Stellar Play Blurs Langers Captaincy

By George WhiteApril 15, 2004, 4:00 pm
A strange thing is happening on the way to Oakland Hills in September. Bernhard Langer has gone about his Ryder Cup captaincy in a most peculiar way, posting scores that look suspiciously like a potential team member. No way hes giving hints that he is a captain only.
Langer doesnt get it, really. Ryder Cup captains routinely pour the muscles and minds and souls into preparations and fare terribly during the year of their leadership. And Bernie? Well, Hal Sutton, Tom Kite, Ben Crenshaw, Raymond Floyd and Curtis Strange be hanged. Hes doing just fine, thank you.
Pity poor Langer. If he keeps this up, the questions about his captaincy are going to get much more racuous than they were at the Masters, where Langer was well in contention for a third green jacket until he plopped one in the water on 15 Sunday.
Langer gets a bit peeved when he is asked if there is any chance he will A, step down, or B, if there is a chance he might be a playing captain. But this is just April ' what will the cacophony be like if he is still competing for wins by the time the European Tour really heats up next month? Obviously Bernhard didnt realize he was going to play this well. Most of us thought this would be a typical captains year ' you prepare, you watch the other guys, and you stay well under the radar when you post your own scores.
Folks, I hate to say this (especially if you are a European fan), but Bernhard Langer, at age 46, looks about as good as any player who will make his team.
The World Rankings, which relies on results of the past two years, places Langer at No. 52 in the world. It ranks 11 other Europeans ahead of him. That might be correct placed on the rolling scale of two years, but since this season began, there certainly havent been 11 Europeans who have played better.
Lets see Padraig Harrington, over the last three months, has probably played as good as anyone in the world. Darren Clarke, though he has been inconsistent, has more top finishes than Langer. But the weather-beaten German can look any other Euro in the eye and say, Show me that youre better.
Heres the straight scoop ' Langer has yet to miss a cut this year, and thats through nine tournaments. Three times he has finished in the top eight. He has played all nine in America ' he has a home in South Florida and children in school there. He just finished placing in a tie for fourth at the Masters. Hes about to go overseas for the heart of the European schedule, and if he doesnt slow down a little, those demanding that he PLAY in the Ryder Cup instead of just coach will number about the same size as the German army.
Langer toyed briefly ' very briefly - with the idea of stepping down over the winter. In the extremely unlikely event that he absolutely burned up the rankings this year, he said, then he might consider turning over the Ryder Cup squad to another captain.
That caused a lot of disbelief in Nick Faldo, for one, who wondered when Langer would finally decide ' when he had picked out the color of the team sweaters? Langer was obviously offended, though he composed himself long enough to reply that, under no circumstances would he consider playing.
A query to that effect came last week. No sir, no way, not a chance, said Langer in a bit of a huff.
I have always said I will not play in the Ryder Cup. I don't know why everybody keeps asking once I make up my mind - that's it, said Langer.
'I want to be the captain so I won't play. I've put a lot of work into the captaincy already. There are a lot of personal touches and a lot of things to be decided and I'm not going to change my mind, no matter how well or how bad I'm going to play.
If you know Langer, you know he is not going to be swayed - particularly not after Faldos remarks.
Those in front of Langer on the rankings list are Harrington, Clarke, Fredrick Jacobsen, Paul Casey, Thomas Bjorn, Sergio Garcia, Miguel Angel Jimemez, Colin Montgomerie, Ian Poulter, Alex Cejka and Brian Davis. Montgomerie has a win in the Caltex Singapore Masters last month, but not much else on the world stage. Davis won the ANZ (Australia-New Zealand) Championship, with Casey coming in second. But except for Harrington and possibly Clarke, no one has played better than Langer.
'I figured I had it in me to be playing well enough to make the team if I wasn't captain, said Langer. After all, I played very well in the last one (Ryder Cup), and that was just two years ago. I knew if I got my game together that I could possibly play my way into the team but a couple of months ago I decided to leave it. I am going to be the captain and let the other guys play.
Far be it from me, but just what does a Ryder Cup captain do before the match, anyway? It obviously entails a lot that I dont know about. Oh, I know there is a lot of pomp and ceremony concerning the clothing, a lot of media conferences, a lot of rubbing the tour officials the right way. There obviously is a huge amount of work to which I am not privy.
Now, once the buzzer sounds and the teams come together at Oakland Hills, I understand what a challenge it is. For perhaps a month ahead of time, the captain is briefing himself, going over potential pairings, etc. And there is no way that the captain, having to prepare his teams twice a day, can be both a player and a captain.
Why doesnt the European Tour braintrust wait a couple of months and see if their captain actually is among their top five players? I dont know, I guess that is only something a Ryder Cup captain can answer. Faldo, Montgomerie and Ian Woosnam were mentioned prominently when Langer was chosen. How about letting Woosnam be on the ready in case Langer continues his steady play throughout the summer?
I know, I know ' there must be much that goes on behind the scenes which I cant see. Some would say it's the captain's responsibility to put Europe's 12 best men out on the field. But I do know one thing - the U.S. team stands to catch one huge break.
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Related links:
  • Current Ryder Cup World Points List
  • Full Coverage - 35th Ryder Cup
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