Diplomacy wins as Woosnam is handed Ryder captaincy with Faldo next in line

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Revealing your hand to the enemy before you have to is probably frowned upon in all the best strategy manuals but the announcement yesterday of two European Ryder Cup captains for the price of one was taken from a position of strength. The Americans, like everyone else, must have been expecting the double punch of Ian Woosnam and Nick Faldo. Whether it produces two knock-outs we will see.

Revealing your hand to the enemy before you have to is probably frowned upon in all the best strategy manuals but the announcement yesterday of two European Ryder Cup captains for the price of one was taken from a position of strength. The Americans, like everyone else, must have been expecting the double punch of Ian Woosnam and Nick Faldo. Whether it produces two knock-outs we will see.

Woosnam, on his 47th birthday, learned he will lead Europe in their quest to win a third successive Ryder Cup for the first time at the K Club in Ireland next year. Faldo, who will then be 51, will take charge for the 2008 match at Valhalla in Louisville, Kentucky.

This unprecedented decision was designed to keep happy, and best utilise, two of Britain's greatest players. Common-sense diplomacy is rapidly becoming the hallmark of the European Tour's new executive director, George O'Grady, although the move was actually agreed by the players themselves, in the form of the 14-man Tournament Committee in Dubai.

"This is the first time the committee has gone for two captains but when you have men of the calibre of Ian Woosnam and Nick Faldo it is easy to understand why," O'Grady said. The feeling across the Tour was that it was Woosnam's turn but any hint of a snub to Faldo had to be avoided.

"Ian was a unanimous choice from all of the guys on the committee," said the chairman, Jamie Spence. "We just felt it was the right time for Ian, having been the vice-captain [in 2002] and we are all 100 per cent behind him. But obviously with Nick looking over your shoulder and for the man he is, we felt an obligation towards Nick, to be honest with you, and we didn't feel it was fair to keep him hanging on. We felt he needed to know, he wanted to know, and we weren't prepared to make him wait."

Bernhard Langer, the outgoing captain from the record win at Oakland Hills, two of his assistants, Thomas Bjorn and Joakim Haeggman, and four of his players, Colin Montgomerie, Darren Clarke, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Paul McGinley all sit on the Committee.

Bjorn said: "This was something that we wanted to do because we thought it could settle everything down for these next two Ryder Cups. We thought that was very important." Montgomerie said: "We have broken protocol but it's a very positive thing to do." And Langer added: "They both deserve it. Both are very experienced. They have been in many Ryder Cups and know what is needed."

Woosnam becomes the third Welshman to be the Ryder Cup captain after Dai Rees in 1955, 1957, 1959, 1961 and 1967, and Brian Huggett in 1977. Theories about what sort of captain is required at home or abroad have probably been overstretched but a Celt in Ireland makes sense, as does Faldo getting the opportunity in the States, where he has spent much of his career and is now a television analyst.

"What a fantastic way to celebrate my birthday. It's a huge honour. The Ryder Cup has been so much part of my life," said Woosnam, who played eight times and was vice-captain to Sam Torrance in 2002.

"I learned such a lot from working with and alongside Sam when we won at the Belfry and I know it will stand me in good stead. I also know it is going to be a tremendously hard job to follow straight after Bernhard but I will do my utmost to help the team at the K Club. I won't be trying to beat any records. I don't care if we halve the match or win by one point or half a point. I just want to win [the Cup]."

Acknowledging the rich history of Ryder Cup heroes from the host country, Woosnam will name an Irish vice-captain at the K Club in June. Des Smyth, currently playing seniors golf in the States, is thought to be the favourite.

Not that the locals will be short of men to cheer: Clarke, McGinley, Padraig Harrington and newcomer Graeme McDowell could make up a third of the team. McGinley, who holed the winning putt at the Belfry, will not thank anyone for suggesting he will not make a third team but in that eventuality he would be an excellent choice to have in the back room.

Woosnam categorically ruled out being a playing captain, something his opposite number, Tom Lehman, has hinted at. But Woosnam will be spending plenty of time on Tour getting to know the younger generation.

"There are always younger guys coming out every year and being out here for 30 years, sometimes it is difficult to keep up with the names. I know Ian Poulter well and Paul Casey well. I haven't had a chance to play with Luke Donald because he plays most of his golf in America. But over the next 18 months it will be my job to get to know them and give them plenty of encouragement."

Faldo, who is in Puerto Rico, said in a statement: "This is a proud day for both of us. It is a huge honour to be named captain of the team in 2008 and I can't say how excited I am at the prospect of leading the side in the United States.

"The Ryder Cup has always been extremely important to me and I will look forward to planning for that match. But for now it's Ian's time and I wish him the best for his captaincy."

LEADING THE WAY: LOWDOWN ON THE CAPTAINS

EUROPE'S RYDER CUP CAPTAINS SINCE 1979*

JOHN JACOBS
1979, 1981 Lost 2

TONY JACKLIN
1983, 1985, 1987, 1989
Won 2, lost 1, halved 1

BERNARD GALLACHER
1991, 1993, 1995
Won 1, lost 2

SEVE BALLESTEROS
1997, won

MARK JAMES
1999, lost

SAM TORRANCE
2002, won

BERNHARD LANGER
2004, won

*In 1979 GB and Ireland team incorporated rest of Europe

2006 Ryder Cup: 22-24 September, K Club, Straffan, Co Kildare, Ireland

2008 Ryder Cup: Sept, Valhalla, Louisville, Kentucky

WOOSNAM'S RYDER RECORD

Appearances: Eight (1983, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997)

Total matches: 31

Overall record: Won 14, Lost 12, Halved 5

Singles record: Won 0, Lost 6, Halved 2

Foursomes: W 4, L 3, D 2

Four-Balls: W 10, L 3, D 1

Total points won: 16.5

FALDO'S RYDER RECORD

Appearances: 11 (1977, 1979, 1981, 1983, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997)

Total matches: 46

Overall record: Won 23, Lost 19, Halved 4

Singles record: Won 6, Lost 4, Halved 1

Foursomes: W 10, L 6, D 2

Fourballs: W 7, L 9, D 1

Total points won: 25

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