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Sam Torrance unlikely to captain again

Sam Torrance watched a friend make a hash of his tee shot on the tenth at the Belfry yesterday morning, and decided he’d better go and show the man how the professionals do it. Shrugging off the affects of a convivial Ryder Cup party which raged long and merrily into the wee small hours, the Scot picked up his pal’s metal wood and drove the green not once, but twice.

It was a timely reminder of the skills on the course which gave Torrance the chance to become Europe’s captain in the first place, and should serve him well once more when he returns to the weekly challenge of knocking a little white ball into a hole for a living.

Sam will be in Fife and Angus later this week for the Dunhill Links and, looking further ahead, a chance beckons, when he celebrates his 50th birthday next year, to make a few bob on the Seniors Tour.

Although he took the ‘never say never’ line, it is as a golfer Torrance sees his future rather than in the slightly romantic notion of serving another tour of duty as the most high profile captain in sport.

There’s no question Torrance has already earned himself a niche as one of the greatest ever European captains. Certainly, there was never another European side as united as the one which upset the odds so dramatically and downed the Americans in Sunday’s singles to bring the Ryder Cup home.

It was Sam’s good nature, sense of fun and immersion in the recent history of the event which made him so popular with all 12 of his players. From Colin Montgomerie at the top of the batting order to Jesper Parnevik at the bottom, each and every European was ready and willing to give his all for Torrance and the cause.

Not surprisingly, the Scot’s popularity allied to his shrewd tactical know-how (he understood the need to get the ball rolling early and ride to victory on a wave of euphoria) has led to calls for Torrance to serve a second term of office at Oakland Hills in 2004.

Adamant before the match at the Belfry this was the end of the line for his Ryder Cup career, Torrance wavered a little in the aftermath of glory, but not sufficiently to convince this observer he will play it again in Detroit.

"I really don’t think I will do it, to be honest," the Scot conceded. "There’s a long time to go before the next captain has to be picked. Really, I haven’t got a clue and will decide when the dust settles.

"It’s been a fantastic three years and it’s someone else’s turn now. This has been so special and if I could bottle the week I would take a sip every day for the rest of my life.

"To be honest, I don’t want to think about the next one right now - let’s just enjoy this one. This isn’t really the time to make comments. Doing it again is the furthest thing from my mind.

"My plan is to join the seniors next year. And you only get three or four years in the seniors to play your best. And, over the past three years, it’s been tough for me to play. Not that it hasn’t been worth it."

While all his players pleaded with him to stay on during the revelries at the Belfry which followed that breathtaking finale - David Duval, apparently, was last man out of the European team room - in the cold light of another sparkling day it was obvious the baton will need to be passed on.

Bernard Gallacher was the most recent captain of the European team to lead the side more than once and the chances of anyone else being invited to follow his example are remote. The Ryder Cup is a different animal now from the days when the Bathgate man and his predecessor Tony Jacklin presided over Europe’s fortunes for decades.

Colin Montgomerie, who hopes to take a turn as captain in Ireland in 2006, doesn’t see Torrance returning.

"The days when Bernard and Tony would do it time and again have gone and I think we’re looking for a new captain," he said. "Like Seve Ballesteros, Sam has done it and won it - what more could he achieve?

"There are a few candidates who spring to mind for next time. Bernhard Langer is one, though from a personal viewpoint I hope I haven’t played my last Ryder Cup match with him. Ian Woosnam, our vice-captain, is another possibility and so is Nick Faldo."

There are many talented individuals waiting for their chance, jostling for an opportunity, but pride of place next time may well go to Langer. After all, it’s a European team and a European Tour not a purely British organisation, and many will feel the appointment of another continental leader is overdue.

Ballesteros, the captain at Valderrama, is the only golfer from outwith Britain to take charge of the team so far. Langer could be next.

In fact, the assured manner in which the German took charge on Sunday evening, rising to propose toasts to both Torrance and the press, suggested a captain in the making. The Scot, for his part, was impressed by the manner in which Langer passed on tips that might help the others.

Torrance recalled how the former Masters champion came up with the idea for Paul McGinley to play first on the 18th in Saturday’s match when he and Darren Clarke were trying to get a half from Scott Hoch and Jim Furyk.

"Paul hit a fantastic shot, pin high, putting the pressure on Furyk and that was Bernhard’s decision. He will be a supreme captain one day," mused the Largs man.

Although Curtis Strange knows he won’t be given a chance to redeem himself in Detroit, the American can see some justification for Europe giving Torrance another go on the roundabout. "Sam did a wonderful job, not only during the week, but for three years," noted the former US Open champion.

As for the Americans, their next leader was also thought to be present at the Belfry. Hal Sutton is favourite to succeed Strange.


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