Torrance rejects call for change

 

Europe's Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance yesterday rejected Colin Montgomerie's suggestions for a rethink of the team selection process for next year's match at the Belfry.

Torrance acknowledged Montgomerie's concern that an exodus of players to the US Tour might impair Europe's chances but insisted he would abide by the agreed formula of 10 from the order of merit and two of his personal picks.

Picking all 12, or at least six with six to qualify, or selecting strictly according to world rankings were three suggestions from Montgomerie, who launches the defence of his International Open title today near here at Nord-Eichenried.

The Swede Jesper Parnevik, the Spaniards Sergio Garcia, Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Jimenez and the Frenchman Jean van de Velde, all members of the 1998 side, are planning lengthy sojourns across the Atlantic, as are Denmark's Thomas Bjorn, joint runner-up in the Open and equal third in the USPGA, and the Welshman Phillip Price, joint second, albeit 11 strokes adrift of Tiger Woods in Sunday's NEC Invitational in Akron. The ideas had a certain rationale.

The American-based Nick Faldo, who flew back to Europe for last year's International Open, the final qualifier, only to be told by the then captain Mark James he would not be picked whatever he did, might have mixed feelings.

Torrance's endorsement of his Ryder Cup committee's formula leaves his hands tied with the qualifying process beginning at next week's European Masters in Switzerland, but the Scot, a veteran of eight cup outings, three of them victories, is not complaining.

He insisted yesterday: "I am completely supportive of this system and completely convinced that we will get to the 2001 Ryder Cup with the best 12 available players.

"This is because I have complete faith in a system that has matured with the growth of the European Tour into an international schedule that offers all players the opportunity to qualify for the team whether they choose to play entirely in Europe or in Europe and the United States.

"It will always be a matter of debate which 12 players are the best available at the time of any match. I could ask 10 good judges now and I doubt very much if any two would name the same 12.

"That is because there is great strength in depth on the European Tour, of which there was ample evidence two weeks ago when Bjorn, Olazabal and Darren Clarke were all top-10 finishers in the USPGA and again last week when Phillip Price brilliantly finished runner-up in the WGC-NEC event."

Meanwhile, Belgium's Valerie van Ryckeghem and Marine Monnet of France face the ultimate pressure in the Kronenbourg 1664 Chart Hills Classic as they chase the final two automatic selection spots for Europe's Solheim Cup team.

European captain Dale Reid names her side to face America at Loch Lomond in October after the Kent tournament, which starts tomorrow. Five players - Sophie Gustafson, Laura Davies, Trish Johnson, Alison Nicholas and Patricia Meunier Lebouc - are already certain of selection.

But the other two automatic places from the rankings remain open, with Spain's Raquel Carriedo and Sweden's Annika Sorenstam, who is not in the field, currently in sixth and seventh spot. But if van Ryckeghem finishes seventh or better, or Monnet wins, then they could be overtaken.