Ballesteros to be named

 

SEVE BALLESTEROS can this afternoon put the anxiety of the last few months behind him when he is named Europe's captain for the 1997 Ryder Cup at Valderrama.

The appointment by the Ryder Cup committee, which is meeting outside London, is considered to be no more than a formality.

The Spaniard's anxiety stemmed from events two years ago when officials were angered by the manner in which he promoted Novo Sancti Petri, a course he had designed outside Cadiz. Though there were ultimately handshakes all round, Ballesteros couldn't be sure that lingering resentments didn't remain.

This would also explain why he readily accepted the refusal of the Ryder Cup committee to agree to a change in the selection format, at a recent meeting. With vivid memories of the awkward position the then skipper, Bernard Gallacher, found himself in during the build up to Oak Hill last September, Ballesteros wanted four wild cards instead of two.

"I asked the committee and they replied that since we won the last time, why change the rules," he said this week. "So I had no choice. They said the subject was closed."

If the circumstances are favourable, however, it is likely that officials would be happy to support the idea of a playing captain. "It will be good if I can play and be captain, although it will be, very difficult," he went on. "But if I believe I can make a good contribution to the team by playing, I will find someone to help me with the captaincy and I will do both jobs."

Over the last 68 years, the biennial event has had 13 playing captains. Five of them led what was originally the British, then the British and Irish team - Ted Ray (1927), George Duncan (1929), Charles Whitcombe (1931, 1935, 1937), Henry Cotton (1947) and Dai Rees (1955, 1957, 1959, 1961).

The other eight were Americans - Walter Hagen (1927, 1929, 1931, 1933, 1935), Ben Hogan (1947), Sam Snead (1951, 1959), Lloyd Mangrum (1953), Chick Herbert (1955), Jack Burke Jnr (1957), Jerry Barber (1961) and Arnold Palmer (1963). Hagen was unquestionably the most successful in the role, winning seven and halving one of his nine; matches.

The ideal situation for Ballesteros would be if he could sit out the morning matches of the opening two days, just as he did at Oak Hill. His limited involvement on that occasion, how ever, was due to indifferent form, whereas he is adamant he will not consider himself for next year's team unless he is playing well, ideally at the time of the 1997 British Open.

Either way, the announcement is coming much earlier than originally anticipated. It was not expected to be finalised until the Volvo PGA Championship at Wentworth at the end of May.