees are more influenced by other factors, other temptations, than merely the suitability and the legacy. Goodness knows how the world of sport could do with a bid which was won purely on merit. Here is the chance.

What would have been the point of the entire bidding process if they were to award the 2018 Ryder Cup to Madrid simply because of the premature death of Europe's golfing icon? Ballesteros will have been deceased for seven years by the time Matteo Manassero, or whoever it is, tees off the 42nd edition. Tell me, how would that be fitting?

But then, they will say this was Seve's last wish, his last battle, and like Baldomero may invoke the story of El Cid leading his troops to glory from the heavens. It's emotional, but wildly ill-considered. Seve's memorywill be a part of each and every Ryder Cup, whenever or wherever it's played. In Madrid or Paris, the Algarve or Bavaria. Seve was that big, the match is that big. Certainly too big to drench in misused sentiment.

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