Reuters - Swede Jarmo Sandelin took the first step towards putting a six year old Ryder Cup disappointment behind him when he took a share of the first round lead in the Omega European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre in Switzerland.
Sandelin, who tied for the lead on 65, six under par, with England’s David Carter and Garry Houston of Wales, played only in the final day singles in 1999 when the United States snatched victory over Europe at Brookline Country Club.
"It's my dream to play Ryder Cup again," Sandelin said after setting the pace in the Swiss alps with former Irish Open winner Carter and Houston, who are both working hard to retain their cards for 2006.
"It was a great experience but technical-wise my game was vulnerable.The next time, though, if I get a chance, I want to have the trust of the Captain and the players to play more than one round.
"I still support the decision made by the Captain (Mark James) but any Captain should know that puts the player in a difficult situation."
The 38 year old Swede lost to Phil Mickelson who last month won the USPGA Championship, his second Major after his Masters triumph of 2004.
In contrast, Sandelin has had four years struggling with his game but bounced back in style in Crans. The leading trio are a stroke ahead of the defending champion Luke Donald, who set his Ryder Cup campaign in motion in Europe's first counting event, with a 66, the same score as another 2004 Ryder Cup hero, Sergio Garcia and Peter Hedblom of Sweden.
With a ninth placed finish on the 1999 Order of merit and a place in Europe's Ryder Cup Team that year, Sandelin was flying high but since then his career has stalled and he finished 107th on the Order of Merit last year.
After re-invigorating his game with South African coach Robert Baker at his Portuguese base, Vale do Lobo, Sandelin reckoned he was back as a force again and ready to play a full part in beating the USA next September at The K Club in Ireland.
Sandelin's co-leader Carter needed emergency surgery in 1997 in Dubai to take water off his brain after being found unconscious in his room following a water-chute injury in South Africa the previous week.
Carter went on win the 1998 Irish Open and won the World Cup with Nick Faldo the same year but he has struggled since.
The Englishman's fortunes look to have been changed, however, by turning to a new coach, Briton Matt Belsham, recommended by Australian Terry Price, after Carter had shot an 85 in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles last month.
"I went on the coaching merry-go-round. I'd always used my father (Senior Tour player Bryan Carter) but then I
suffered from too much analysis," he said.
"I hit rock-bottom when I shot an 85 at Gleneagles last month, trying on every shot, and Terry Price told me about a coach called Matt Belsham, who had impressed him.
"I just phoned him up, flew in, and met him at a course near Stansted Airport and he looked at my swing. After six hours he said I was ready. Last week in Munich (BMW International Open) I shot a 65 as well and it's great to see my name on a leaderboard again."
Garcia, who chased Donald all the way last year, has once again invited the Englishman to stay in his Crans Montana home as a house guest for the week. They had plenty to discuss after shooting matching 66s, although Garcia could have expected a lower score, having been five under par after only eight hole.
He said: “I knew the course was playing very difficult this afternoon. I was fortunate to get off to a very good start with a birdie at the first and chipping in on the third.. Then I hit some good shots on short par fours that allowed me to make some birdies.
“I was disappointed not to make birdie on nine after a good drive and the three putts on the tenth really stopped my round. I lost the head a little bit there and made a weak five only seven metres from the hole.
I felt I had a lot of good shots but the course was playing difficult and it was hard to get to some of these pins but I was fortunate to birdie the 15th and make a couple of nice saving pars and I’m quite happy with the round overall.”