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Tom Lehman seeks Ryder Cup dual role

Although the Ryder Cup in Ireland is almost seven months away, U.S. captain Tom Lehman has a great deal to occupy his mind over the coming weeks.

The 46-year-old American, who inherited the captaincy from Hal Sutton, has not ruled out the possibility of being a player on the 12-man team for the Sept. 22-24 matches at the K Club in County Kildare.

Lehman has produced some of his best golf in nearly a decade this season and lies 10th in the U.S. Cup standings after top-seven finishes in his last three PGA Tour starts.

He would need to remain in the top 10 by the end of the U.S. PGA Championship at Medinah, Illinois on Aug. 20 to qualify for the team on merit.

"I would love to be a part of it as both a captain and a player," Lehman said during last week's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship at La Costa, where he reached the semi-finals.

"If it doesn't work out that way, I can accept that and I get to be there either way.

"But it would be the achievement of a goal that I've accepted myself, so it would be very satisfying in that regard (to make the team as a player).

"I've done a lot of work to try to prepare myself for this year, and I feel like already it's paying off," added the American, who won the 1996 British Open at Royal Lytham.

"I really don't see any reason why I can't continue to improve and why I can't have a legitimate shot at making the team. I don't see why that's not possible."

Should Lehman qualify on merit, he would become the first playing captain of a U.S. team since Arnold Palmer at East Lake Country Club in Atlanta, Georgia in 1963.

Bernhard Langer, the 2004 European Ryder Cup captain and a good friend of Lehman, believes combining the two roles is no longer possible in the biennial competition.

"There's no way anybody can do it," German Langer said at La Costa. "I respect Tom highly and he's a good friend of mine and I think he'll be a great captain, if he's going to be captain.

"But I just don't think it would be wise for him to play and be captain. He will realise it in a few months, how many demands there will be on his time.

"I don't think Tom will do that. I think if Tom makes the team, he will probably give the captaincy to someone else. That's my guess, but I'm not sure."

Davis Love III, a veteran of the last six Ryder Cups, disagrees with Langer over the feasibility of Lehman being a player-captain.

"I think it is (possible)," he said at La Costa where he lost to Australia's Geoff Ogilvy 3&2 in Sunday's 36-hole final.

"I think he would obviously rely real heavily on his co-captains, turn a lot of responsibility over to them. But the details that the captain ends up dealing with can be passed on to somebody else if he's playing good. And we'll all pitch in."

Love said he would be delighted if Lehman made the team on merit.

"I wouldn't encourage him to pick himself, but I would love for him to make it," he added.

"Certainly he's got a major championship-type game. We've seen him there a bunch in majors.

"If he gets on a roll and gets a bunch of points and has a couple good majors, we want him on the team because he's a great, gritty player. He's the kind of guy we want on the team."



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