Golf: Langer starts race for Ryder captaincy

BERNHARD LANGER paved the way for Ian Woosnam or Nick Faldo to be appointed the European Ryder Cup captain by confirming yesterday that he will not seek a second term. Instead, the German, who has already finished in the top five in the States this season, will attempt to regain his place as a player at the K Club in Ireland next year.

Langer masterminded a record nine-point victory at Oakland Hills last September and Colin Montgomerie was among those to suggest that if he wanted to do the job again it should be his. But despite speculation to the contrary in Singapore last week, Langer has stuck with his original statements that the captaincy should be a one-term appointment only.

"I wish to end all speculation that I will serve a second term as captain," Langer said. "I have informed the Tournament Committee through the chairman, Jamie Spence, that I have every intention of being a playing member of the 2006 European team.

"Both my wife Vikki and I have the most wonderful memories of the week in Detroit but playing golf remains my No 1 priority. I have made a solid start to this year and I intend to play a full schedule.

"It was a great honour to be the European captain, and I am particularly proud of the place that the 2004 team now holds in the record books, but it is the turn of one of my colleagues to take the reins. I look forward to playing on his team in Ireland."

With Montgomerie also saying he wants to play at the K Club, Woosnam and Faldo will be the main candidates considered at a meeting of the Tournament Committee in Dubai early next month. The Tournament Committee is made up of senior players on the European Tour, including Montgomerie, Langer, Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley.

Woosnam will have plenty of support after being a popular assistant to Mark James in 1999 and the vice-captain to Sam Torrance in 2002. Torrance has publicly backed Woosnam in the last few weeks.

But Faldo's credentials remain hard to overlook as the record-holder for most appearances and points scored in the Ryder Cup. Ironically, Faldo probably has a better relationship with some of the younger players who will be trying to make future European teams than some of his contemporaries who will be sitting in judgement, although his main nemesis, Mark James, has retired as chairman of the committee.

Whoever misses out, both will have passed 50 and become Senior Tour golfers by the time the match after next comes along. Although Faldo has hinted otherwise, he might still take the job in 2008 in the States, while Woosnam might be the sentimental choice when the competition moves to Celtic Manor in Wales two years later.

Sandy Lyle has voiced his interest in the job but the Scot has not played since 1987 and has not served as an assistant or vice-captain. One name that is rarely mentioned, but should be, is that of Jose Maria Olazabal. Tour officials would like to stop all the campaigning for the job and the Spaniard's patience in awaiting an invitation should be rewarded with a phone call at some point.

l Michelle Wie is likely to be invited to the Women's British Open at Royal Birkdale in July. The 15-year-old Hawaiian, who has already played twice on the men's US Tour, attracted record crowds to Formby last summer when she helped America retain the Curtis Cup.



AGE 46

Proved a wonderful team player over eight matches from 1983-97. Formed some outstanding partnerships, including with Faldo in '87 and '89, but strangely never won a singles match. Worked in the backroom in '99 and was lauded by Sam Torrance for his efforts as his vice-captain in 2002. Always more inclined to the bar than the gym, would be sure to preside over a relaxed and happy ship.


AGE 47

Dropped out of the running last time in a failed attempt to extend his record of appearances to 12. Also the record point-scorer in the history of the Ryder Cup. Defining moment was the crucial singles defeat of Curtis Strange at Oak Hill in 1995. Now a part-time TV commentator in the United States. England's greatest player of modern times, a hero to many of the youngsters now breaking through into the team.


AGE 38

Formed Europe's greatest ever partnership with countryman Seve Ballesteros. Every bit as passionate and intense as his fellow Spaniard. Last of his six caps came in '99 at Brookline where he had to putt after the Americans had invaded the green. Respected by everyone on the European Tour but may still want to play. Turns 39 on Saturday so will find himself behind older men in the queue.