Woosnam not wild about being given his cards

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The Independent Online


Bernard Gallacher, Europe's captain, yesterday named his 12 good men and true for the Ryder Cup match against the United States at Oak Hill, Rochester in three weeks' time. After a nightmare scenario, he is not left with the dream team.

Gallacher's predecessor, Tony Jacklin, had four wild cards up his sleeve and has said he would have liked 12. Gallacher has just two and, as events have transpired, it is two too few. Ideally, Nick Faldo, Jose-Maria Olazabal, Ian Woosnam and Jesper Parnevik would be in the team either on merit or through choice.

None of them won enough money to qualify. Faldo and Parnevik decided last year to play on the American Tour; Olazabal, following an operation on a foot, has been limping around both Tours and Woosnam has been on what appears to be a sabbatical. The upshot is that Faldo and Olazabal have taken the two wild cards and Woosnam and Parnevik are out. Not one of them put the Ryder Cup before self-interest.

The beleaguered Gallacher asked all of them to play in the final qualifying event, the Volvo German Open in Stuttgart last week. Woosnam and Parnevik obliged, Faldo and Olazabal stayed in America. So much for loyalty, so much for team spirit. Why did he have to ask? If they care enough about the match they should have made the effort. Failing that, the captain should have instilled some discipline and read the riot act.

The qualifying process was lengthened to take in events beginning with the European Masters in Switzerland and, for the first time, the majors in America carried Ryder Cup points. "I always felt that our top players would make enough money to get in, but it hasn't happened," Gallacher said. "The players had all the flexibility they needed. I thought we had covered all the options. I felt that Ian Woosnam would be a major player in the Ryder Cup."

Last night Woosnam, the Masters champion in 1991 and the former world No1, was honoured for his sporting achievements by the Royal Variety Club at the Celtic Manor and Country Club near Newport. They have a bar there in his name. There wasn't a dry glass in the house.

Woosnam, who won two events in Europe last season, has done nothing this year and chose not to play in 18 tournaments. He has not played enough and he has not played well enough, but his pedigree is such that Europe wanted him and America will be glad to see the back of him. In the last Ryder Cup at The Belfry two years ago, he was the leading player with four and a half points out of five. Curtis Strange was one of America's wild cards this time on the basis that not only is he a fellow Virginian of the captain, Lanny Wadkins, but he won the US Open at Oak Hill in 1989. This, of course, is the Ryder Cup course and Woosnam was second there.

When Gallacher gave Woosnam the bad news yesterday morning, the Welshman reminded the Scotsman of these salient facts and added a few other riders. Woosnam told the captain that it was an error to select a player who, because of his foot injury, might not be able to play in all the matches. Woosnam also pointed put that in his six Ryder Cup appearances he had always made the team on merit whereas Olazabal, apart from one occasion, has always taken the wild card.

Everybody knew that Faldo would get the first wild card. Why? Good question. I've no idea. Faldo deserted Europe for America because, apart from the fact that he could not stand the British press, he thought he would stand a better chance of winning the majors, three of which are held in the United States. He didn't get a sniff of any of them and had his worst record in the big ones since 1986, when he was redesigning his swing.

"I wouldn't dream of going into the Ryder Cup without Nick Faldo," Gallacher said yesterday. As for the other card, Woosnam's only chance was to qualify and he failed to do that in Germany on Sunday. "There is no gamble with Olly," Gallacher said. "He can play 18 good holes and perhaps rest one round on the odd day. I'm a great believer in how you're playing at the moment."

At the moment, Olazabal is showing good form in America and the only form Woosnam has shown is in promoting Celtic Manor, a pounds 50m project in the land of his fathers. Despite his record, Woosnam was in trouble. Seve Ballesteros, another Spaniard who, because of back trouble, is not guaranteed to go the distance, has formed a formidable partnership with Olazabal in the foursomes and fourballs. As Woosnam pointed out on Sunday evening in Stuttgart, "there will be somebody blasting down Bernard's ear".

Ballesteros is expected to take over the captaincy when the match is played in Spain in two years' time. Olly, younger than Woosnam and with a better record in the majors this year, also has a good c.v. as well as influential friends. "Obviously the Ryder Cup means a lot to me," Olazabal said yesterday. "It is very special." So special he preferred to play in America, where he will probably spend most of his season next year, rather than in Germany.

He is a lucky man. If somebody out of the top 10 qualifiers cannot play, Miguel Angel Jim-enez (11th) is the reserve. If one of the two wild cards is injured, Gallacher has a free hand. Woosnam? "The way he feels," the captain said, "he might not want to go."

US RYDER CUP TEAM: C Pavin, T Lehman, D Love III, P Mickelson, J Haas, J Maggert, L Roberts, B Crenshaw, P Jacobsen, B Faxon, F Couples, C Strange. Captain: L Wadkins.

Colin Montgomerie

Age: 32. Ryder Cup caps: 2.

P8, W4, L2, H2, Pts 5.

In the last two matches, Big Monty's number in the batting order has been three. As one of Europe's leading players, he expects that to change. When Europe were blitzed at Walton Heath in 1981, Monty was a paying spectator. "The Americans were frightening," he said. "There's nothing frightening about their current team." He has just won the Volvo German Open. The world is his lobster.

Bernhard Langer

Age 38. Ryder Cup caps: 7.

Pl29, W13, L11, H5, Pts15.5.

Like Montgomerie, Langer is one of Bernard Gallacher's blue-chip investments. Never misses the cut but occasionally misses a putt, like the five-footer that cost Europe the Cup at Kiawah Island in South Carolina four years ago. He blamed spike marks for the miss and the following week went out and won a tournament. Successfully partnered Ian Woosnam in the foursomes at The Belfry two years ago.

Sam Torrance

Age: 42. Ryder Cup caps: 7.

Pl23, W4, L13, H6, Pts7.

He sank the winning putt at The Belfry in 1985, but has not had much success since. Back at The Belfry in 1993, Torrance's contribution was negligible. He withdrew from the singles with a bruised toe. A pioneer with the broomstick putter, he is playing the best golf of his life and captain Gallacher anticipates a dramatic improvement in the Scot's Ryder Cup record.

Costantino Rocca

Age: 38. Ryder Cup caps: 1.

Pl2, W0, L2, Pts0.

For some reason (the fact that he is Italian probably had something to do with it) poor old Rocca shouldered the blame for Europe's 15-13 defeat at The Belfry two years ago. Two holes up with three to play, he managed to lose to Davis Love III on the 18th. Rocca will also be remembered for his duffed chip and sensational putt in the Open at St Andrews this year.

Severiano Ballesteros

Age: 38. Ryder Cup caps: 7.

Pl34, W19, L10, H5, Pts21.5.

In harness with Jose-Maria Olazabal, proves an irresistible force in the foursomes and fourballs. In what could be his last match as a player Ballesteros, who is expected to take over the captaincy when the Cup goes to Valderrama in Spain in 1997, is bound to be fired up. For Seve, the sight of an American is like a red rag to a bull. He can't stand them. Plagued this year by back trouble.

David Gilford

Age: 29. Ryder Cup caps: 1.

Pl3, W0, L2, H1,Pts 0.5.

An enigma wrapped within a whisper. All we know is that he keeps a herd of Hereford cattle in Crewe. If you're hard of hearing, don't talk to him. Decibel level nil. Played at Kiawah Island, got stuffed with Nick Faldo and was looking forward to the singles when Steve Pate withdrew from the US team because of injury and Gilford's name appeared in the infamous envelope. Return to sender was Gilford's sentiment at the time.

Mark James

Age: 41. Ryder Cup caps: 6.

Pl22, W7, L14, H1, Pts7.5.

A rebel when younger, he is beginning to show signs of maturity. James has resorted to the broomstick putter which, to my mind, shows a sign of weakness, but the results tell a different story. Has the nickname of Jesse, but now is not so much an outlaw as an Establishment figure. Consistently wins enough money to take time off to tend to his garden.

Howard Clark

Age: 41. Ryder Cup caps: 5.

Pl13, W6, L6, H1, Pts 6.5.

Has made it on merit despite missing the half-way cut in the German Open last weekend. Made his debut in 1977 and has a good record. An archetypal Yorkshireman, he has been through a bad patch (this man is the short straw as far as caddies are concerned), but is beginning to earn a few bob. Sank a few pints when he helped Europe to a historic win in Columbus, Ohio, in 1987.

Per-Ulrik Johansson

Age: 28. Debutant.

Like Clark, Johansson missed the cut in Stuttgart and still made it. Finished second in the PGA Championship at Wentworth and won enough money to make him a contender for the team. The only consistency about this man is that he is inconsistent. Makes a cheque, then misses the cut. Like most Swedish players on the European Tour he has a lump of tobacco placed in his upper lip. Hampered this year by breaking a finger playing table tennis.

Philip Walton

Age: 33. Debutant.

Walton had a good record as a match player in the Walker Cup, so he should not be overawed in the professional equivalent. The Dubliner is another who has switched to the long putter and has won two tournaments this year. Was 10th in the Ryder Cup table going into the German Open and remained 10th despite a nerve-jangling round of 77 on Sunday. Came close to qualifying in 1989 until they paired him in the first two rounds with Ballesteros.

Nick Faldo

Age: 38. Ryder Cup caps: 9.

Pl36, W19, L13, H4, Pts 21.

Three Opens, two Masters but nothing this year after committing himself to the US Tour. Like Woosnam, Faldo was critical of Europe reducing the number of wild cards to two. "They knew I'd be playing in America," he said. They didn't know he would perform so moderately in the majors. Tormented by putting problems, even though he favoured the US over Europe because of the quality and consistency of the greens in America.

Jose-Maria Olazabal

Age: 29. Ryder Cup caps: 4.

Pl20, W12, L6, H2, Pts 13.

After winning the British Boys, Youths and Amateur titles, this son of a greenkeeper has amassed millions since winning the European Tour Qualifying School in 1985. In 1987, he teamed up with Ballesteros in the Ryder Cup and in 15 matches they have been beaten only twice. Won the Masters last year, but his progress has since been impeded by a foot injury. Has had one operation and will have another.