Golf: New captain Torrance takes a peaceful line

The Scot whose putt sealed the Ryder Cup win in 1985 is ready for his leading role.

CURTIS STRANGE, the US captain for the next Ryder Cup match at The Belfry in 2001, has assured his newly appointed European counterpart, Sam Torrance, there will be no repeat of the crowd incitement by the American players as seen at Brookline last September.

The Americans, desperate to regain the Cup for the first time in six years, egged on the boisterous gallery at the Country Club during an astonishing comeback which resulted in a 141/2-131/2 victory, but also saw the premature massed celebration on the 17th green when Justin Leonard holed his remarkable putt.

Strange and Torrance are two of the most competitive players around and have been known to step over the line into combustibility. Torrance said of Tom Lehman's part in the Brookline fiasco: "As a man of God it was disgusting."

But the Scot says there is no lingering fallout from the slanging match that followed in the days after the event. "It's not a problem," Torrance said. "There are no bridges to be mended. We all get excited now and again. It happened and it's gone. We all know it was wrong. There was a little bit of exuberance the last time, I'm not condoning it, but it was almost understandable.

"Having talked to Curtis, he is 100 per cent with me in getting it back to where it was. He has already said to me on the phone that absolutely 100 per cent, none of his players will incite the crowd, which is great." Nor does Torrance fear a backlash against the visitors at the Midlands venue in two years time. "We have always had wonderful support from the galleries. The first challenge for the British supporters was at the Dunhill Cup with the American players and it was fine. Sure it will be again."

Torrance, who will always be remembered as the man who holed the putt at The Belfry in 1985 to bring the Ryder Cup back after 28 years in American hands, could not resist adding: "This is a bit controversial and I shouldn't do it now but I have already made my wild-card picks. They are Lennox Lewis and Prince Naseem."

At 46 years of age, and supported by his wife Suzanne, Torrance has just received the best early Christmas present of his life. There will be few children 40 years his junior who will be more excited later this month.

"It's wonderful," he said, "almost indescribable. It's the pinnacle of my career without doubt, a tremendous honour for my family, parents, Scotland, everyone. I am so excited about it. You will have to lock me up by the time it starts." When, at one point, he spoke of "my team, my boys", he beamed with pride.

The first of Torrance's eight appearances as a player in the match came in 1981. This year he was one of Mark James' assistants and when James, the losing captain at Brookline, stuck to his pledge of resigning after one term, and with other potential candidates still wanting to play in the next match, Torrance became the obvious option.

But he only found out at a joint meeting of the European Tour's board of directors and tournament committee, when the chief executive, Ken Schofield, announced Torrance would be the next captain if there were no objections. "Shouldn't you leave the room," James told Torrance. "I didn't leave and there were no objections," the Scot said. The swift announcement - James was not installed until the qualifying started a year before the match - was entirely due to Torrance. "I just wanted to be the captain and let everyone know."

Torrance has two names in mind for his vice-captains but expects them to try to qualify for the team and has not yet spoken to either as they are away playing. Bernhard Langer and Ian Woosnam might fall into that category. Torrance inherits a young team but listed a number of players, including Langer and Woosie plus Patrik Sjoland, Robert Karlsson and Thomas Bjorn, who missed out this time but he expected to challenge strongly for places.

When it was pointed out he had left out a certain Nick Faldo, who missed his first Ryder Cup for 22 years, Torrance said: "So I did. He never entered my head. He's another bonus. Nick is, well, Nick Faldo, probably the greatest golfer ever produced from these shores. I apologise for omitting Nick. He should be in that list. Wonderful. I have tremendous respect for Nick. I think he is an amazing golfer and if he can get his game half in shape he will be in the team.

"I'm not saying I'm going to pick him but I hope he makes it. When I first started, to walk on to the tee against Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Arnold Palmer, all these guys were intimidating. Faldo has that aura about him. When you walk on to the first tee against him you know you are playing a golfer. Whether he is at his best or not, which would have been the case this time around, he is still intimidating."

THE SAM TORRANCE STORY

1953: Born, Samuel Robert Torrance, Largs, Scotland, 24 August.

1970: Turned professional but took nine events to make first cut.

1972: European Tour rookie of the year.

1975: Wins Zambian Open.

1976: First PGA tour victory.

1981: First Ryder Cup cap. Wins Carrolls Irish Open.

1984: Finishes second for best season to date in European Tour Order of Merit.

1985: Holed winning putt at the Ryder Cup at The Belfry.

1995: Finishes second on European Tour Order of Merit again.

1996: Awarded MBE.

1999: One of Mark James's vice-captains at Ryder Cup.

Ryder Cup caps: 1981, 1983, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995.

European Tour victories: 21.

Total tour earnings - pounds 4.5m.

First golfer in European tour history to play 600 tournaments.

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