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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 the weekend.

"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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