Strange Ryder Cup captain

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The Independent Online

Will Mann, the president of the PGA of America, said that Curtis Strange had been appointed for his combination of "intensity, courage, dedication to the game, Ryder Cup experience and relationship with the players."

Will Mann, the president of the PGA of America, said that Curtis Strange had been appointed for his combination of "intensity, courage, dedication to the game, Ryder Cup experience and relationship with the players."

Strange, aged 44, still plays the US Tour, but also works as a television commentator and intends continuing with that while captain. He has yet to appoint a vice-captain, but has already decided that his two sons Thomas, aged 17 and David, age 14 will be "assistants to the assistant".

His last appearance in the match was at Oak Hill in 1995, when he lost the last two holes to Nick Faldo as Europe this time staged a final day comeback to win back the trophy.

Strange was distraught afterwards, a picture of him with his head in his hands at the closing ceremony being one of the images from the week still remembered. "It's tough to take when you don't play as you expect to play, especially when you are a captain's pick," he said. "But win, lose or draw it's still one of the greatest weeks of your life."That was still a wonderful week and so why am I throwing myself back into the fire? Because I like that. We're all competitors. If you think you are good enough to win you had better have the guts to lose.

"To be made captain is truly one of the most exciting days of my life. It's something I'd always looked forward to, dreamt about and maybe never thought it would happen.

"It's a daunting challenge. An honour, but a tough task. My mission is to win, as simple as that, but I'm also here to bring 12 guys together with 12 other guys and hopefully to give them the greatest week of their lives."

And he has already made one decision. That he wants the players' wives to remain inside the ropes so that they are part of the match again as well.

Curtis Strange promised that he will do all he can to make sure there is no repeat of the scenes which marred last month's match in Boston.

Strange, who takes over from Ben Crenshaw for the 2001 match at The Belfry in Sutton Coldfield, is confident that the lessons from Brookline will be learnt.

The European captain, Mark James, whose wife Jane was spat at during the narrow defeat, accused the American players of inciting the crowd and of going over the top with their celebrations before the match was decided.

Strange, a double US Open champion known throughout his career for his intensity, said: "I have no fears at all for the future of the Cup.

"We have one of the biggest sporting events in the world and when you get bigger there are bound to be growing pains. But I have the utmost confidence that what happened will be addressed. If you don't learn lessons you fall behind.

"I foresee the matches getting bigger and bigger and, far from thinking they have become too intense, I think they are fantastic. I played in five matches and two of them (1985 and 1989) were at The Belfry. I don't think it's going to be as tough as people imagine there - European fans are wonderful fans.

"They root for their own team, but that's the way it should be and they've been wonderful to us. Part of my job now is to prepare my team not just to try to win the Cup again, but also prepare them for fans rooting for their own team.

"The intensity is one of the reasons why it's such a huge event around the world. There's a lot of pride involved playing for your family, your tour and your country."

This year's match ended in bitterness when American players ran onto the 17th green to celebrate Justin Leonard holing a 45-foot putt, even though Jose Maria Olazabal still had a putt to keep the contest alive.

"It was a spontaneous happening and it was wonderful to see us come together as a team," added Strange. "But it was a little bit over the edge and we have apologised for that.

"We celebrated a bit too much and we have apologised for crossing the line on the etiquette we all love of respecting your fellow players.

"Part of my job is also to talk to the next European captain and have him discuss with his players the same things as I will be discussing with mine.

"I don't expect it to happen again. We're all grown men and we have to respect each other. What happened was not done with malicious intent."

Crenshaw stood down after the controversial 14 1/2-13 1/2 victory last month and the Professional Golfers' Association of America have acted quickly to get their new man in place before qualifying for the 2001 match begins in January.

James has also given up the European captaincy, but no announcement on his successor - Sam Torrance is favourite - has to be made until just before the qualifying race starts next September.