Golf: Langer shows what might have been

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The Independent Online
MARK JAMES discovered yesterday that one of the perils of being the Ryder Cup captain is the potential embarrassment from those you have left off your team. Bernhard Langer, one of the players overlooked by James for a wild card selection - the player overlooked by James, according to many - scored a four-under 68 in the first round of the British Masters.

At one point, Langer's name was coupled on the leaderboard at the same score with those of Ian Woosnam and Karlsson, although it was Olle and not the unrelated Robert, who finished 11th on the qualifying table and got passed over for the 12th placed Andrew Coltart.

Langer did not drop a shot on his first appearance since the team announcement when, it is fair to surmise, the German expected to be named along with Jesper Parnevik. "I thought I had a very good chance," said the veteran of nine Ryder Cups.

"I was somewhat disappointed," he added. "A lot disappointed, put it that way. It took a bit of time to get over. One of my goals this year was to play well enough either to qualify for the team or to be considered. I felt and still feel that I have more matches in me but I don't live in the past. I forget the past and live for the future."

As diplomatic as usual in not directly criticising James, Langer could still not quite deny that his experience would not have been an advantage in a team that features seven rookies. "We certainly have a lot of new guys," he said. "If that is good or bad remains to be seen."

Designed by Charles Lawrie, no relation of the Open champion, Paul, the Duke's Course made a welcome return to the tour for the first time since Woosnam won the British Masters in 1994. During the venue's long association with the event, the tournament was often played earlier in the year.

But the course, laid out through a forest of pines, is at its best at the end of the summer and yesterday was blessed with perfect sunshine. "It's nice to be playing a decent course," Woosnam said.

While Australia's Stephen Allan produced a 65, Colin Montgomerie was among those in second place at five under, one ahead of his Order of Merit rival Lee Westwood because the Englishman took a double bogey at the 16th after twice tangling with the trees.

It was an effortless performance from Montgomerie, who did not have a bogey or miss a green. Two of his five birdies came at par fives and only two from putts of more than 10 feet. Discussing the details of his round is not something Monty likes to do but, as he observed: "We can't talk about the football, that was pathetic, we can't talk about the tennis, and the cricket's no good."

Montgomerie, having won the order of merit for the last six years, must be considered an expert in closing out the money list. Westwood cut his lead from pounds 470,000 to pounds 320,000 with his win last week but the Scot could hardly be less concerned.

"It was a massive lead I had," Montgomerie said, "but all credit to him for going out and winning while I had a week off. But he got to keep winning and the thing is I'm playing all these tournaments now and I'm not doing too badly." In fact, this continent's No 1 is currently earning a rate of only just under pounds 100,000 a tournament in Europe.

Sergio Garcia, who is resting until the Ryder Cup, will make his first British appearances since Carnoustie when he plays for Spain in the Dunhill Cup at St Andrews and then at Wentworth in the World Match Play. Garcia will then play the Volvo Masters and AmEx World Championship in Spain, two events in Japan and then the Million Dollar Challenge in South Africa and Tiger Woods's own end of millennium tournament in America.

The last is a 12-man invitational event in aid of the Tiger Woods Foundation which starts on December 29 and for which Garcia has received one of the two wild cards. Woods is managed by Mark McCormack's International Management Group, who also promote the Dunhill and World Match Play events, it is no surprise that Garcia has also joined the company, albeit keeping Jose Marquina, a family friend, as his personal manager.

Scores, digest, page 31