Martin to Pursue Legal Action after Booting by Ballesteros

By Davis, Barker | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 4, 1997 | Go to article overview

Martin to Pursue Legal Action after Booting by Ballesteros


Davis, Barker, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Golf's match-play team events continue to bring out the worst in a sport founded on honor and integrity. First it was David Graham being forced out as captain of the International team last year by Greg Norman six weeks before the Presidents Cup. And now the Ryder Cup has given golf another ugly dose of scandal as European captain Seve Ballesteros and the European Ryder Cup Committee have pushed Spain's Miguel Angel Martin off the roster to clear the way for 11th-place qualifier Jose Maria Olazabal and certain captain's choices Jesper Parnevik and Nick Faldo.

"I am going straightaway to my lawyers in the morning," Martin said yesterday at a news conference. "I'm not going to back off on this. I will play on the Ryder Cup team."

The 35-year-old Martin dislocated the cubital tendon in his left hand during the Loch Lomond World Invitational (July 10-13) and hasn't competed since the British Open (July 17-20). Originally, Martin told Ballesteros that the injury would force him to give up his automatic berth. But after the cast on his wrist was removed last Monday, Martin began expressing second thoughts. And when Olazabal was unable to move past him at last week's BMW Open, the final Ryder Cup qualifying event on the European schedule, Martin told Ballesteros that he still intended to help defend the Cup at Valderrama, Spain, from Sept. 26-28.

Ballesteros postponed the announcement of his captain's selections until today, seemingly to give Martin a chance to prove he was healthy enough to compete. But after Martin refused to submit himself to an 18-hole audition Tuesday, European Tour officials and Ballesteros summarily decided that Martin was physically unable to perform and replaced him with Olazabal, the 11th-place qualifier.

"This is barbarous . . . that they schedule me to play 18 holes at Valderrama to see if I'm in shape," Martin said. "I have to be ready on Sept. 26, not Sept. 3."

Obviously, the decision was convenient for Ballesteros, who today can add Faldo and Parnevik with his captain's choices to a team that already includes Olazabal. Obviously, the European roster is now stronger, Olazabal, Faldo and Parnevik all boasting more accomplished careers than Martin.

Martin, who earned most of his Ryder Cup points last year, has made just one cut since June 2 and recorded only one top-10 finish this year.

Conversely, Olazabal missed all of last season with a foot injury and still almost rebounded to catch Martin on the European points list. In just 17 starts this season, Olazabal recorded 13 top-25 finishes. And unlike Martin, who has never played in a Ryder Cup, Olazabal has competed in four Ryder Cups, posting a 12-6-2 record as one of Europe's most daunting players.

As for Parnevik and Faldo, who play almost exclusively in the United States, both would have qualified for the European team under a system that included U.S. PGA Tour finishes. With his eight top-five finishes this season, Parnevik has made almost twice as much money on the PGA Tour ($1,077,587) as the No. 1 player on the European Order of Merit (Ian Woosnam at #435,655, approximately $700,000).

Faldo's credentials are unimpeachable. The 40-year-old Brit has been a member of every European team since 1977, playing in more matches (41) than any player in history. Even in an off year by his standards, Faldo still has a victory this season (Nissan Open).

But nobody is arguing the relative merits of Martin vs. Faldo or Olazabal or Parnevik. And nobody would argue that the European selection process doesn't have its shortcomings. The fact is that Martin earned his roster spot fairly under the current European system. Shouldn't he be allowed to make his own decision whether to participate?

Martin's doctors cleared him to begin chipping balls later this week, and merely playing, much less finding his professional form by Sept. …

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