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Ryder Cup captaincy uncertainty rumbles on

Ken Schofield, the man who runs European Tour golf, appeared to give his seal of approval to what many pundits will consider a radical move over Europe's Ryder Cup captaincy last week.

That move would surely be greeted by the Americans as a European team own goal.

Europe's team captain Bernhard Langer started the ball rolling when he said he would be ready to give up his prestigious role, should he have a 'brilliant' year and put himself in a position to qualify to play.

According to Nick Faldo, that might seriously damage Europe's preparation for next year's match at Oakland Hills, Michigan.

Britain's six-time major winner and a Ryder Cup mainstay through the 1980s and 90's, believes any change of skipper could ruin Cup preparation, especially if it comes late in the campaign.

Many agree with him, but Langer, even though he insists he is fully dedicated to being captain, is sticking to his guns, as he reiterated last week. And European Tour executive director Schofield looks to be backing the German's stance.

"We are entering a run when many of Europe's great champions are interested (in the job of captain) which is a very big positive thing for the Ryder Cup," Schofield said during last week's German Masters.

"But they may have the year of their lives and I can't think of anyone in those circumstances who would want to deny that player the chance then, if he qualifies, to play."

The Ryder Cup players' committee of respected Tour pros certainly do not seem to have a problem with Langer's position although since they rarely, if ever, make their deliberations public their feelings can only be guessed.

Schofield instead spoke for them when he said: "The downside for the committee in saying it must be one thing or the other is that the Langers, Woosnams, Faldos, Montgomeries and Olazabals, under those circumstances, might not put themselves forward to be candidates."

This could be seen as a sea-change.

If Mark James had the same flexibility in 1999, would he have handed over to someone else on the week that his team was selected? A win in the BMW International Open that year might have put him in Europe's top-10 automatic qualifiers.

This flexibility can only be unsettling at best and damaging at worst. As Faldo said last week, if a captain has been running the show for 10 months he has put his mark on the job and another man would struggle to replace him.

Anyone suddenly taking over would either have to do it the retiring captain's way or wield a very fast and decisive new broom.

It could be a case of captaincy chaos in a team which succeeded in 2002 at The Belfry precisely because of its superior team spirit, not the least engendered by Sam Torrance's flawless leadership.

His tenure was never thrown into doubt by any 'will he, won't he' question-marks.

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