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SPORTS WEEKEND | GOLF / THOMAS BONK

Ballesteros Displayed Weak Grip in Pulling Martin

September 19, 1997|THOMAS BONK

The Ryder Cup doesn't start until next week, but the European team already has a bogey--the way captain Seve Ballesteros booted Miguel Angel Martin.

A 35-year-old career scuffler who worked two years to make his first Ryder Cup team on points, Martin deserved to be part of the Valderrama scene. If he was physically unable to play because of his wrist injury, there's no way Martin would have embarrassed

himself or his team and played anyway. All Ballesteros had to do was bring Martin along, then plug in Jose Maria Olazabal (No. 11 in the points) in place of Martin. End of story.

Does anyone think Ballesteros would have treated Olazabal, Jesper Parnevik or Nick Faldo like that if one of them were in Martin's situation?

"It's tragic . . . sad," U.S. Ryder Cup team member Brad Faxon said. "Seve said all along those were the three guys he wanted. . . . Somehow he worked his way around it and got all three."

MONEY BUSINESS

So Mark O'Meara believes the best way to make the Ryder Cup more exciting is to start paying the players. That's interesting, since few are able to detect a flagging interest in the Ryder Cup.

The Ryder Cup first was played 70 years ago. Players have never been paid, except for expenses.

"My feeling is it's become big business," O'Meara said before last week's Lancome Trophy tournament--a $1.1-million event in France that he won. "I don't know the numbers, but I think the European PGA and the U.S. PGA should look at this aspect, even if some seem afraid the Cup will lose its special feeling if players are paid.

"I've already taken some heat for suggesting this. But I'm only trying to be honest. This is not about greed, only about the right thing to do. Other players feel the same way but haven't spoken up."

Faxon spoke up for the other side.

"It makes us sound like greedy, spoiled professional athletes," he said. "The Ryder Cup nets a great deal of money for the U.S. and European PGA. But that's a selfish way to look at it. I've told my friends I'd swim across the ocean to play. There's so much to be gained in other areas besides money.

"Players are so used to getting paid for everything they do. When they go a dinner, they expect to get paid. I'm not on that side."

SKINS GAME

The Skins Game has Tiger (Woods) by the tail once more, which means the 15-year-old made-for-TV event probably is destined to garner some really nice ratings again. Woods, defending champion Fred Couples, Tom Lehman and Mark O'Meara will compete in the two-day event, Nov. 29-30, at Rancho La Quinta and shown on ABC.

With Woods playing for the first time last year, the Skins Game produced a 6.2 rating, which was better than any other major except the Masters, which had a two-day average of 7.5.

The ratings of majors this year gives the Skins Game something to shoot for: Masters 10.6; U.S. Open 6.1; PGA 5.0; British Open 4.1. All the ratings are based on the average for the weekend.

DRIVING LESSON

Look who isn't leading the PGA Tour driving statistics: Woods. Look who is: John Daly. Daly got in enough rounds to qualify when he played all four rounds last week at the CVS Classic. He made the weekend in typical Daly fashion, eagling the 18th hole Friday to make the cut by one shot.

Daly is averaging 301.9 yards and Woods 293.9. No one has finished the season averaging 300 yards. For the record, Daly uses a six-degree Callaway Biggest Big Bertha driver.

Daly's 289-yard average in 1995 is the PGA Tour record.

HIT THIS FAIRWAY

Tom Kite took his first lesson from Harvey Penick at 13, so he knew the late, legendary teacher from Austin, Texas, as well as anyone.

Now Kite, along with Mickey Herskowitz, has written a book about Penick titled "A Fairway to Heaven." In it, Kite recalls the advice Penick gave when Kite acted a little cocky after winning a junior tournament.

"You've been playing well and I'm very proud of you. But I want you to remember this: You are what you are, not what you do."

A DIFFERENT TOUR

Dan Quayle, the former vice president, telephoned "The Golf Channel Academy Live" recently to speak with teacher Jim McLean but wound up answering some questions of his own.

Quayle, who has a four handicap, said he isn't destined for the Senior PGA Tour, but said he is thinking about running for president in 2000.

"I'll be following my political dream," he said. "The senior tour, I'm simply not good enough to even think about it."

GOOD PUTTER

William Rockwell, 26, lives in Santee, Calif., and he recently won a local putting title, part of the Compaq World Putting Championship. It probably is something of an upset, mainly because he doesn't have the use of either of his arms.

Rockwell was in a motorcycle accident when he was 19 and the injuries were serious. His left arm was amputated and his right arm paralyzed.

To compensate, Rockwell grips the putter between the toes on his right foot and braces the shaft with his upper thigh while balancing on his left foot.

It works. His putter is not modified, but the grip is lowered on the shaft so he can use his toes.

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