'Madman' Lehman to captain US Ryder Cup team

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The Independent Online

Former Open champion Tom Lehman has been given the job of trying to restore American golfing pride after their heaviest Ryder Cup defeat.

Former Open champion Tom Lehman has been given the job of trying to restore American golfing pride after their heaviest Ryder Cup defeat.

The 45-year-old was named as captain in succession to Hal Sutton for the first-ever match on Irish soil at the K Club near Dublin in September 2006.

The 45-year-old was tonight named as captain in succession to Hal Sutton for the first-ever match on Irish soil at the K Club near Dublin in September 2006.

And it is an appointment that will surprise many.

Lehman's last involvement in the match was in Boston in 1999 and he was portrayed as the main villain in what Sam Torrance, Europe's vice-captain at the time, later called in his autobiography "the most disgraceful and disgusting day in the history of professional golf.

"The spectators behaved like animals and some of the American players, most notably Lehman, acted like madmen."

Having beaten Lee Westwood in the opening singles Lehman was by the 17th green when Justin Leonard sank a 45-foot putt against Jose Maria Olazabal. He and a number of others reacted as if America had won the cup back, but Olazabal still had a putt to keep it alive.

Torrance famously said on television at the time: "Tom Lehman calls himself a man of God, but his behaviour today has been disgusting." In a telephone conversation a month later Lehman, even dubbed the "Beast of Brookline", apologised to Torrance "from the bottom of my heart" and tonight he said: "The past couple of matches have shown that what happened is a thing of the past.

"I am sure the sportsmanship and respect will continue - we are well beyond the incident. "But what makes the Ryder Cup fantastic is the emotional side. It would not be the Ryder Cup without it.

"I am a very emotional, passionate, impulsive person and what a thrill and an honour this is. Sometimes you never dream big enough and this was beyond my wildest dreams. It's a thrill beyond belief." Lehman took the opportunity to add, however, that he will be trying to play his way onto the team.

"That's my ultimate ambition and if I win three times say and think I will be an asset then yes, I will play."

He does not yet know who will be opposing him as Europe's captain. Bernhard Langer has yet to say whether he would be prepared to stay on if asked and the European tour's tournament committee is expected to discuss the matter at their next meeting next month.

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