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Ian Woosnam predicts further European success

Ian Woosnam hands over the Ryder Cup captaincy to Nick Faldo with European golf riding the crest of a wave.

The Welshman led Europe to a record-tying 18 1/2-9 1/2 rout of the United States at the K Club on Sunday to seal a unprecedented third straight cup triumph.

Despite the huge victory, Woosnam admitted that the responsibility of the job made him a worried man from the day he was appointed.

"Eighteen months ago when they asked me, any victory would be fantastic," said Woosnam, who competed in the event eight times as a player. "To walk away with the same record Bernhard Langer had is unbelievable. It's a dream come true for me.

"I've been worried about it for 18 months because it's an unbelievable responsibility to be a captain. It's all right standing there as a player because the only person you can let down is yourself."

Although he continued Europe's dominance in the event, Woosnam's tenure as captain was not all smooth sailing. He came under fire leading up, as Thomas Bjorn of Denmark calling him "pathetic" and "barmy" for leaving him off the squad.

"I've had some criticism over the last few months but that has gone and past and we've got the victory we wanted," the 48-year-old Woosnam said. "I had 12 tremendous guys and I've been saying for a long time now we could have had two teams out here.

"I'm not saying that we could have got this result, but it just shows the potential of European golf. We've got strength and depth for a long time to come and the future of the Ryder Cup is going to look great for Europe."

Nine of Woosnam's side were ranked in the world's top 25 and only Paul McGinley is currently outside the top 50. In contrast, Tom Lehman's American team may have had the game's top three, but it also had three - J.J. Henry, Vaughn Taylor and Brett Wetterich - who are not in the top 60.

Woosnam was still under scrutiny, though, because of Bjorn's criticisms that he had been an awful communicator, causing some players a great deal of misery because he did not keep them informed.

Despite those qualms about his administrative skills, Woosnam is clearly basking in the great win.

"I've won many tournaments around the world, I won a major, I've been No. 1 in the world and I've got to say this is the pinnacle of my life," he said.

Peter Baker, who served as one of Woosnam's assistants, felt the huge win was vindication for the captain.

"It's huge. I know what he has gone through," he said. "I have been part of that a little bit.

"All the time the bottom line was that he did the best for the team. I know there was a bit of flak flying round, and I know he is not the greatest speaker in the world, but every time he spoke it was sincere."

Colin Montgomerie, who led off on the final day and repeated his last-green victory over David Toms from two years ago, was very surprised by Europe's second big win even though he seconded Woosnam's notion about his side's great depth.

"I'm very proud to be part of the 12 here yet again and to equal the record score in Oakland Hills," Montgomerie said. "We never thought that would be possible again for many, many years and we've done it the very next time.

"I think we have strength and depth on our European Tour. We didn't have the same strength and depth when I first started playing in 1988, but we do now and we look forward to Kentucky in two years' time."

Although he said he may be done, Montgomerie will be 45 by then, but Raymond Floyd was 51 when he played for the Americans in 1993. Therefore, there is still a chance the Scot could get the two points he needs to overtake Faldo as the competition's most successful player.

Yet, despite all the talk about Europe's impressive showing, a great number of its player have struggled as individuals in capturing a major championship.

"If there is anybody that deserves to win a major tournament it's Colin Montgomerie," Woosnam said.

There are others in the side who crave the same thing, of course. Sergio Garcia has had 12 top 10 finishes now without winning one and Luke Donald shared the lead with a round to go in the PGA Championship last month, but came up short against Tiger Woods.

David Howell and Paul Casey top the European Order of Merit this season, but know that major success is the next big step.

September 26, 2006


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