Masters opens selection process

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The Independent Online
And now a word from our sponsors: Please do not use our product for the next four days. Mobile phones are usually implementa non grata at golf tournaments and a message in the programme for the One 2 One British Masters reminds spectators to switch their devices into voicemail mode.

To prevent their answering machine being clogged up with complaints from the players, the officials have already issued an apology for the state of the Collingtree Park greens. They are brown in colour and are said to be suffering from "annual meadow grass decline" through recent hot weather. They may well putt better than they look, but when asked about the course, Seve Ballesteros said: "I found the tees in very good condition."

The tournament, which runs from today to Saturday because of England football and cricket matches packing Sky TV's schedules on Sunday, marks the start of the year-long qualifying process for the European Ryder Cup team. Captain Ballesteros's message when it comes to his two wild-card picks is clear: don't ring me, I'll ring you. Last year Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam and Jose Maria Olazabal, who then withdrew with a foot injury, failed to qualify and Ballesteros does not want the situation to occur again.

"I want the players who think they are going to be on the team to try and qualify," Ballesteros said. "Otherwise they might be in for a surprise." The American-based Faldo has failed to respond to the call and his only European event left this season is the Lancome Trophy in two weeks. Suggestions that he is going to play in the following week's Loch Lomond Invitational have not been confirmed.

"Let's just hope there isn't an embarrassing situation where one of us has to be left out," Colin Montgomerie, who is to expand his US tour schedule from six to 12 events next year, said. "I am going to have to be careful. It's a problem. We need the flexibility to get our best team and we haven't got it."

Ideally, Ballesteros would like to keep his options open for both a late return to form by himself (current record, three missed cuts) and a return to fitness from the arthritic Olazabal. He has not played for a year, but has requested a special dispensation to use a buggy during the Perrier Paris tournament, a non-qualifying event, in Bordeaux in October. Even if this is granted, it is unlikely to be extended to regular tournaments.

Montgomerie's immediate concern is to regain top spot in the Volvo Rankings, a fourth victory is his aim after failing to win a major.

Tiger Woods has played his last competitive round as an amateur. Woods, who won an unprecedented third consecutive US Amateur title on Sunday, announced yesterday: "This is to confirm that, as of now, I am a professional golfer."