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Captaincy tops desert agenda

Iain Carter | 11:17 UK time, Friday, 9 January 2009

With due respect to the Royal Trophy, Johannesburg Open and the European Tour's habit of marking new years a month or so early, it feels as though the 2009 season truly begins in Abu Dhabi next week - both on and off the course.

In playing terms, a high-quality field has been assembled, while on Tuesday there will be a crucial meeting of the Tour's Tournament Committee at which the next European Ryder Cup captain will be discussed.

Both aspects to the tournament that kicks off a three-week Gulf swing of desert golf are intriguing.

Let's first take the issue of who will succeed Nick Faldo as skipper for the 2010 match at Celtic Manor. It could be a long meeting because as yet there doesn't appear a consensus among the members of the committee.

olazabal438.jpgJose Maria Olazabal, the Royal Trophy skipper and vice-captain to Faldo last year, is thought to be the most popular pick, but the committee would be loathe to formally offer him the post only for the Spaniard to turn it down.

That would automatically make whoever gets the job a second choice and Olazabal doesn't seem to be bubbling with enthusiasm for the role at Celtic Manor.

"I'm not thinking about the Ryder Cup captaincy at the moment. I'm more concerned with my health," he said at the Royal Trophy in Bangkok this week.

"I'm not 100%. I still have things going on but everything will be clear shortly and I'll be able to play competitive golf again soon."

This is a man who still feels he will be able to play in the next Ryder Cup and who also recognises that at 42 it probably represents his last chance so to do.

He is also keen to make sure he does not appear presumptuous when asked about his interest in the job.

It is possible the committee may want to look elsewhere, especially as Olazabal, with his experience of playing in the US, would be well qualified to take on the demands of an away match. Is he a better bet for 2012?

So, who else might they go for? Last September Colin Montgomerie, who sits on the committee, was vocal in his support for Sandy Lyle - the only one of the "big five" not to have done the job.

Surely, goes the argument, it is only right that the two-time major champion should be afforded the same honour as Faldo, Ian Woosnam, Bernhard Langer and Seve Ballesteros.

Lyle's early walkout at the Open at Birkdale last July provided his detractors with plenty of ammunition, but there now appears a more sympathetic mood towards the Scot, according to one well-placed source.

Woosnam would love to do the job again but that would mean a dramatic policy reversal because the committee has felt that multiple captaincies are no longer appropriate.

The Welshman, who led Europe to a record-equalling win at the K Club in 2006, is perhaps destined for a vice-captain's role, particularly if Lyle were to get the nod.


Other candidates include Paul McGinley who would have the influential Padraig Harrington's support or Miguel Angel Jimenez, who would tick the continental European box.

So there is much for Thomas Bjorn (another outsider) and his committee to discuss and Tuesday's meeting could go long into the night.

A definitive outcome is unlikely but they will be keen to have moved on the issue sufficiently to make it possible for a spring announcement at Wentworth's PGA Championship.

There is, of course, much meaningful golf to be played between now and then and it starts in Abu Dhabi with two of the world's top four heading a quality field.

World number two Sergio Garcia renews his rivalry with Open and US PGA champion Harrington, who is ranked two places below the Spaniard.

Both regard this as a key year and will be looking to be the main challengers to Tiger Woods when he returns. There is also the prospect of overhauling Woods at the top of the world rankings if either can get off to a flying start in 2009.

Masters champion Trevor Immelman is also in Abu Dhabi along with Ian Poulter, Paul Casey and defending champion Martin Kaymer.

Poulter and Casey are in an astonishing list of Englishmen who failed to win last year - Luke Donald, Justin Rose and Lee Westwood are also on it.

Neither will want the winless streak to continue much longer and will regard this tournament as a first opportunity to do something about it.

All of which is rather stating the obvious - it is not so easy to do that when it comes to the 2010 captaincy of the European Ryder Cup team.


  • Comment number 1.

    I don't believe it should be Sandy. Anyone who walks off the course in an Open because his hands are cold, and he is going to shoot in the 80s, maybe doesn't have what it takes. Some brave lad from NZ had flown all the way round the world because he was first reserve -and Lyle played 9 holes.

  • Comment number 2.

    It has got to be Lyle. Olazabal will get his turn when he is no longer in playing contention.

    Sandy might not be everyone's cup of tea, but that didn't stop Faldo getting the job.

    Anyone suggesting otherwise has a very short golfing memory.

  • Comment number 3.

    Not in any way to suggest that Faldo did a bad job at the last cup, but if he had one minus it was arguably that he was divisive (to what extent can be debated.)

    For every few players that he was a hero to, he was disliked or had had public falling's out with another.

    I think whoever is chosen, it should certainly be someone who has no history of being controversial. Someone who the whole team can rally behind both in terms of professional respect but also in friendship.

    This is one of the key things I feel made Europe so strong until this year, unlike the American's you got the feeling the Europe team liked to hang out off the course and it was all good fun (even if it was just a public perception rather than a literal truth.)

    It's hard to see how that can be fully exploited unless the captain is a universally popular figure like Olazabal. After all Langer was a great captain and he was nearly good enough for selection.

  • Comment number 4.

    kotakinabalu - you obviously didn't watch his bunker shot on the 18th hole of the '88 masters if you are wondering if he has "what it takes".

    He has not always made it easy for himself in golf, but he has shown at the very highest level that he can get the job done.

  • Comment number 5.

    It should be the best man available for the job, not buggin's turn politics. Woosnam or Langer is the man in my view, and as Woosnam has expressed interest in doing the job again he would get my vote.

  • Comment number 6.

    Absolutely no doubt about it, it has to be Woosie in Wales!

    OK he may not be the most tactically astute of the candidates but, more importantly, he will have the respect of the players and public behind him.

    I just cannot see Sandy Lyle getting that!

  • Comment number 7.

    first uk player to win the open for over 20 years was it? first uk player to win the masters plus a great member of jaclklins ryder cup teams and some people think he shouldn't be the ryder cup captain?!!!! they clearly don't know this game or what sandy lyle means to golf.

  • Comment number 8.

    Okay, I feel a bit like a one man Sandy Lyle fan club, but here goes:

    * The first EVER Brit to win the US Masters
    * Two time major winner
    * Regarded as the best golfer in the World in '88
    * Multiple time winner of the European Order of Merit
    * Mulitple winner on both US and European Tour

    If that doesn't get players respect (most of whom will never come close to career stats like that*) then nothing would.

    *except Harrington of course.

    Moreover, despite walking off at the Open, he remains a well liked figure in golf.

    It is simply not about "buggins turn", it is about appointing someone who is 100% qualified to a role where the accepted convention is one-time captains these days. Woosie has done the job, and so has to be ruled out.

    For sure Sandy has endured a long slump after his peak, which has maybe coloured some people's memories of the golfer he was. But a similar slump never ruled out Seve in 97.

  • Comment number 9.

    it is senile and obtuse and completely derogitery. this man is nowt but a fool

  • Comment number 10.

    This idea that we should not have a Captian repeat is ludicrous.
    It excludes some of the best men for the job!
    Maybe we should consider a woman...Laura Davies for example. That would break some barriers!

  • Comment number 11.

    Straight In. Pop. Joint between Jose Maria Olazabal and Sandy Lyle. 14-13 Europe. Hole in One by the almighty Ian Poulter.

  • Comment number 12.

    1).Am surprised that top of any committee list right now wouldn't be the worldwide economy . . . .

    2).Anyone suggesting that Sandy should somehow be Captain because it's his turn and he had a fabulous playing career is out of his/her mind - last time I checked, a fabulous playing career did nothing to make Bobby Moore or Bobby Charlton, for instance, a good manager and, in his own way, Lyle's playing career equalled those of the Bobbys.

    We need to appoint the best man for the job and Sandy's brilliant approach on 18 to win the Masters shouldn't come into it. He's been out of touch for twenty years for goodness sake. Unlucky for Sandy, but if he was the best man for the job he'd've been picked long ago.

    3).Perhaps of more significance in the Abu Dhabi field is the presence of Allenby, Badds and Pampling, perhaps emphasising the lure of R2D over FedEx. Weekley, Sneds and Sergio to follow in Qatar.

  • Comment number 13.

    Sandy Lyle is the man for the job - no doubt.

    I have had this same debate at work with people who have the same negative opinion of Sandy but then you realise that they are only in their mid twenties or younger and have never seen the man at his best....apart from a replay of one bunker shot and a winning putt. So, i laugh at their ignorance and feel sorry for them missing out on seeing the great man and his rivals at their peak. He was a great, natural golfer and someone who appealed to the entire country.

    Despite the walk off, his integrity is unquestionable. He explained to the R&A why he did it (sore hands may sound a pathetic excuse but when that is the only thing that can control the club with, it does create a problem!) and Peter Dawson accepted it.

    The players do respect him. Olazabal, Monty and others have already backed him as a future Ryder Cup Captain. He has the experience of playing and being a vice captain in this event and his appointment with bring the Ryder Cup back to Europe, i am sure of that.

    So, say goodbye to the dark, devisive and derranged Faldo days and vote for Sandy Lyle, Europe needs him!


  • Comment number 14.

    I agree, Sandy Lyle deserves his chance and
    it would be unfair to give Woosnam another go. Unfortunately for Woosie there's just too many others worthy of the job.
    We need a captain with integrity who the players will like and respect after Faldos' effort. Not the players didn't respect Faldo, he's just not very likeable or sincere.

  • Comment number 15.

    Faldo 'deserved his chance' more than Lyle, but that did not mean he would have the respect or true understanding of how/why Europe are so good as a team in a Ryder cup. You can not just pick a captain on past playing records.

  • Comment number 16.

    Sandy deserves his chance but as Kwini said, that's not how you decide this. I think that if he was being honest with himself, Monty would acknowledge that playing in this event is past him. He obviously fancies waiting until Gleneagles but that's a long way away and he risks having younger pups closer to the likely team passing him. The RC captain should still be a regular on the tour, I doubt Monty will be come 2014.

    I think Monty is still deluded enough to think he can play not only in the next RC but the one after. In which case I would go for Paul McGinley over Bjorn. McGinley would be perfect for whipping up the crowd and seems the type of personality that would gel well with the players.

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 18.

    I think Sandy is just too far removed from the players.Sure, they are professionals and should play there lights out for whomever but it is very difficult to see the team spirit generated by the likes of Seve,Langer and Woosnam coming from Sandy Lyle who appears distant in temperment.If the captaincy is somesort of lifetime acheivement award then it his hands down but if it is not then unfortunately he fit the job

  • Comment number 19.

    Sandy was a great golfer but I think he does not have the right attitude to lead a winning Ryder Cup Team. He as always been a little diffident and distant and these are not the right qualities for a succesful Captain.

  • Comment number 20.

    pretty decent article mr carter but i do have one question for you.
    take a good look at your article which as usual is very well written,however look at all the golfers you have named in your blog.
    SANDY lyle,JOSE MARIE olazabal,IAN woosnam,SERGIO garcia.
    the list goes on.with one notable exception,in your world he goes by the name 'faldo'.i do believe his first name is 'nick',its a shame that you do not feel the need to mention him by his first name unlike every golfer in this article when first mentioned.
    its also a shame that even in an article regarding the ryder cup where you have not criticised mr faldo at all for a change you have inadvertently showed us why britains greatest ever spotsman dosnt have a chance with you media boys

  • Comment number 21.

    I can't help but feel that Sandy Lyle has been away from the 'coalface' of competitive golf for too long. In the past i've felt that we've been better suited to a captain who is more involved in the playing side of things and is thought of as slightly more of a peer than as an old-timer or outsider. I've got nothing against Lyle in general, and I don't for a moment buy the argument that he shouldn't get it because he walked out on The Open - however, i'd hate to see the role go to him purely because it's his turn and he'd feel left out otherwise. Give the job on merit.

    I feel that Ollie would get it on merit if he is chosen, having had a stint as VC recently and with a virtually unblemished reputation within the game. I don't see it hapening though, if he was fully fit I think he'd fancy his chances to qualify, but I think he'd see all of the extra work and travel involved in the captaincy as a hindrance to his fitness and health.

    Woosie would be too much of a sentimental choice in my eyes. Yes he'd get the Welsh public up for it, yes he won last time out, but in all of the celebrations and post victory revisionism it seems to have been forgotten just how much he split opinion and feelings up to the Ryder Cup. The way he went about his business and his conduct up to the competition resulted in more negative press and ill-feeling than even Faldo (sorry NICK Faldo for the pedant above) could muster. I can't help but feel Woosie got lucky against a very poor USA and an inept captain. Also Bjorn being on the committee won't help.

    So the only choice becomes Langer, a captain bursting with German efficiency. Easily the most professional and thorough captain we've had, still competitive on any tour he chooses to play, Ryder Cup record which is up there with anyone's, and all round good guy. Give Parnevik the VC role, a conduit to the players on the US Tour, a nod to the increasing presence of Scandanavians on the Tour and team, and some comedy relief to let Langer get on with what he does best.

    Also, bring on the Race to Dubai!!! The top players in the World paying attention to the 'European' Tour and snubbing the US Tour - anything to get Finchem concerned is good by me.

  • Comment number 22.

    Let's not forget we have to win the Cup back! So, we need the best Captain who wants the job. That does indeed look like Langer - although I can't help feeling that Woosnam - in Wales - would do a fabulous job. The best captains, on both sides, in recent years, have had an intensity about them - Torrance, Langer, Woosnam and Azinger. I can't help feeling Sandy's captaincy would be reminiscent of Mark James.

    Pavin will have his guys ready and fired up, after all it will be nearly 20 years since the USA last won in Europe. There's no place for "it's so and so's turn" in the Ryder Cup, and I really don't see much reason why, having done a great job first time out, someone like Langer or Woosnam is then excluded.

  • Comment number 23.

    mcstay/faldo/piquet/higgins/larsson might want to look in paragraph four. For the record, and I have written this before, my only regret is that I was not able to refer to our greatest golfer as SIR Nick Faldo.

  • Comment number 24.

    okay stand corrected.
    well done for putting me straight.still think you guys cant see past yourselves with regards faldo though.

  • Comment number 25.

    SIR Tony Jacklin first please.
    He paved the way for Sandy Lyle and then Faldo (not to mention providing them with the winning RC mentality, which surely helped their confidence in Majors and the US).


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