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So it's to be Captain Colin
Our man on the Ryder Cup captaincy process and looking over the overlooked

Being captain of a team, no matter how grand or lowly, has a certain kudos. England's cricket world was turned upside down with Kevin Pieterson’s ‘resignation’, and he was escorted through Heathrow Airport by four armed policemen on his return from holiday in South Africa. Quite extraordinary.

There have been many great captains, ‘leaders’ if you will, going back to early biblical times and then on - Moses, Boadicea (now Boudica, why, I don’t know), Alexander the Great, Horatio Nelson, Winston Churchill, Tony Jacklin. The list could be endless. All have been different, some not particularly liked let alone loved, but they managed to do a fabulous job.

In sport, great players don’t always make formidable leaders just as sometimes a person of modest talent takes the reins in masterly fashion. When Jacklin was given the Ryder Cup captaincy, he had no great credentials for the job. The first thing he did was put forward some heavy demands: "the team must travel Concorde and be swathed in cashmere", "they must be able to take their own caddies", "the wives must be catered for", "expensive gifts for all involved in the matches" and so on. He was successful but so he should have been – his team contained half a dozen of the best players in the world.

Everything has altered over time. Years ago there was kudos for being captain but financially nothing much more than what could be made from some after-dinner speaking engagements. I’m not saying every recent Ryder Cup captain has made huge money but one or two have made substantial fortunes from their commercial activities.

Enthusiastic patriotism is sometimes overdone, from the European side probably starting with Seve Ballesteros when the matches were played in Spain in 1997. His critics said he rushed about like a demented mother hen and he certainly had a few skirmishes with his players, but the team won so all was forgiven. A Welshman, Ian Woosnam, captained in Ireland in 2006. He was very nervous but he carried out his duties magnificently and the team won, so another hero was born. The same could be said for SamTorrance in 2002, who, because of the happenings of 9/11, had an extra year of captaincy, which for him turned into a commercial bonanza.

I thought the selection process for the 2010 matches was rather strange. If national fervour means anything, Woosnam should have been the captain in Wales but, no, he’d already done his stint in Ireland. We now know we’ll have a Scotsman, Colin Montgomerie, taking on the job in Wales. I suppose that perversely makes it a certainty we’ll have an Irishman in Scotland in 2014 - perhaps a happy omen for either Darren Clarke or Paul McGinley?

Sandy Lyle was an integral member of the European Ryder Cup team which secured a first triumph in 28 years over the USA in 1985. But it now looks as if he will never get the chance to be captain of the team

José Maria Olazábal and Sandy Lyle were much touted for 2010. I think Ollie will deservedly get his shot in 2012, but as for Sandy, much is made of the captain needing to be under 50 (unlike Nick Faldo last year) and so in touch with the younger players. But why? A player whose name commands respect is surelywhat is required, and as long as he surrounds himselfwith excellent lieutenants, his job is to be a Ronald Reagan-type – smiling, diplomatic and saying all the right things, all the while allied to a team dedicated to doing their best for a fine man who’s been such a credit to the game. One can’t help feel that Sandy may be destined to be the only one of those great European golfers of the 1980s and ’90s who will never get the chance to lead his team in the Ryder Cup.

Up until the middle of January, Monty had expressed no great desire to take on the captaincy until 2014, when the matches are due to be played at Gleneagles. That looked perfect on paper; seemingly a wonderful arrangement all round. But, no, suddenly his hat was in the ring for 2010 and the bookmakers Betfair were taking an “alarming” amount of bets on him becoming captain.

Well, why not? – he was 50-1, a rank outsider. It looked a very good bet, even to me. Could it have been down to some of the caddies getting together to have a punt? Or, heaven forbid, someone on the fringes of the committee? I suppose we shall never know for sure.

Colin has all the credentials to do the job very well but, if patriotism counts for anything, he might have had more ‘support’ in Scotland. Anyhow, I don't think he will followthe trends set by Faldo, but I urge him to consider having on board (just for local support if you like, and an extra pair of eyes to check that the sandwiches are really fresh) people like the great Welsh rugby players from yesterday, men like JPR Williams and Gareth Edwards.

I do hope there’s a spot there somewhere for Sandy Lyle, who appears to be a permanent bridesmaid when Ryder Cup honours come along, although he’s not alone in that. Looking back there was no obvious reason why John Panton, Christy O'Connor and Ken Bousfield and yours truly were all overlooked for the captaincy of ‘our’ team, so Sandy is in quite good company.

Enough of that. I really can't wait for the matches to begin, hopefully in decent weather with a roaring but fair crowd and the trophy coming home. That would create joy and singing in the valleys, and I dare say in a lot of other places, too.

March 2009

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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