RAILROADED THE EUROPEANS DESERVE A BLACK EYE FOR SACKING MIGUEL ANGEL MARTIN

September 14, 1997

Innocents abroad--that's what Mark Twain called Americans
touring Europe. The soot-covered castles, cavernous museums and
baffling wine vintages made even a well-traveled Missourian feel
like a rube. Put our best riverboat gambler up against your
average French aristocrat, Twain implied, and the American would
be lucky to crawl away in his skivvies.

Twain certainly wouldn't have altered his opinion of Europeans
if he had been in the Swiss Alps last week to see Europe's Ryder
Cup captain, Seve Ballesteros, cap a week of intrigue by
announcing his two wild-card picks. I was there, and as a
Missourian and a Ryder Cup enthusiast I must report: Twain was
right on the money. I refer, of course, to the Martin Affair,
which, as this is written, threatens to ensnare the biennial
competition between Europe and the U.S. in a web of writs and
injunctions. Miguel Angel Martin is the journeyman Spanish
golfer who earned the right to represent Europe in two weeks at
Valderrama, only to be shoved aside by Ballesteros and the
European tour's Ryder Cup committee. According to the plotters,
Martin, who has an injured wrist, declared himself
"competitively unfit" by refusing to comply with their order to
play a round of golf in Spain on Sept. 3. As European tour
commissioner Ken Schofield put it, "Martin wouldn't demonstrate
his fitness, so we had no choice but to remove him from the team."

While wiping away an imaginary tear, Schofield neglected to
mention that Martin had more lances in his back than a bull has
after a run-in with a picador. About the time the little
Spaniard moved up the Ryder Cup points list by winning the
Heineken Classic in Australia in February, Ballesteros floated a
proposal that he should get three captain's picks instead of the
agreed-upon two. That way he could select Nick Faldo and Jesper
Parnevik--two European stars who were playing the U.S. Tour and
thus not earning Ryder Cup points--and former Masters champion
Jose Maria Olazabal, who is making a comeback from a
career-threatening foot ailment. The American side, insisting
that the rules not be changed midstream, responded with a polite
no.

That's the background. Two weeks ago in Munich the Euros' points
race ended with Martin in 10th place--the last automatic
spot--and the more highly regarded Olazabal in 11th. Did
Ballesteros give Martin a hearty hug of congratulations? Hardly.
He stepped back and let his Ryder Cup committee try to bully
Martin into withdrawing. But no one reckoned on the stubbornness
of Martin, who hasn't played a tournament round since July, when
he broke his left wrist trying to escape from a thorny lie in
Scotland. Yes, Martin conceded, he was currently unfit to play,
but his wrist might heal in time for the Ryder Cup--unless, that
is, he was forced to do something stupid like play 18 holes a
few days after having his cast removed. "Playing in a Ryder Cup
has always been a dream of mine," Martin said from Madrid. "I
will not just lie down and allow it to be taken away from me."

Martin's passionate words availed him not. On Sept. 2 the
European committee booted him off the team and awarded the 10th
automatic spot to Olazabal. That angered rank-and-file European
players, but the only Ryder Cupper to stand up for Martin was
his friend and countryman Ignacio Garrido. ("You don't even have
to play golf to know what's right," Garrido said. "There's no
rule that you have to be fit three days after the team is
announced.") Ballesteros, insisting that the Martin decision was
the committee's and not his own, announced on Sept. 4 that Faldo
and Parnevik were his picks. He also denounced Martin as a
"square head" and "kamikaze" out to destroy the Ryder Cup. In
Madrid, Martin called his lawyers, who were expected to file for
an injunction in a Spanish court.

Watching the maneuvering from the ski resort of Crans-Montana,
where the Swiss were trying, peaceably, to conduct the Canon
European Masters tournament, this American innocent had to
wonder what had become of goodwill and fair play. Two years ago,
when Olazabal was limping badly in the run-up to Oak Hill, the
Europeans left it to him to decide if he could play. A week
before Ryder Cup '95, Olazabal withdrew and Ian Woosnam took his
place.

Martin was shown no such respect. On the contrary, he was
shunned by Ballesteros and then ordered to jeopardize his
recovery as a pretext for his removal. This is a precedent that
must be reversed before Ryder Cup '99. Otherwise, future
captains will replace so-called weak players, citing runny noses
or shaving cuts.

"Shameful" is how one British writer described the transparent
ploy. "Desole," echoed a French journalist. I, a mere tourist,
quoted Twain: "Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to."

Against the majestic Alps, Ballesteros and his coconspirators
looked very, very small.

COLOR PHOTO: SERGIO PEREZ/REUTERS Martin wanted more time for his injured wrist to heal. [Miguel Angel Martin displaying his scarred wrist]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)