While some American pros try to turn the Ryder Cup into a Silly
Season exhibition, in Europe the players are treating Samuel
Ryder's biennial grudge match as a matter of life and death.
Literally. On the eve of last week's Volvo Scandinavian Masters
the agent of Andrew Coltart, the young Scot who is a tenuous
10th in the points race, let slip that Coltart and his very
pregnant wife, Emma, are scheduling the birth of their first
child around the match. "I think you'll find that the baby will
be induced the week before the Ryder Cup," said Chubby Chandler,
who also represents Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood, both of whom
have already qualified for the team. "That will allow Andrew to
play in the event. When you understand how much he wants to play
and how much effort he has put into making the team, there isn't
If you think Coltart has got his priorities mixed up, that is
exactly the point. The only thing the Ryder Cup seems to induce
among many of the top Americans is a sense of apathy, but the
scramble to make the European team has a refreshing urgency.
Last week at the Masters, conducted at Barseback Golf and
Country Club outside Malmo, Sweden, Colin Montgomerie stormed to
a nine-shot victory, giving him his first four-victory season on
the Euro tour. But that was merely the backdrop to the larger
European captain Mark James made headlines before the tournament
began simply by phoning in his withdrawal. James, 45, has
enjoyed a renaissance as a player this year, hovering around the
top 10 in the points race throughout the season. (The top 10
earn automatic spots on the team.) For months he has been coy
about whether he would rather play on the team or serve as
captain, though he has left no doubt that it would have to be
one or the other. James, however, missed the cut in the two
tournaments leading up to last week's event, falling from 11th
to 13th in the standings, and his WD in Malmo was seen as an
admission that he is finally embracing the captaincy.
One player willing to dish was Robert Karlsson, the amiable
Adonis from Sweden who finished fifth last week to move to ninth
in the points race. Karlsson spoke to James by phone two days
before the tournament. "Put it this way," said the 6'5"
Karlsson, "he's only playing [in the PGA Championship] because
he would have to be there anyway to watch all of us. Right now I
would be willing to bet you anything that we'll see James as our
With that mystery put to bed, the focus is now on who will play
for James. Seven men have earned enough points to all but
guarantee them spots: stalwarts Montgomerie and Jose Maria
Olazabal; young guns Clarke and Westwood, both of whom were
rookies in '97 at Valderrama but acquitted themselves nicely;
and three rookies-to-be, Paul Lawrie, 30, Miguel Angel Jimenez,
35, who served as an assistant to Seve Ballesteros at
Valderrama, and Jarmo Sandelin, 32, the Swede whose game and
personality are highly explosive.
This is where it gets interesting. Following last week's
Masters, Nos. 8 through 10 on the list are three more would-be
rookies with suspect credentials: Jean Van de Velde, 33, the
Frenchman who will forever be remembered for his collapse at the
British Open; Karlsson, 29, who has won only twice and in the
tour's media guide lists "self-development" as one of his
interests, which doesn't exactly inspire confidence; and
Coltart, 29, known more for being Westwood's brother-in-law than
for his two career victories. There are only two tournaments
left in the points race--the PGA and next week's BMW
International Open in Munich. If this lackluster trio holds on,
James will be left with the unenviable task of having to select
two captain's picks from a group that includes Nick Faldo,
Sergio Garcia, Bernhard Langer, Jesper Parnevik and Ian Woosnam.
Says Karlsson, speaking for himself as well as for Coltart and
Van de Velde, "We can feel a lot of people rooting against us."
Europe's core of 10, as it stands now, is absurdly wet behind
the ears and would be a prohibitive underdog at the Country
Club. (Sound familiar?) What most European fans are praying for
is that Langer and Garcia, 11th and 12th in the points race,
respectively, jump into the top 10, freeing James to select
Faldo and Parnevik. There was some dismay when Garcia and Langer
chose to skip the Masters and tune up for the PGA in the States
instead, thus forfeiting the chance to earn points. Not everyone
was downcast, though. "Hey, I'm glad," said Karlsson, cracking
up at this kind of selfishness. "Are you kidding? I wish they
spent more time over there."
Assuming the worst for the European side--that is, that the top
10 doesn't change--then everyone has an opinion on what James
should do, especially the players themselves. We can probably
eliminate Woosnam. He has finished no better than fifth this
season and missed the cut in Malmo. Proving that Ryder Cup fever
is not confined to the youngsters, Woosie created a stir last
week when he said he had canned his longtime swing coach, Bill
Ferguson, and taken up with Pete Cowan, who is Westwood's guy.
"It's an all-out effort now to see if I can win or get a good
finish," says Woosnam.
If Woosnam is out, that leaves four marquee players for two
spots. The most intriguing case is Faldo, who has earned the
most points (25) in Ryder Cup history. Despite Faldo's current
slump, which dates back to the '97 Nissan Open, the 42-year-old
warhorse still has considerable support. "Faldo would be an
asset, even if he were only playing at 80 percent," says
Montgomerie. "Unfortunately, he is not 80 percent at the moment.
He has to show some signs of form over the last two tournaments."
Langer could make Faldo expendable. Germany's ultimate driving
machine has almost as good a Ryder record as his English
contemporary, and he has been very solid this year, including a
fruitful trip to Augusta National, where he contended for four
days and finished 11th.
The one player who has near-universal support as a captain's
selection is Parnevik, who is an ideal mix of youth, experience
and good form. His commitment to the U.S. Tour had left him a
distant 34th in the standings heading into the Scandanavian
Masters, but Parnevik was still talking about qualifying for the
team. "I want to make it easier for Mark," he said before play
got under way in Malmo, "so I'll win here, win the PGA, and then
I'm in." For a while it looked as if he might accomplish the
former, as he made the turn last Saturday in second place, just
two back of Montgomerie. Alas, Parnevik couldn't keep up with
Monty, although he did hold on to second and jump to 18th place
on the points list.
No one has taken a larger step backward than Garcia, the teen
phenom whose self-immolation at the British Open may have cost
him a shot at being a captain's selection. "That was the biggest
tournament of his career," says one top European, "and the way
he lost it out there doesn't give James confidence." Says
Karlsson, speaking for the others, "He has to play his way in.
We have too many rookies already, and I plan on being one of
So, too, does Coltart, although it appears that he may go into
labor before his wife does. The Scandinavian Masters--in which his
third-round 75 led to a 45th-place finish--was his seventh
straight week on this Ryder Cup death march, and the pressure is
beginning to show. Ordinarily among the most courtly of golfing
gentlemen, Coltart blew his stack following the first round. "I
have no trouble blocking out all the Ryder Cup nonsense when I'm
on the course, but every time I step off of it a guy like you
wants to talk about it," he said. "I understand it's a big deal,
but it's tough to deal with when you're the one going through
Hey, Andy, at least we know you care. "You're right about that,
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY BOB MARTIN Labor of love His child's birth won't keep Coltart from Brookline.
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY BOB MARTIN Parnevik's hope is to crack the top 10 in the standings after the PGA.
"Faldo would be an asset even if he were only at 80 percent,"
says Montgomerie. "Unfortunately, he is not 80 percent at the