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Last Updated: Monday, 20 September, 2004, 11:48 GMT 12:48 UK
Captain contrasts rule the Ryder
By Tom Fordyce

Bernhard Langer is hoisted onto his players' shoulders
Europe's victorious team shown their appreciation to their captain

Bernhard Langer made an enormous mistake at the Ryder Cup.

Not in his choice of pairings, his preparation or his leadership of the European team, but in his declaration to Hal Sutton at the opening ceremony.

"The PGA of America made a wise and smart decision appointing you as the captain of the US Ryder Cup team," he told his counterpart.

It was about the only thing Langer got wrong all week.

The record-breaking difference between the two teams' scores at Oakland Hills was matched by the massive gulf between the two captains' abilities to inspire and lead.

Where Langer was calm, organised and incredibly well prepared, Sutton was panicked, out of control and out of his depth.

Like a golfing version of Clive Woodward or Michael Schumacher, Langer examined every element of his team's preparation and made sure that nothing was left to chance.

Sutton, by contrast, decided to wear a cowboy hat.

Towards the end, it was hard not to feel sympathetic towards Sutton, so lost, befuddled and patently upset did he look.

Like a chubby child who has had his favourite ice cream snatched away from him, Sutton could not quite understand where it had gone wrong.

And when it did go wrong, he found it impossible to come up with the answers.

Guessing game

Asked about the reasoning behind his picks for Saturday, he replied: "I wished y'all would have gone through what I've gone through in the last hour trying to mix 'n' match, because I didn't see a lot out there that gave me some conclusive points on what I should do.

"I was at as big a loss as anybody in this room could have been."

That much was clear from the state of the official team sheet he handed in.

They will hear it on TV or something
Hal Sutton on telling his players his pairings

Moments before the deadline, he had crossed out the name of David Toms and replaced it with that of Jim Furyk.

The reason? "Well, I went back and forth and, y'know, when I pulled David and Jim's numbers up, Jim's were the ones that were counting and David's weren't. It went down to that. It was just a guess on my part."

Sutton's tactics had all the subtlety of a shock and awe military assault.

On the first morning, he sent out his two biggest guns, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. When others questioned the pair's compatibility, he blustered his way through.

"They thanked me," he said. "They boiled with sincerity in their eyes. It wasn't lukewarm, it was boiling."

Sadly, their golf was barely tepid. When Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington came away with the points, the US team had been dealt a blow from which they never recovered.

Was that sincerity boiling in those eyes - or poorly-disguised anger?

Obsessional - but successful

Montgomerie, backed by Langer as a wild card pick despite the chaos in his personal and professional life, knew where the credit had to go.

"Langer has been a wonderful captain," he said. "The team was so close - one of the closest units in international sport.

"It's amazing how we play for each other. I'm not saying the Americans don't, but we acted as one from the moment we get on the plane to fly over here."

Langer's attention to detail was obsessional, and it paid off.

Harrington explained: "On all of the par threes, he's come up, told me the club to play, the place to hit it, why to hit it there.

Hal Sutton in serious mood
Sutton looks severe as his plans begin to backfire

"He's gone through the whole thing, explaining the shape and everything about it on every par three I've played this week, in the foursomes and the four-ball. He's been right there, describing exactly what was needed."

Sutton, meanwhile, was attempting to inspire his troops in an altogether different way.

Faced with a five-point deficit on Saturday morning, he said: "We're going to have a team meeting, and I'm going to put my cowboy hat back on.

"This time I may get the reins out too and make them wet."

Details were overlooked. Mickelson was allowed to sit out Wednesday's practice session despite having switched to a new brand of clubs only two weeks earlier.

No-one practised the alternate shot format of foursomes.

Langer constantly dismissed talk of rookies and stars, and made sure that all five of his new boys played before the singles.

Sutton? He was so unaware of his players' feelings that he didn't even tell them his pairings before they were officially announced.

"Nobody knows our team," he said, as he split Mickelson and Woods.

"I just turned it in. They were gone. I sent them all back. I didn't tell anybody. I will tell them when they get back or they will hear it on TV or something."

When Chris Riley asked to be rested from the foursomes, Sutton replied: "If I, a 42-year-old with a fat belly, went five straight matches in '99, I'm sure a 30-year-old flat-belly that's hyper can go four."

But Riley stayed put.

Langer may remain in charge for the next Ryder Cup in 2006.

Whether he is there or not, his approach this time around has raised the bar for all cup captains to follow.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Interview: European captain Bernhard Langer


Interview: Colin Montgomerie


Interview: US Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton




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