Woosnam replaces limping Olazabal

Golf

The belated decision yesterday of Jose-Maria Olazabal to withdraw from Europe's team for the Ryder Cup against the United States next week, on the grounds that he is unable to put his best foot forward, has solved one problem for the captain, Bernard Gallacher, and created another.

Ian Woosnam will take Olazabal's place and Gallacher always wanted the Welshman in his team. "We can replace one Masters champion with another," Gallacher said. However, while the return of Woosnam gives Gallacher the option of resurrecting a successful foursomes partnership - Woosnam and Bernhard Langer won both their matches two years ago - the loss of Olazabal splits up the most successful pairing in the history of the Ryder Cup.

In 14 matches in harness with Seve Ballesteros in foursomes and fourballs, the Spaniards were defeated only twice. They dovetailed so effectively partly because they inspired and cajoled each other; Gallacher now has the problem of whom to play alongside Ballesteros.

Since having an operation to shorten the big toe on his right foot, Olazabal has spent most of the season limping. He also has a tiny tumour pressing on a nerve and will visit a clinic in New York this week for further tests.

It was not felt that Olazabal could play 36 holes a day. "Jose-Maria and I mutually agreed it would be sensible for him to withdraw," Gallacher said. "He was reluctant to be vulnerable as a team member."

In the defeat at The Belfry in 1993, Woosnam was Europe's top scorer with four and a half points out of five, although he has yet to win a singles. With neither Woosnam nor Olazabal making the team on merit, Gallacher's two wild cards went to the Spaniard and Nick Faldo.

Woosnam, the runner-up in the 1989 US Open in Rochester, New York, where the Cup will be played, was resentful of his omission and responded by saying that he would not even watch the match on television. Instead, he would retire to his yacht and a well-stocked bar.

Yesterday, Woosnam said: "I think Bernard made the right decision in picking Olazabal because I was struggling with my game and he was showing better form. I'm glad I'm playing, but it's a pity it's happened this way." Woosnam has not won this year, but this week he defends his British Masters title at Collingtree.

Walker Cup review, page 23

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