Ryder Cup greats given captaincy roles

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The Independent Online

Ian Woosnam and Nick Faldo, two of European golf's biggest stars, were named today as the next two Ryder Cup captains.

Ian Woosnam and Nick Faldo, two of European golf's biggest stars, were named today as the next two Ryder Cup captains.

Woosnam, who missed out to Bernhard Langer last time, will be in charge for the first–ever match on Irish soil at the K Club near Dublin in September next year.

Faldo, the most capped player in the history of the event, will then take over for the 2008 match at Valhalla in Louisville, Kentucky.

It is the first time two captains have been appointed at the same time.

The announcement was made this morning on Woosnam's 47th birthday and the Welshman said: "What a fantastic way to celebrate. My wife Glen (Glendryth) and I are absolutely delighted.

"The Ryder Cup has been a big part in our lives and it is a huge honour to be named captain. It makes me feel very proud, especially as Wales has such a great tradition of producing Ryder Cup captains."

Brian Huggett was the last in 1977 and Dai Rees had five matches in charge, including the 1957 victory.

Woosnam, vice–captain to Sam Torrance in 2002, has already ruled out being a playing captain, something opposite number Tom Lehman has refused to do.

"My decision is made now, even if I win two majors," he stated. "Being with Sam Torrance at The Belfry I saw how much he had to do and I can't see how you can possibly be in the team and captain."

The first of Woosnam's assistants will be named at the K Club during this season's Smurfit European Open and he stated: "It will be an Irishman." Des Smyth is the favourite.

Faldo has been in Puerto Rico this week but was contacted after the decision of the players' committee and said: "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."

Woosnam was asked if Faldo might be part of his backroom team but replied that he needed time to consider the situation. He added that he would be consulting with the six–time major winner whether it was in an official capacity or not.

The dual–captain vote was said to be unanimous among a committee which includes four of last year's record–breaking side – Colin Montgomerie, Paul McGinley, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Darren Clarke – plus Langer and two of his vice–captains Thomas Bjorn and Joakim Haeggman.

Chairman Jamie Spence commented: "We felt some obligation towards Nick to be honest and didn't think it was fair to make him hang on.

"We have two great champions and feel they are the right men for the job."

Woosnam acknowledged he has a tough act to follow. Langer led Europe to a 18.5–9.5 points victory.

"How can you beat that?" he asked. "All I can do is the best job I can. We'll see if they can match that, but I don't care if we halve the match or win by a point.

"Either of those and Europe would retain the trophy. I will not be trying to beat that record. I just want to win.

"The fear is the fear of losing. Bernhard Langer did such a fantastic job and I hate to lose."

Woosnam likes the fact that he has been preferred to Faldo for Ireland.

"I would have been very disappointed if I hadn't got the job. I'm a Celt and I love it in Ireland," he said.

"I feel I am very popular there and feel that will be to the benefit of the team. The crowds are going to be fantastic."

Faldo, who works as an analyst for American television company ABC now, will be 51 come the 2008 match and from July 2007 will be eligible for the US Seniors Tour.

But his early appointment means he can now plan how best to organise his various interests to give his all the Ryder Cup role.