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Faldo & Woosnam favourites for Ryder Cup role

Bernhard Langer's decision last week to rule out a second successive term as European Ryder Cup captain in 2006 has paved the way, in all likelihood, for either Ian Woosnam or Nick Faldo as his successor.

Langer had the full backing of his triumphant 2004 team to stay in charge for the trophy defence at the K Club in County Kildare, Ireland, but has decided instead to try to get there as a player.

The fair-minded German firmly believes the captaincy honour should be passed around, and has cleared the path for one of Woosnam, Faldo and outsiders Jose Maria Olazabal and Sandy Lyle to take over the reins.

Europe, who under Langer's guidance crushed the Americans by 18-1/2 points to 9-1/2 at Oakland Hills last year, are fortunate to have four captaincy contenders who have won a major title and who know what it takes to succeed at the highest level.

Any of the four would certainly do a good job at the K Club in 2006, but Welshman Woosnam and Englishman Faldo appear to have stronger credentials and greater backing by their peers.

The 46-year-old Woosnam, U.S. Masters champion in 1991, is a gutsy and popular player who wears his heart on his sleeve.

A respected Ryder Cup assistant to Mark James in 1999 and vice-captain to Sam Torrance in 2002, he has strong ties with Irish golf. In the absence of a suitable Irish captain for 2006, he would certainly be a popular choice at the K Club.

Adding ballast to Woosnam's bid for the job is the fact he has been publicly backed by Torrance in recent weeks.

Six-times major winner Faldo does not have the social skills of Woosnam, but is a golfing heavyweight and the leading points-scorer in Ryder Cup history.

Previously considered aloof on the European Tour as he single-mindedly dedicated himself to becoming the game's leading player, he is now highly respected by many of Britain's emerging golfers for whom he has acted as a mentor.

However, the 47-year-old Faldo is considered by some to be a more suitable candidate for the 2008 Ryder Cup in the United States.

"I presume after Bernhard's announcement it's down to two of us and we shall see what happens," Faldo told reporters in Australia last week.

"I have no idea how the committee will vote and there is no official procedure for applying. It's just in the wind. I can't do anything. It's purely down to the decision of the Tour."

Britons Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood, members of Europe's victorious 2004 Ryder Cup team, are backing Faldo.

"Faldo has done it all and will have the respect of everybody on the tour," said Northern Irishman Clarke. "I think he should do it in 2006 and Woosie get it in 2008 in the States."

Englishman Westwood added: "There's no doubt that Woosie is more popular on the tour but I think Faldo deserves it because of what he has done."

Twice U.S. Masters champion Olazabal and Lyle, winner of the 1985 British Open and the 1988 Masters, are generally viewed as outsiders for the 2006 captaincy.

"I would love to be European Ryder Cup captain, as it would be both an honour and a defining moment in my career," Lyle, 46, said in a statement released by his management.

"The Ryder Cup is very special to me and I stand ready and eager to use my experience to help the European team, whether it be as captain, vice-captain, or in any other way I can."

Europe's new captain is expected to be announced before next month's Dubai Desert Classic after a meeting of the European Tour tournament committee, which is made up of senior players including Colin Montgomerie, Langer, Clarke and Paul McGinley.


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