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Capt. Ballesteros Has Mutiny on Hands

September 05, 1997|THOMAS BONK

That hot breeze that's bending those Ryder Cup flagsticks in Sotogrande, Spain? Yes, it's the familiar breath of controversy, but this time it's coming from a different direction. This time it's Europe's problem.

If Curtis Strange was a controversial captain's pick to the U.S. team by Lanny Wadkins in 1995, the way things are going for

Seve Ballesteros, there just might be a few new cracks in nearby Gibraltar any day now.

Two days after taking fellow Spaniard Miguel Angel Martin off the European team and adding Jose Maria Olazabal, Ballesteros added Nick Faldo and Jesper Parnevik as captain's choices, as expected. Meanwhile, Martin has pushed forward with his threat to sue in order to reclaim the spot he earned playing on the European PGA Tour.

That wasn't expected, and Ballesteros isn't happy with Martin.

"He was not welcome before, do you think he will be welcome now?" Ballesteros said just before he announced his two captain's picks.

"That little man? He can't stop the Ryder Cup. Lawyers can only do so much. He's like a machine-gunner shooting in all directions. He is trying to be a hero for a week. We would be out of our minds to change the decision.

"He has only been thinking of himself. He's like a kamikaze going for the ship."

Doesn't sound too conciliatory, does it?

Martin, who is healing from wrist surgery, appealed to the European Ryder Cup committee and said he would go to court if that failed, which is something he should count on.

"We are informed it is very unlikely that an injunction [to stop the matches] would be successful," said Ken Schofield, executive director of the PGA European Tour.

The Ryder Cup will be played Sept. 26-28 at Valderrama Golf Club in Sotogrande.

Martin hasn't played since July 18. He had the surgery on his wrist Aug. 5 and Ballesteros happily bounced him from the team Tuesday when Martin refused to play 18 holes to prove he was physically able.

Martin has no Ryder Cup experience, whereas Olazabal has played four times. That couldn't have as much to do with Ballesteros' decision as Martin's wrist, could it? Nah.


Jim Colbert is going to start practicing again next week, which means he's going to be back on the Senior PGA Tour . . . well, how about 1998?

Colbert, 56, who underwent surgery for prostate cancer June 23, is taking a wait-until-next-year stance about playing again.

"I doubt seriously I'll come back this year," he said. "I just have to make sure I get in the right physical shape again. I can't affect anything happening out there anyway."

Colbert, a two-time senior tour leading money winner and two-time player of the year, had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee last week. He reported no residual problem with his prostate surgery.

"I feel fine," he said. "My only problem hitting balls was, my back was getting sore. I didn't think of the prostate surgery. I didn't give it a second thought."

Even if Colbert doesn't play on the senior tour again this year, he may accept a sponsor's invitation to play on the PGA Tour at the Las Vegas Invitational, Oct. 22-26. Colbert said his reluctance to return to the tour full time was prompted by seeing Arnold Palmer's labored performance at the Masters three months after he'd had prostate surgery.

"Arnold came back too fast," Colbert said. "Seeing that and really thinking about what I wanted to do, well, I'd love to have a shot at the money title again--next year."


Let's play "What if?" In the last three majors, Tiger Woods played 10 holes at 24 over par. What if the Masters champion hadn't done that? Oh, we can only imagine.

The ugly facts are that he had three double bogeys at the U.S. Open, two triple bogeys and a quadruple bogey at the British Open and four double bogeys at the PGA.

"Overall, he's learned a lot," said Hughes Norton, Woods' agent at IMG. "If he's one thing, he's smart."

And if he's two things, you can add rich. In the 52 weeks since Woods turned pro, he played 25 events on the PGA Tour and won six times--four this year. Add it up and Woods has won $2,740,514--an average of $109,620 each time he played a tournament.

Woods is only $50,080 away from becoming the first player to earn $2 million in a single season.

"I remember when he turned pro and everyone was wondering if he could average, what, $20,000 so he could earn his card," Norton said. "It's the most astounding thing I've ever seen. And he's doing it all even though he's never played most of the courses before."

Woods' off-season schedule includes a three-day Nike junket to Japan, a week off, then the PGA Grand Slam Cup in Hawaii, then the Skins Game--if he's asked, which he certainly will be.


Woods, who is playing in the Canadian Open, said he would like to design courses.

"After I play worldwide, I'll see how I can put my personality on the ground and design a course," he said. "I just haven't played enough yet."

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