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Ryder Cup sponsors enter Mark James row

Pressure on Mark James to step down from involvement in Europe’s Ryder Cup team has increased with one of the European Tour’s most influential sponsors insisting that the controversy over the former captain’s book is damaging the game’s biennial showpiece.

Michael Smurfit, millionaire chief sponsor of the European Open whose K Club complex near Dublin will host the 2005 Ryder Cup, called for the PGA European Tour and the Ryder Cup committee to bring a swift end to the furore.

In his account of his experiences as Europe’s captain at last year’s Ryder Cup in Brookline, James is critical of Nick Faldo, who failed to make the side and whose good-luck telegram to the team he binned. James also condemns the behaviour of the victorious US team.

Faldo has insisted that James should resign, while Frenchman Jean van de Velde and Germany’s Bernhard Langer have also condemned his comments.

After the European Open at the K Club, Smurfit said: "The Ryder Cup is such a special, unique event that any controversy surrounding it has to be regrettable. This thing has snowballed almost out of control, and the quicker it’s resolved the better, in everybody’s interests.

"I’ve spoken to [the PGA European Tour and the Ryder Cup committee] on the matter. I’ve told them this thing has to stop before further damage is inflicted on the Ryder Cup. It’s doing the competition no good."

Irish company Smurfit has poured millions of pounds into the European game in recent years, and Smurfit himself wields considerable weight within the game.

James is due to chair a meeting of the Ryder Cup committee at Loch Lomond today. While his revelations are not on the agenda, they are likely to be raised. Despite a growing tide of opinion to the contrary, the Englishman does not believe that his position is untenable.

The committee is made up of 14 players from the European Tour, including James’ successor Sam Torrance, Colin Montgomerie, van de Velde and Langer. Many of the continental players are believed to want James replaced by Langer or Italian Costantino Rocca.

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