Torrance lays down early Ryder Cup rules

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The Independent Online

Sam Torrance made two important points clear yesterday as he launched the race for places in Europe's Ryder Cup team next year.

Sam Torrance made two important points clear yesterday as he launched the race for places in Europe's Ryder Cup team next year.

The first was that he wants everybody - players, spectators, caddies, media - to treat the Americans "as our opponents, not our enemies". The second was that he will not be playing the same guessing game as Mark James did last year.

The 12-month marathon qualifying process, where all earnings counts towards the points table, begins at the Canon European Masters, high up in the Swiss Alps at Crans-sur-Sierre today. Torrance, James' successor as European captain, is playing and will be appearing on the table but, even if he qualifies for the side, the 47-year-old Scot will not be handing over the captaincy to somebody else and will not be a playing captain either.

James refused to reveal his plans in the build-up to Brookline and, after finishing second in the Volvo PGA Championship, he went into the final qualifying event still with a chance of earning a spot. Only when he failed did he reveal that he would have played and would have nominated Ken Brown as his replacement.

"If I qualify I won't play - I'm captain," said Torrance. Since being appointed at the end of last year, he has had to focus on the fall-out from the controversial ending to last year's match, the row over the revelation in James' book that he binned a good luck letter from Nick Faldo and then his decision to make James one of his vice-captains along with Ian Woosnam. That created such a furore that James, one of Torrance's closest friends, eventually resigned.

Vice-captain himself under James at Brookline and highly critical of Tom Lehman after the American charge onto the 17th green at the Boston course, Torrance knows that issue is not going to go away as The Belfry approaches.

"It's part of my remit to remind everyone how to behave, but I don't think we've had reason to worry about the support in the past," he said.

"One thing we must remember is that the Americans are our opponents, not our enemies." Of his opposite number, Curtis Strange, Torrance added: "We both know it's time to get the game back to where it was.

"Without going into details, he's going to be talking to a few people just as I am, just making sure that everything's cool, calm and collected."

Torrance expects a surprise in the make-up of his team - because there is at least one virtually every time. He has already said that he would like Faldo - who is starting his campaign to make the team here this week - to qualify for the Belfry. "I think he's an amazing golfer. He has an intimidating aura about him," he said. James also hopes to see James there, too, even though he would be nearly 48.

The headache which is looming regards the schedules of several of his leading players. Jesper Parnevik, Sergio Garcia, Paul Lawrie, Faldo and Jean Van de Velde all have US Tour cards this year and Miguel Angel Jimenez, Jose Maria Olazabal and Phil Price are poised to follow suit next season.

Despite that, Torrance says he is "comfortable" with the continuation of only two wild cards. If Faldo or James, or even both, do make it, they will have proved themselves remarkable players. Without doubt, Torrance believes, the European tour has more strength in depth than ever before.

* The women's European Tour received a major boost yesterday after the Scottish Internet company, TSN, signed a £6m sponsorship deal to promote the women's game worldwide.