The 45-year-old Langer made himself available for the job less than two weeks ago and was chosen Thursday over Ian Woosnam and Sandy Lyle.
The announcement followed a meeting of the European Tour Tournament Committee, whose recommendation of Langer was accepted immediately by the Ryder Cup Committee.
Langer, a two-time Masters champion and member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, replaces Sam Torrance, who did not want to be considered for the post.
'It's a fabulous honor to be named European captain,' Langer said.
Hal Sutton will be the Ryder Cup captain for the United States when Europe defends the Cup at Oakland Hills Country Club outside Detroit in September 2004.
'It is an honor for me to captain the U.S. Ryder Cup team against the European team led by Bernhard Langer, who is someone I'm proud to call a friend as well as a respected golf opponent,' said Sutton, who lost two singles matches to Langer in the Ryder Cup. 'Bernhard is one of the ultimate competitors in golf, possessing all the intangibles of what it takes to produce teamwork in Ryder Cup matches.'
Langer has played on 10 Ryder Cup teams, winning 21 of 42 matches, losing 15 and halving six. He made his Cup debut in 1981 and was part of Europe's winning teams in 1985, '87, and '95.
'I've never made a secret of how much I enjoy being part of the Ryder Cup, and to be captain makes me very proud, especially as the first German golfer to hold this prestigious honor,' he said.
Langer won three matches and halved one of the four he played last year at The Belfry when Europe beat the Americans 151/2-121/2.
As a Ryder Cup player, Langer is remembered missing the putt that would have enabled Europe to retain the trophy at Kiawah Island in 1991. Playing in the last singles match against Hale Irwin, Langer missed a putt from 5 feet.
'I am looking forward to the challenge of captaining the European team in the United States,' Langer said. 'Vikki, my wife, is American and we have made our home in the United States, so I believe I have a solid appreciation of what it will take to be the European captain at Oakland Hills Country Club.'
Woosnam was the vice-captain to Torrance, and Lyle was the only other player to put his name forward.
Langer's appointment brought immediate approval.
'I think he was the obvious choice because of his connections in America,' said Mark James, Europe's captain in 1999 at Brookline. 'He will bring to the captaincy all the qualities he has shown on the European Tour, gritty determination to get the job done and leaving no stone unturned in his search for perfection.'
Lyle expected Langer's selection.
'He is probably the best man anyway,' Lyle said.
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