Walton's rough ride into Ryder finishes hot and bothered

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The Independent Online


reports from Stuttgart

They tell you that they are not concerned, it's no big deal. If they make the team, fine, if not so what. The reality is somewhat different. The reality is Philip Walton's final round in the Volvo German Open here yesterday.

Earlier in the year Walton said he was not bothered if he played in the Ryder Cup against the United States but then he began to play so well he became a contender whether he liked it or not. He did not like it yesterday. Not one little bit. "I had no control whatsoever," he said.

The only difference between Walton and a kamikaze pilot was that Walton survived. Ian Woosnam did not and today he will almost certainly learn from Bernard Gallacher, Europe's captain, that he is out of the team. Gallacher has two wild cards and they will go to Nick Faldo and Jose-Maria Olazabal.

People with nervous dispositions were advised to avert their gaze from developments that were not solely connected to the top of the leaderboard. Colin Montgomerie, with birdies on the last two holes, pipped Sam Torrance and Niclas Fasth by a stroke.

Big Monty - "I don't go to tournaments to finish second" - had developed a habit of doing just that and this was his first victory since winning the same championship 12 months ago. Torrance surprisingly failed to birdie the par-five 18th and finished at 15 under par. Stuart Cage, the rookie Torrance beat in a play-off to win the Irish Open, also had a chance of winning until he took a six at the last.

Monty, Europe's leading money winner over the last two years, won pounds 108,330 and displaced his arch rival Torrance at the top of the Order of Merit. "I'm devastated," Torrance, who led by two strokes from Montgomerie going into the final round, said. Had he stayed top of the Order of Merit, Torrance would have got into the World Match Play. The event is run by IMG. "As an ex-IMG player I have no chance of being invited," Torrance said.

Never mind the World Match Play. It was the Ryder Cup that was driving men to the bar. Walton, 33, from Malahide near Dublin, has been close to a seat on Concorde before but never this close. He came to Germany in 10th place in the Cup reckoning and, following rounds of 68, 69 and 71, it was assumed that all he had to do to get in the team on merit was turn up on the first tee on time.

Walton has been in such a lather he was not supremely confident of even doing that. He began at five under par and birdies at the first and third put him in an unassailable position. Then he lost a ball at the fourth hole and that was the beginning of the longest day of his life.

He took a six at the fourth and a two at the fifth where he swung his pendulum putter and the ball fell into the hole from about 60 feet. A bogey on six, a birdie on seven and a bogey on eight. He went to the turn in 35, one under, looking good. Looks can be deceptive.

A bogey on 10 was followed by a double-bogey five on 12 where he hit a nine-iron into the water. Walton was beginning to sink. He duffed a chip on 13 and had a six and then went bogey, bogey, bogey. He came home in 42 for a round of 77. It has not been an average week for Walton: 36 pars, 17 birdies, one eagle, 16 bogeys, two double- bogeys. Per-Ulrik Johansson enjoyed the luxury of missing the cut here and he still made the team, as did Howard Clark.

Woosnam, who had a 74 when he needed a 64, did not go gently into the dark night. He reminded us that he was Europe's leading player in the Cup two years ago with four and a half points and that whereas he had always made the team on merit, Olazabal had only qualified once. On every other occasion the Spaniard has taken a wild card. "There will also be somebody blasting down Bernard's ear," Woosnam said. The inference was that Seve Ballesteros would favour Olazabal.

"We didn't have enough picks," Woosnam said. "Faldo hasn't played well in America and we've got stuffed." Woosnam said he wouldn't even watch the Ryder Cup. "I'll probably be on a yacht somewhere," he said. In every other respect he's missed the boat.

Scores, Sporting Digest,

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