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Sutton and Lyle among many lauding Langer's selection as Ryder captain

Sutton, the American captain, joked that Langer "owes him one" for beating him in two previous singles matches. news services
August 19, 2004

The selection of Bernhard Langer as the new captain of the European Ryder Cup team has met with much acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. Langer was selected Thursday to lead the European squad as it defends the Ryder Cup in September of 2004 at Oakland Hills Country Club in suburban Detroit.

"It is an honor for me to captain the U.S. Ryder Cup Team against the European Team led by Bernhard Langer, who is someone I'm proud to call a friend as well as a respected golf opponent," said Hal Sutton, who was selected to lead the American squad last year. "Bernhard is one of the ultimate competitors in golf, possessing all the intangibles of what it takes to produce teamwork in the Ryder Cup Matches. His dedication to a task and his strong work ethic will make it all the more challenging for our team to reclaim the Ryder Cup.

"I've played with Bernhard many times over the years, including two Ryder Cup singles matches that he won -- so I owe him one! And I expect to solicit the help of the 12 best American players to get a little revenge at Oakland Hills in 2004 for the beatings he gave me in 1985 and 2002," Sutton added. "Seriously though, Ashley and I look forward to spending a memorable journey with Bernhard and Vikki over the next 14 months."

Langer, who becomes the first German ever to captain a Ryder Cup team, was chosen over Ian Woosnam of Wales and Sandy Lyle of England. They were the only three candidates who formally submitted their names for consideration as captain.

"I thought it would be him," said Lyle. "That was the whisper and he is probably the best man anyway. He is highly rated by the players and he is still playing with them.

"He is very methodical, he will leave no stone unturned and will cover all the angles. It's good that he is from the continent," Lyle added. "I wonder who his vice-captain is going to be, maybe someone from the UK. I'm not really disappointed -- I won't have to make any speeches now!"

Woosnam was playing his first round of the Nissan Irish Open at Portmarnock Golf Club near Dublin when the announcement of Langer's appointment was made. He found out two and a half hours after the announcement had been made as he finished his round.

"I didn't think it was on the agenda at the meeting (of European Ryder Cup officials)," said the Welshman. "But that's how it goes. I wish Bernhard all the best."

The European Tour's tournament committee discussed the issue on Wednesday night and then went to the Ryder Cup Committee Thursday morning for rubber-stamping.

Woosnam, vice-captain to Sam Torrance during the European victory at the Belfry last September, also said he did not know yet whether he would want to be considered for the 2006 Matches at the K Club in Ireland. "We'll have to wait and see," he commented.

"I think he was the obvious choice because of his connections in America and he has an American wife," said Mark James, chairman of the European Tour's tournament committee. "He will bring all the qualities he has shown on tour -- a gritty determination to get the job done and leave no stone unturned in his search for perfection."

Langer, respected the world over, has played on 10 Ryder Cup teams, making him the second most experienced player behind Nick Faldo. He made his debut in 1981 and was part of the winning team in 1985, 1987, 1995 and, after being left out by James for the 1999 contest, returned last year to enjoy another victory, and has amassed a cumulative personal record of 21 wins, 15 losses and 6 halves.

In 1991, he faced what was called the most pressure-packed putt in golf history -- a six-footer against Hale Irwin at Kiawah Island on which fate of the Ryder Cup depended. Langer missed it, but a week later showed his strength of character by winning in Germany.

"It's a fabulous honor to be named European captain," said Langer, who becomes only the second golfer from the European continent to get the job. Seve Ballesteros, of course, was the other at Valderrama in 1997.

"I've never made a secret of how much I enjoy being part of the Ryder Cup and to be the captain makes me very proud, especially as the first German golfer to hold this prestigious role," he added. "It has been an enlightening experience to play under five captains in John Jacobs, Tony Jacklin, Bernard Gallacher, Seve Ballesteros and Sam Torrance. They are all different in their own way and hopefully I can take a little of what I have learnt from all of them to live up to the very high standards they set."

Langer is the son of a Czech refugee who escaped from a Russian prisoner-of-war train bound for Siberia. He took up the game at age seven through caddieing and eventually turned professional at age 18.

He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame last year, shortly before his 42nd European victory. And in 2001, he took up American citizenship.

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