The threat of legal action has dashed Seve Ballesteros's hopes of a players' ballot giving him more wild-card selections for the Ryder Cup team.
As Europe's captain is not competing in the US Players Championship, he was not here to hear the announcement from Ken Schofield, the executive director of the European tour. It also came as a shock to Nick Faldo, who had been eagerly awaiting his ballot paper personally delivered by Schofield.
Virtually all Europe's leading players have stated over the last month that Ballesteros needs more than the two wild cards he inherited, against his will, when he took over as captain after Europe's victory at Oak Hill in 1995. A players' meeting attended by the Spaniard in Portugal two weeks ago was overwhelmingly in favour of change and requested a ballot be taken.
The Ryder Cup Committee have since taken advice from leading counsel Nigel Davis QC on the matter and found that moving the goalposts is just not golf. Davis advised that "the only lawful basis on which the selection procedure could be validly altered at this stage was if the unanimous consent of all playing members eligible for selection was obtained".
A statement said that as the Ryder Cup Committee "has already received representations from a number of Ryder Cup candidates who strongly disagree with any suggested alterations to the selection procedure, then it would be inappropriate to hold a ballot".
Schofield added: "The tour is a business and we have contracts with our players. As such we must observe the law of contracts. There are still 22 events for all players to try to qualify for the team, including the four major championships."
So Ballesteros is back to crossing his fingers and hoping that two of Faldo, Jose Maria Olazabal and Bernhard Langer qualify. "It is a pity," Ballesteros said. "There were special circumstances this year with Jose Maria's situation and some players competing mostly in America. Also, some players have the type of game that is well suited to the unique examination offered by the Valderrama course.
"However, I am still confident that I will have a very strong team. It is too bad the Committee did not obtain legal opinion from the beginning so we would all have saved a lot of time and effort, but now I would like everybody to understand the case is closed."
While Langer, with his broom-handle putter, Olazabal, after his victory in the Canaries on Sunday, and Faldo, though probably only by winning a major, could qualify, Parnevik, as a non-member of the European tour, is not eligible to earn Ryder Cup points. The Swede is due to have a meeting with Schofield this week to discuss him rejoining the tour, and legal advice has also been sought on whether Parnevik's points for winning the Lancome Trophy last September can be retroactively awarded.
"Let's hope Olazabal earns enough points, and the same with Langer," Colin Montgomerie said. "That would allow Seve to use his selections on Faldo and perhaps Parnevik. We need the strongest team possible."
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