Seve lets his anger at Martin spill over

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The Independent Online
Golf

On another day of controversial statements and seeming contradictions, the simplest task was undertaken by Seve Ballesteros, the European Ryder Cup captain, when he named Nick Faldo and Jesper Parnevik as his wild cards. No surprise there, then.

Especially not to Faldo. Ballesteros, who had vowed to keep everything secret until the last minute, telephoned him almost two weeks ago, although then he did not know that Faldo had said to "call me collect". Faldo kept up the pretence on Seve's suggestion, as did Jose Maria Olazabal, who was given Miguel Angel Martin's automatic place but had been already told he would be in whether he qualified or not. "It's interesting, no?" Ballesteros smiled.

If the little game of "I know nothing" was innocent enough, that involving the injured Martin is not. Three letters appealing against the exclusion have been sent to the Ryder Cup Committee on behalf of the Spaniard by Jose Nunez, the Andalucian minister for sport, Manuel Ballesteros, Seve's brother, in his capacity as the president of the Spanish Professional ers' Association, and by Martin's lawyer.

But as far as Ken Schofield, the executive director of the PGA European Tour, is concerned: "Our decision is now taken. The Ryder Cup Committee faced an unprecedented situation. It is our obligation to give the captain 12 fit players at the time of the announcement of the team."

Schofield believes that an injunction taken out by Martin would be unlikely to succeed, although he may claim for compensation for lost bonuses that may be part of his sponsorship agreements.

Ballesteros revealed that in a telephone conversation on Sunday, Martin told him: "If I was one of your picks, I would tell you that I was not fit to play. But because I made the top 10, I want to play." The call is believed to have been witnessed by Schofield, Sandy Jones of the PGA, Richard Hills, director of the Ryder Cup, and Miguel Angel Jimenez, Seve's vice-captain.

Ballesteros added: "Miguel is the sort of person, some people say, he has a square head. I feel very sorry for him. I was the one who asked the committee for more time for him."

Schofield confirmed Ballesteros had not been directly involved in the decision to axe Martin, although he had conveyed the views of the majority of the team that they could not see how Martin could be fit in time. Earlier in the day, in an extraordinary prelude to the official press conference, Ballesteros was clearly seething.

"Martin is trying to screw everyone," he said. "He is like a machine- gun, shooting every way. He is a kamikaze going all the way for the ship. He has been badly advised. I thought he had more intelligence. He is trying to be a hero for the week, a hero for himself."

Ballesteros was scornful of any suggestion of Martin getting back on the team. "He was not welcome before," he said, a statement Martin's lawyer may be interested in. "Do you think he will be welcome now? We would be out of our mind to change the decision."

As for legal action by the diminutive Spaniard preventing the Ryder Cup going ahead, Ballesteros positively spat: "Miguel Martin stop the Ryder Cup? That little man stop the Ryder Cup? Lawyers can do only so much."

Later, and calmer, Ballesteros explained his wild-card selections. "Parnevik has played fantastic on the US Tour," he said. "He knows all the American players and won't be intimidated. Faldo has a tremendous record in the Ryder Cup. If I had to bet my life playing the last hole and trust someone, Nick Faldo would be my choice."

"That's very nice, but I hope he doesn't do it," Faldo, who will be playing for a record 11th time, said. "What was I meant to say?" he asked of the subterfuge. "For a while I didn't know, Seve really was keeping everything close to his chest. I'm really looking forward to it. It is something to really focus on for the next two weeks. I'll be prepared as much as I can."

Parnevik, who was told on Tuesday after Martin was withdrawn, was hoping to be able to wear his trademark upturned cap. The Swede, who will be making his debut, added: "It is a big honour for Seve to tell you you are needed on the team. I'm thrilled and relieved at the same time. Even if you are not trying to think about it, it is at the back of your mind."

By fair means or foul, Europe now has a team to go to Valderrama in three weeks and it is the best this continent could put out. Ballesteros compared it to the team that won for the first time on American soil at Muirfield Village in 1987.

"I thought it would take a long time to have a team as good as that, but I am glad I was wrong," he said. "I'm not going to Valderrama to defend or retain the Ryder Cup. I am very confident we are going to win."

Orr sets the pace, page 27

RYDER CUP TEAMS

Europe

Colin Montgomerie; Darren Clarke; Bernhard Langer; Ian Woosnam; Per-Ulrik Johansson; Lee Westwood; Ignacio Garrido; Thomas Bjorn; Costantino Rocca; Jose Maria Olazabal.

Wild cards: Nick Faldo; Jesper Parnevik.

Captain: Severiano Ballesteros.

United States

Tiger Woods; Justin Leonard; Tom Lehman; Davis Love; Jim Furyk; Phil Mickelson; Jeff Maggert; Mark O'Meara; Scott Hoch; Brad Faxon.

Wild cards: Fred Couples, Lee Janzen.

Captain: Tom Kite.

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