Faldo fallout could cost Lyle lead role
Sunday 11 January 2009
Sandy Lyle looks around at the rest of the field vying to become Europe's next Ryder Cup captain and reasons that his time must be nigh. When the European Tour players' committee convene at their much-mooted meeting on Tuesday in Abu Dhabi and hear that Jose Maria Olazabal is still refusing to put his name forward for next year's match, then how can they fail to reach the glaringly obvious choice? It has to be Sandy. Doesn't it?
Alas, the answer is a resounding and a rather cruel "No". The biggest chance Lyle has is for Olazabal to rule himself outfrom Wales 2010 once and for all, and for his fellow players then to overlook the merits of a former captain such as Ian Woosnam – as well as those of a younger man such as Paul McGinley – and go directly for the sympathetic vote.
The truth is the committee aren't feeling overly sympath-etic at the moment and will, in all probability, defer the decision until their next meeting in May, possibly even until the qualification race begins in September, and see if Olazabal has by then given a definitive yay or nay. That is all dependent on how his ravaged body copes with trying to resume the life of a top-flight professional. At the very best, Lyle will be an afterthought.
On Friday, he told the Reuters news agency: "This is my last chance", and came across as desperate enough to cherish the appointment regardless of the scenario. "I can't see any reason why not me," said Lyle. "As far as available captains go, there are not an awful lot around. I look like the favourable choice."
So why is he still adjudged as an outsider? The two-time major champion likely has an old foe to thank for this anomaly. The irony is that if Nick Faldo had picked up where Sam Torrance, Bernhard Langer and Woosnam had left off and put a puny-looking American side to the sword, Lyle would very likely be kneeling down right now awaiting the tap on the shoulder. As it is, Faldo failed, andthe man who plagued Lyle's playing career has now seemingly done the same to hispost-playing career.
Since Kentucky there has been a growing sense within the playing ranks that the Ryder Cup captaincy should not just be handed around the legends of the game like some honorary starter's role, and that instead they should opt for the candidate with the best credentials. What is laughable is the 5-2 on offered about Faldo being reinstated. There is more chance of Tony Jacklin being recalled.
So what has any of this to do with Lyle? Well, not to beat too timidly around the gorse bush, the majority on tour wonder if Lyle is astute enough to be a captain. The adjective most use when referring to the 50-year-old is "affable", and that has always been a double-edged compliment. He does have his supporters on the committee, and in Colin Montgomerie a very vocal supporter. The trouble is that not everyone on the committee is an admirer of Monty, and his backing may even work against Lyle. As might Monty's argument, which reeks of: "But it's Sandy's turn".
"It would be a great shame if, of Europe's big five of the Eighties, Langer, Seve [Ballesteros], Faldo and Woosnam, Sandy missed out," said the 45-year-old, who has already pencilled himself in – unashamedly, it must be said – for Gleneagles in 2014. Furthermore, Montgomerie has obviously worked out how to assuage those who fear Lyle might be slightly exposed in the tactics department. "I think if he takes his good friends Ian Woosnam and Sam Torrance as assistants it would be a very strong team," he said.
Which is all very interesting, particularly when one hears who Lyle's "good friend" Torrance believes will receive the nod. The 2002 captain said a few weeks ago: "Olly won't take it, he wants to play in another one... so I think it might be Woosie because it's in Wales."
Whatever and whoever, do not expect a decision in the Emirates this week. Although it may be kinder of them to put Lyle out of his misery. He at least deserves that.
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