The European Ryder Cup captain should announce forthwith to the golf world that he will be a playing captain if his record and points accumulation merits selection to the Euro team that will face the Americans at Oakland Hills near Detroit in September.
I mean how difficult can this be? This is golf. Not the science of rocketry, the physics of nuclear or the surgery of brain. Its about leadership and inspiration. And what could be more inspiring to his players than Bernhard Langer, the captain of the European Ryder Cup team, putting himself off first in the Friday morning foursomes, hanging a point on the board for his side and returning to the course to urge on his teammates?
The devils advocates will answer by saying what if Langer loses that first match and, worse, plays poorly while doing so? To which I say that will motivate his players even more. Langer has made his bones on the European Tour, maybe more so than any other player, with the possible exception of Seve Ballesteros, in history.
Ballesteros captained the Euros to victory in 1997 but his game had long since deserted him by then. He belonged on the sidelines. Langer can still play. Two weeks ago he was in position to win deep into Sunday at The Masters.
American Tom Kite was in a rich vein of form in 1997 at the time of the Ryder Cup matches at Valderrama. I honestly think he could have helped that team more with his clubs than with the keys to his cart. This is not to single out Kite. Other captains have been in the same position.
Too many of them have chosen to captain and captain only. Of course there is a ton of work involved for the captain in planning the Ryder Cup. But I have seen too many captains micro-manage this thing. Too many of them have tried to make all their players happy. Too many of them have spent countless hours drawing up different lineup scenarios.
Hey, a lot of this stuff is what you have assistants for. If I was Darren Clarke, for example, Id much rather have Bernhard Langer worrying about his game than whether my shoes and sweater vest matched each other.
Add on to that the possibility that Langer will have a lineup laden with inexperienced players at Oakland Hills. Ever heard of Carlos Rodiles?
Lets say the score was close going into the Sunday singles. The same situation would apply. Langer could put himself off first and be back on the course in plenty of time to catch most of the rest of the matches.
Langer would want to play only in the mornings, for the sake of conserving energy, which would open spots for other players in the afternoon fourball matches. This would also help him avoid the trap Euro captain Mark James fell into at The Country Club in 1999. Three members of James team didnt play until Sunday. Several of his regulars were bushed by the time Sunday arrived.
It is highly unlikely Langer will change his mind before the matches. But if there is one scintilla of doubt in his mind on the subject of whether his team will be better with him on the roster, he should choose to play.
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