Langer set to be ideal
Ryder Cup Captain
In virtually every respect, Bernhard Langer's appointment as European Ryder
Cup captain for next year could hardly be better timed.
The 45-year-old German, a veteran of 10 Ryder Cups, is a tournament professional
on both sides of the Atlantic and is therefore probably closer to the game than
any of his predecessors as captain.
By playing regularly on the PGA Tour this season, Langer has also become a
good friend of American Hal Sutton, who will skipper the U.S. team for the match
at Oakland Hills, Michigan from September 17-19, 2004.
Their friendship will almost certainly help cement the good relations engendered
between the two sides by European captain Sam Torrance and his U.S. counterpart
Curtis Strange at The Belfry last year.
Langer's appointment will also be viewed as long overdue by golf fans in continental
Europe as Spaniard Seve Ballesteros, at Valderrama in 1997, was the only non-Briton
previously installed as European captain.
The sole misgiving for Langer's selection to lead the defence of the trophy
Europe won last year is that the resilient German is fully capable of qualifying
for the team on merit as a player.
"Putting myself forward as captain was not an easy decision because somewhere
deep down I might have the chance to make the team," he told reporters at
"We need the best 12 players and I feel I am still capable of being one
of those. On the other hand, I felt I realistically only had two chances to be
captain, next year and when the matches are held in Ireland in 2006.
"But now I am captain, I am thrilled and excited."
Langer, winner of the U.S. Masters in 1985 and 1993, is renowned for his remarkable
consistency and meticulous approach to the game over the last 23 years, qualities
that are bound to help him at Oakland Hills next year.
"Bernhard is one of the ultimate competitors in golf, possessing all the
intangibles of what it takes to produce team work in Ryder Cup matches,"
said Sutton, after learning of Langer's appointment last week.
"His dedication to a task and his strong work ethic will make it all the
more challenging for our team to reclaim the Ryder Cup."
Sandy Lyle, who had been vying for the job along with Ian Woosnam, had expected
Langer to gain the captaincy.
"He is probably the best man, he is highly rated by the players and he
is still playing with them," Lyle said.
"He is very methodical, he will leave no stone unturned and will cover
all the angles."
Langer, a member of five winning Ryder Cup teams, has played under five different
captains in John Jacobs, Tony Jacklin, Bernard Gallacher, Ballesteros and Torrance.
He hopes to benefit from all of them.
"Each was terrific in his own way," he said. "I'm sure I will
take something from each of them.
"Will I play more in Europe now I am captain? It's difficult to say yet.
I presently play my required 11 events and I will do that next year obviously.
"My home is still in Germany here but the centre of my life, my family,
is in America where children are in school."
Langer, who played in the first of his 10 Ryder Cups at Walton Heath in 1981,
was always prepared to partner anyone in team competition but is well aware that
others might have very different feelings.
"There were some players I would have liked to play with, the men in great
form, but I always felt that it made the captain's job easier if I just said 'partner
me with anyone'," he said.
"However, I understand when players have a serious preference. It is better
if they are not negative and say they do not want to play with someone because
they dislike that person.
"But if they feel strongly that they wish to play with a certain player,
then it would be foolish for me as captain to ignore them. For a start, it makes
my job easier. That is then a pairing and I can consider fewer options."
Langer is already talking the talk and, if he turns out to be half the captain
he has been as a player, he will enjoy a fruitful Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills in
13 months' time.
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