Kite to captain US in Spain

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The Independent Online

Tom Kite was yesterday named as the man who will captain America when they try to win back the Ryder Cup in Spain in two years' time. And he hopes to be a playing captain.

The 45-year-old Texan takes over from Lanny Wadkins, whose one match in charge resulted in Europe regaining the trophy by the smallest possible margin, 141/2-131/2 in September.

Kite, who emerged last week as the front-runner for the job ahead of Larry Nelson, Hale Irwin and Ben Crenshaw, has just had the worst season of his 23-year career. "I hope it's just an aberration," he said, "and that I get my game back in shape. I would love to be the first playing captain since Arnold Palmer." That was in 1963.

"I watched this year's match and I was agonising as much as anyone. It was very stressful watching close friends not perform to their standard. I would not wish that loss on anybody."

Seve Ballesteros is expected to succeed Bernard Gallacher as European captain for the match at Valderrama, but no decision will be taken at today's meeting of the Ryder Cup Committee in London and it could be next summer before an announcement is made.

"There's been a lot of speculation about Seve being captain," Kite said. "But whether he is or not I cannot imagine a Ryder Cup in Spain without him being heavily involved.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and everything he has done for golf worldwide. I always enjoyed competing against him because you know you are competing against one of the best. If he is chosen I am sure he will have the same type of attitude for the team as he has for his own game. He has that little bit of swagger and cockiness."

Kite has been a formidable opponent himself. In his seven appearances he never lost in the singles. Even when Sandy Lyle played 16 holes in eight under par at Walton Heath in 1981 Kite played them in 10 under.

n The defending champion, Nick Faldo, is one of six players from the 12-man field who are in the world's top 10 for The Sun City Million Dollar Challenge which begins today in South Africa. In all, seven players who took part in the Ryder Cup are competing.