Money in Question, Not Martin's Fitness

NEW YORK -- The issue is no longer whether Miguel Angel Martin is fit to play in the Ryder Cup. He is not. The issue is whether the matter was handled properly -- and what exactly Martin wants.

Martin said Tuesday his wrist was still too sore to play and withdrew from this week's British Masters. That came as no surprise. He hasn't played since missing the cut at the British Open on July 18, followed by surgery Aug. 5.

"I tried to hit balls but couldn't do it properly the way I want to,'' Martin said. "It was not hurting, but the balls were not going where I wanted them to and there was a little bit of inflammation afterwards.'' Two weeks ago, Martin was under doctor's orders not to even chip a ball, yet he asked European captain Steve Ballesteros to wait until the British Masters to decide if he was healthy enough to play in the Ryder Cup.

Perhaps Ballesteros, who has never played politics gracefully, was too quick in replacing Martin -- who earned a spot on the team -- with Jose Maria Olazabal, the next highest qualifier.

Certainly, the European Ryder Cup committee could have shown a little more -- or even some -- compassion. Its heartfelt acknowledgement of Martin's disappointment was a two-line statement:

"A letter from Miguel Angel Martin's solicitors has been received. The committee acknowledge this but will be making no further comment.''

The committee didn't even say if it bothered to open the letter.

But at the same time, Martin was either kidding himself -- which would not be surprising since playing in the Ryder Cup, particularly in his homeland of Spain, was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity -- or trying to shake down the PGA European Tour for a buyout.

Martin's lawyers are demanding compensation for what they said was an earnings loss the player would incur by not being on the Ryder Cup team.

The Ryder Cup committee -- which perhaps should simply pay Martin off to make the matter go away -- is offering about $6,000 in expense money, a team uniform and the right for Martin to call himself a team member.

One agent not connected with Martin, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that an appearance in the Ryder Cup would be worth "about the equivalent to winning a tournament'' to Martin -- or around $100,000 on the European tour.

The irony is that all this talk of money comes in a competition played for national pride and no prize winnings.

"I feel sorry for him,'' U.S. captain Tom Kite said about Martin. "I feel sorry for any player that gets hurt.''

But Kite also understood why waiting until the national anthems are played Sept. 26 -- as some have suggested -- to decide on Martin's health is not practical.

"You can't pick the team the day before the tournament,'' Kite said. "It's more than just measuring for uniforms. The team needs to start solidifying itself. This is the Ryder Cup. This is not just an ordinary tournament.''