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The Rocky Road to Dublin
There is something about Ireland and the Irish. More specifically, there is something about Dublin and the Dubliners. It could be the alcohol in the air or simply the evaporation from the River Liffy, which stands alongside a Guinness brewery but, whatever it is, it induces a sort of indifference to all things rational. Every Dubliner seems to be born with the capacity to 'crack', which is to talk entertainingly and at length without regard to sense or consequence. William Butler Yeats turned it into poetry and called it metaphysical; Brendan Behan made an art form out of it and Padraig Harrington has employed it for his tuppenceworth on the Ryder Cup captaincy question.

With Bernhard Langer having withdrawn from captaincy considerations he has left the cooks in charge of the kitchen and Pod and his pals to construe what will become a rocky rock to Dublin.

After two months respite from tournament play, Pod had his say through an exclusive interview in a Sunday national newspaper. This might have been anticipated for Pod was not likely to resist having a word after Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke had made their preferences known earlier in the week. Westwood and Clarke, with surprising indifference, let it be known that both Woosnam and Faldo would do the job as far as they were concerned. After what Langer had done for them in Detroit it was disappointing that neither seemed to feel that Langer should be prevailed upon to retain the captaincy. It would be surprising if they, and every other European team player in Detroit, did not feel a special indebtedness to Langer and it is disappointing that not one of these senior figures has come out to appeal for leaving well alone.

Perhaps, like Harrington, they all subscribe to the bizarre logic that the Irishman expressed in his exclusive 'crack' with the Sunday Express. 'The captaincy should be passed around,' he is quoted as saying. 'After all, it is a way of giving something back to people who have supported the European Tour and made it what it is.' Doubtless the president of the Volvo corporation is sitting down to write his acceptance speech.

Pod's crack continues: 'If Bernhard took it for another time it would mean that someone else would lose out. There won't be enough Ryder Cups to go around otherwise.' The Tour administrators may have to think about this for a bit.

Clearly Harrington sees the captain as no more than a figurehead for the proceedings. It is doubtful if Tony Jacklin, Seve Ballesteros or Sam Torrence saw the role in the same light and, if Pod failed to spot the Langer effect in Detroit, he was in a very large minority of one, even by Irish standards. One of the nice things about the 'crack' is that nothing is ever discussed too seriously.

Doubtless every team member in Detroit was made aware of the importance of a win to the European Tour. Surely somebody must have explained the importance of attracting Tour event sponsorship for their own wellbeing. Is it possible that, having attained super-star status and made all the money that you can possibly need, you forget about providing the opportunity for those that follow?

Doubtless those sitting around the table in Dubai on March 1st will be careful in their deliberations in choosing Langer's successor. Doubtless they will have canvassed opinion and given a great deal of thought to the question of leadership profile. Langer will be a hard act to follow and hopefully they will give some thought to the possibility that he has only withheld his name out of modesty and concern about precedence. He clearly retains enthusiasm for the event and appreciates its importance, for he has made it clear that he intends to contest a place in the team and has started the season as if he means to do just that. Might it not be inspirational for all if he could play his way into the role of playing captain? Lehman has made his ambitions clear in this respect but Langer could actually do it while the chances for Lehman are slim. What sort of psychological wound would that inflict at the core of the American team?

Langer should be given the opportunity of turning down the captaincy for 2006. It would not only be respectful of the committee to offer him retention but it would also be an acknowledgement of his contribution to the achievement of Detroit. Every team member, including the senior players in the squad, were quick to acknowledge Langer's contribution on the day and much restraint was exercised in contrasting and comparing the contributions made by the respective captains. Are memories naturally this short?

Harrington's insight that Woosnam's Celtic passion would be ideal for Dublin will be as incomprehensible to Americans as it is to most that are unfamiliar with the 'crack'. The possibility of Faldo will do nothing for the Americans other than raise the sales of Mark James' book on the debacle of Brookline [Into the Bear Pit]. However, even the suggestion that Langer will lead again would be a major psychological blow to the Americans and it would certainly give Tom Lehman sleepless nights for a year.

©    7 - FEBRUARY 2005

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