Report Lehman Next Ryder Cup Captain

By Sports NetworkNovember 2, 2004, 5:00 pm
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Tom Lehman will be named the United States Ryder Cup captain for the 2006 matches, according to The Palm Beach Post.
Lehman's captaincy is expected to be announced at a press conference on Wednesday at the PGA of America's annual meeting. He will lead the team at the K Club in Kildare, Ireland.
Lehman, a three-time Ryder Cupper, was not considered a favorite for the post.
Larry Nelson, 57, had been passed over in the late '90s, but past captains met at this year's matches and recommended the Champions Tour player to the PGA of America. Nelson went against type because for the past several years, the Ryder Cup captain has been a PGA Tour player in his late 40s with a major championship.
Paul Azinger fit the mold and was considered a favorite, but recently said he wanted the job when the matches return to the U.S. in 2008. Azinger, 44, also reportedly accepted an offer to work for ABC.
Lehman and Azinger both supported Nelson for the job, but Lehman said he would accept the captaincy if asked.
'I think Larry Nelson deserves to be captain at some point, and I think he would be a great captain,' Lehman said two weeks ago at the Funai Classic at Walt Disney World. 'If the chance came I'd jump on it.'
Another name that surfaced was Mark O'Meara. O'Meara, a former Masters champion and British Open winner, is 47 and a five-time Ryder Cup player. He is Tiger Woods' close friend and some thought he could motivate the former No. 1 player in the world. O'Meara's chances were hindered because of his stance in 1999 that players in the Ryder Cup should receive some revenue from the event that would go to charity.
But the job belongs to Lehman, who played in three consecutive Ryder Cups from 1995-1999. He led off the Sunday charge in the '99 Matches at the Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts and did not lose a singles match. Lehman, 45, was favored for one of Curtis Strange's two captain's picks in 2002, but Strange went with Azinger and Scott Verplank.
Lehman, who has amassed a 5-3-2 record in his Ryder Cup career, has won five times on the PGA Tour, including the 1996 British Open. He was in the final group on Sunday at three consecutive U.S. Opens from 1995-97, but did not win any of them. Lehman also held the 54-hole lead at the 1994 Masters, but Jose Maria Olazabal overtook him on Sunday.
Lehman is in the middle of a career rebound as he has not visited the winner's circle since the 2000 Phoenix Open. He had at least a piece of the 54-hole lead in his last three starts (Michelin Championship at Las Vegas, Chrysler Classic and the event in Disney World), but did not hoist the trophy in any of those tournaments.
Lehman will have a difficult job ahead of him as the U.S. has lost two Ryder Cups in a row, including the worst loss in history. The American side lost 18 1/2 - 9 1/2 in September at Oakland Hills Country Club.
The European Tour does not name its captain until next year. The 2006 matches are scheduled for September 22-24.
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