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Beleaguered Belfry
Sam Torrance must have viewed the results of the BMW International Open at Munich this weekend with very mixed feelings. Certainly the return of Thomas Bjorn to some sort of form must have raised a smile, but the latest news of Montgomerie and Harrington and their respective injuries will have brought a pensive frown to the process of rolling a cigarette.

Sam has a problem he should not have because it is not of his making and could be resolved easily by both Monty and Pod facing up to the reality of the situations that they find themselves in. Indeed, if either felt any sense of responsibility to the Tour, the fans and to the game itself  for, lets face it, the Ryder Cup is the biggest event in the game  they would withdraw immediately. Also, others in the squad who are playing poorly relative to the form that won them a place in the squad last year, but who do not have the excuse of injury should sustain one now.

This year's Ryder Cup is a debacle. The decisions made hard upon the catastrophe of the Twin Towers last year were both responsible and understandable. They were, however, knee-jerk reactions that in retrospect were surely wrong. It might have been best had the playing of the cup been cancelled for that biannual cycle. The decision to postpone for a year while retaining the same teams has resulted in teams from both sides of the Atlantic that no longer represent the best from either Tour. The only consolation is that both teams have about the same proportion of out-of-form players.

Although both teams are in confusion with regard to current form, the European team's confusion is exacerbated by injury. Monty has been nursing a bad back for much of the year with only the occasional respite. It may well happen that he will enjoy a respite between the 27th and 29th of September at the De Vere Belfry, but it is equally possible that he may not and find himself unable to progress further than the first green.

This is not a risk that he should be taking and, furthermore, he should not be putting himself and the team in jeopardy because of it.

The situation that Pod Harrington finds himself in is altogether different. Pod has not enjoyed the success that was generally anticipated for him this year. He is yet undoubtedly one of Europe's best even on this years overall form. But Pod has had a problem for a few weeks that has left him physically and psychologically unprepared for the Big Event and he should address the situation immediately rather than find himself with an eleventh hour embarrassment.

The picture of him being strangled by a chiropractor and his erratic scorecards, both in Minnesota and Seattle, must have given the US squad feelings of schadenfraude. More important, however, are the feelings of uncertainty that must have been sown in Pod's mind. Now we learn that he is nursing a twisted ankle as well as back and shoulder injuries, all of which he feels can be sorted out by 'scans' in Dublin and a visit to Bob Torrance here in Scotland.

Modern medicine may be miraculous and Bob Torrance may be worthy of a place in Valhalla, but neither can replace tissue without time and certainly not unravel the knots in the mind that twist into doubts about self-confidence.

Harrington appears confident and determined to make the De Vere Belfry on the 27th while Monty has at least openly voiced his personal doubts. Both would undoubtedly be a loss to the team should they fail to make it but the absence of Monty must be Torrance's greatest concern. Not only does he bring experience and expertise to the team, but he also brings a formidable Ryder Cup record.

Monty is unbeaten in a Ryder Cup singles match and he has formed winning partnerships with both Nick Faldo and Paul Lawrie in fourball and foursomes matches. Indeed, three of his singles matches will go down in Ryder Cup history. His half with Calcavecchia at Kiawah Island after being five down at the turn was glorious, as was his victory over the late Payne Stewart at Brookline.

But his halved match with Scott Hoch at Valderrama in 1997 was surely his greatest hour. The result of the entire event depended upon the outcome of the match and Monty was not found wanting. A half was all that was required but Monty stood on the 17th tee one down.

He birdied the 17th to go level and his drive down the 18th had a take that look to it. Hoch found rough from the tee and struggled to find the last green in three shots, 15 feet from the hole, while Monty was comfortably on in two. Team captain Ballesteros ran onto the green and conceded Hoch's putt for a halved match and the required half point to take the cup for Europe.

Sentiment says that Monty should do his level best to be at the De Vere Belfry. Sense says otherwise. Ian Poulter is next in line for his place and he at least is playing well. Should Harrington have to withdraw then a place could be found for the remarkably consistent Paul Casey who is a match play marvel.

There are not unsettling rumours from America that Jesper Parnevik is about to withdraw from his captains pick place  hopefully on the advice of his tailor. As a captains pick this would enable Sam to make way for the mercurial Olazabal. Things are starting to look better for the De Vere Belfry.


©    3 - SEPTEMBER 2002



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