Euros Have Order Down Pat


So the Euros have selected Ian Woosnam to be their Ryder Cup captain for the matches in 2006 and Nick Faldo for 2008. And, wouldnt you know it? A great hue and cry has erupted concerning the order why was Woosnam picked for the first one, instead of vice-versa?
Actually, were Woosnam and Faldo Americans, theres a possibility that neither one would have been selected. The PGA of America does all the selecting, and by the PGA of America, I mean a very select group of the PGA of America. No one knows for sure who does the selecting. A group of very shadowy figures (two? Three? Four?) meets one day (or two days, or a week, or maybe its a month), comes up with the name of a favorite golfer, slaps that guy in the back of the head and ' voila! ' youve got your American captain.
Ian Woosnam
Ian Woosnam will lead the European Ryder Team against the U.S. in 2006 at The K Club in Ireland.
The choice of Ian Woosnam Europe is much more democratic ' and open ' about it. There is a Ryder Cup committee of 14 people, people with actual names and faces, mostly players who presume to know something about it. They make the decision, and when it is done, you have somebody to question if you dont like the choice. Or, you have someone to accept your congratulations if you do.
These 14 people chose Woosnam, and then Faldo. Faldo was selected and announced this far ahead of time in an unusual maneuver. The committee, feeling an obligation to honor the Englishman because of his remarkable world record, took the unusual step of picking back-to-back captains. They didnt want to leave him hanging for two more years.
Immediately, though, some were upset by the timing of Woosnam this time and Faldo next. This presumes that the only requirement for a good Ryder Cup captain is a great European playing record. And though that requisite has become largely the captains No. 1 criteria, that isnt necessarily the case.
Faldo makes no pretense of the fact that he was aloof as a player. He allowed no one, at least not any player, to get close to him as a competitor. He preferred to go it alone, and by doing it his way, he achieved an enormous record. Three British Opens and three Masters are testament to that.
But that aloofness didnt make him an ideal captain. Im not saying that he wont be the equal of Woosnam, perhaps even better than Woosnam, when 2008 rolls around. But when naming a leader for the next Ryder Cup, far more has to be considered than mere records.
Woosnam, it must be said, was much more approachable to the European players during his days of being a top-5 player. Now, obviously a lot of committee members took that into consideration when selecting him to be the captain initially. He had the added experience of serving as Sam Torrances vice-captain for the 2002 matches. He was ready to step into the role as leader.
Faldo warmed considerably after moving to the United States in 1995 and playing the PGA Tour. That was 10 years ago, and he since has moved on to become a television analyst. He is now as charming a fellow as you will ever meet, but for the older European players, hes still seen as being a somewhat cold, non-communicative automaton.
This logjam could have been predicted 20 years ago when a group of five great Europeans came on the scene at the same time. The five were all born within a year of each other, in 57 and 58. Woosnam, Faldo, 04 captain Bernhard Langer, 97 captain Seve Ballesteros and Sandy Lyle were the anointed ones. Lyle rates now as the odd man out, probably never having the chance to captain Europe. But the other four will have their chance, with Faldo being the last.
Another factor, though ' many feel Faldo is ideal to captain a team in America, while Woosnam is the man to lead at home. It is precisely that cool detachment that is so needed in a man who will lead the team in the charged atmosphere away from home. Just look at Langer, the captain in the most recent waxing of the U.S. in Detroit.
'I think Woosie is the best candidate for the next Ryder Cup and probably Nick for the next one,' said Mark James, the European captain in 1999 said before the balloting. 'We need a more emotive person to connect with the home crowd. That is more of an asset for a home Ryder Cup, and I think a more detached, clinical mindset is better over there.'
James, incidentally, wont be getting a Christmas card from the Faldo family after he threw a good-luck message from Faldo in the trash can in 99. But his viewpoint lends credence to the order of Woosnam, then Faldo.
It all might be a moot point, anyway. The captain could have been Ringo Starr last year and the Europeans still would have won. This time, pick Paul McCartney and then Prince Charles in 2008, and its doubtful if the outcome would vary very much.
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