Lehman to be next Ryder Cup captain

Posted: Wednesday, November 03, 2004

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) Tom Lehman wanted to play on the next Ryder Cup team. Instead, he'll go to Ireland in 2006 as the next U.S. captain.

The Palm Beach Post reported that Lehman, 45, will be introduced as the U.S. captain at a news conference in Amelia Island, where the PGA of America is holding its 86th annual meeting.

The newspaper did not cite a source in its report.

Neither Lehman nor PGA president M.G. Orender returned phone calls from The Associated Press seeking comment. PGA spokesman Julius Mason confirmed that a news conference would be held Wednesday to announce the captain.

Lehman, without a PGA Tour victory for nearly five years, said two weeks ago that he wanted to win again to earn a spot on the '06 team, but he also said he wanted to be a captain one day.

''I'd be honored if they choose me,'' Lehman said at the Funai Classic at Disney. ''But I don't think it's anybody's place to lobby for that position.''

He will be responsible for leading an American team that was dealt its worst loss ever to Europe, 18 1/2-9 1/2, two months ago at Oakland Hills. Europe now has captured the cup seven of the last 10 times.

''I think he'll be great,'' Tiger Woods said at the Tour Championship. ''He was one of the spearheads at Valderrama and one of the leaders in the locker room at Brookline, so I think he'll do a great job.''

Woods was hopeful his friend, Mark O'Meara, would get the job.

Other players said to be candidates were Larry Nelson, Corey Pavin and Fred Couples. Paul Azinger said last month he took himself out of consideration because he wanted to spend time on his game and in the television booth.

Lehman made the Ryder Cup team three straight times, starting in 1995, and was on the U.S. team that rallied from a 10-6 deficit on the final day in 1999 at Brookline. He was heavily criticized by Europeans, particularly Sam Torrance, for being among those who charged onto the 17th green when Justin Leonard made the winning putt.

The former British Open champion has not played on the last two teams because his game has struggled. Lehman just completed his third straight year finishing outside the top 50 on the PGA Tour money list.

The PGA of America typically announces the next captain by the end of October, but has been meeting the past few weeks as it decides whether to go a different direction on how it selects its captains.

Lehman would fit the recent profile a major champion in his 40s with Ryder Cup experience.

Several players had lobbied for Nelson, 57, a three-time major champion and the only American to go 5-0 in a Ryder Cup. Many thought Nelson was unfairly bypassed for the captain's job in 1997 when it went to Tom Kite.

Lehman is a five-time winner on the PGA Tour, including the British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in 1996 and the '96 Tour Championship. He was voted PGA Tour player of the year that season.

''I've been under different captains and different philosophies and different personalities,'' Woods said. ''I think Tom is probably right in the middle. He's not as fiery as Hal (Sutton), but certainly not as conservative as Tom Kite. But they're all competitive. Hey, he wants to win just as bad as we all do.''

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