Weir's absence leaves Torrance to tackle Seve

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The Independent Online

Seve Ballesteros will be facing Sam Torrance, Europe's Ryder Cup captain, instead of Mike Weir in the first round of the Cisco World Match Play Championship tomorrow. Weir withdrew at the last minute after deciding not to fly from Canada on Monday evening following the start of air strikes against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Torrance was having breakfast at Sunningdale yesterday morning when he received a call from the organisers of the event offering him Weir's place in the draw. The winner of the Torrance-Ballesteros match will face Vijay Singh in Friday's quarter-finals, while the loser will take home £50,000.

Preoccupied with the preparations for the Ryder Cup all season, Torrance has only made three halfway cuts, one more than Ballesteros. But while Seve is a five-time former winner, Torrance's three appearances in the World Match Play have yet to yield a victory.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for me," the 48-year-old Torrance said. "It has worked out well for the event that Seve and I are playing each other. Obviously, we are the two who should not be here but hopefully we will take a big crowd with us.

"However poorly Seve is playing, when you walk onto the first tee you are still playing Seve Ballesteros. He still has that intimidation factor. He is a great putter and a tough man to beat." Colin Montgomerie found that out at Sunningdale 18 months ago when the Scot was beaten by the Spaniard in the inaugural Seve Ballesteros Trophy match between Great Britain and Ireland and the Continent of Europe.

"This is one of the best tournaments in the world but I've been knackered twice in this event," Torrance said. Two of his three defeats have been against the Japanese players Toru Nakamura and Tommy Nakajima.

Torrance added: "My concentration all year has been on the Ryder Cup. I did not have a moment's peace but now the event has been postponed for a year, I can get back to playing golf for a while although my head is not entirely right after last month's tragic events in America."

The 12-man field for the tournament now includes four players over 40. Weir was the only player not yet in the country when the draw was made on Monday morning. The organisers had already failed to persuade David Duval, the Open champion, and USPGA winner David Toms to travel from the States for the 38th edition of the tournament.

WORLD MATCH PLAY CHAMPIONSHIP (Wentworth) Today's first round tee-off times (GB or Irl unless stated): 09.00 and 13.00: T Bjorn (Den) v A Scott (Aus). Winner to play L Westwood. 09.15 and 13.15: R Goosen (SA) v I Woosnam. Winner to play C Montgomerie. 09.30 and 13.30: P Harrington v N Faldo. Winner to play D Clarke. 09.45 and 13.45: S Torrance v S Ballesteros (Sp). Winner to play V Singh (Fiji).