By Brian Keogh
The mystery over who will skipper Europe’s Ryder Cup hat-trick bid at the K Club will soon be revealed.
On 20 December, 15 members of the European Tour’s tournament committee will meet to discuss who they think should get the job in Ireland in 2006.
Committee members Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley will sit down with chairman Jamie Spence, Roger Chapman, Andrew Coltart, Joakim Haeggman, Mark James, Miguel Angel Jiménez and 2000 skipper Bernhard Langer to recommend a name to the Ryder Cup committee.
Sky sports commentator and former tour player Robert Lee, possible candidate Colin Montgomerie, Mark Roe, Henrik Stenson, Jean Van de Velde and New Zealander Greg Turner are the other members of the select group.
Based on the recommendation of the players, the Ryder Cup committee will make a decision early in the New Year and officially announce the 2006 skipper.
Bernhard Langer is rated the even money favourite for the job after his successful captaincy in the US last September.
But Welsh wizard Ian Woosnam is reckoned by many insiders to the the real dark horse for the job.
Nick Faldo, Sandy Lyle, Eamonn Darcy, Des Smyth, Christy O’Connor Jnr and Jose Maria Olazabal are also in the mix.
But the current thinking among the European Tour elite seems to favour Woosnam for Ireland with Faldo more likely to get the job in the US in 2008.
Bernhard Langer (evens)
The German loved the adulation of Oakland Hills but is torn between captaincy and making an 11th Ryder Cup appearance as a player.
With the captaincy being shared around in recent years, may be persuaded not to run again.
He said: “There are some great players who deserve a turn, but there could be some that miss out. I want to be at the K Club but I
don’t know if it will be as a spectator, a player or as captain.
Nick Faldo (4/1)
A strong contender. Respected by the players, he is not the most popular of characters and his arch enemy Mark James is on the committee.
Has more Ryder Cup experience than any with a record 11 appearances.
He said: “It will be unbelievable in Ireland. That is what would be so nice. That would be sensational.
“It would be a riot. But just as long as it is a controlled riot - a friendly controlled riot. That would be fantastic atmosphere.”
As for taking on the likes of Eamonn Darcy, Des Smyth or Christy O’Connor Jnr as one of his vice-captains, Faldo would not be drawn.
He said: “I would like to wait to present my ideas to the committee rather than bring all that up now.”
Ian Woosnam (5/1)
Welsh wizard feels he will be too old and out of touch to captain the side on home turf at Celtic Manor in 2010.
Played in eight Ryder Cups between 1983 and 1997 - winning 14 and halving five of his 31 matches.
Disappointed to be overlooked for the captaincy at Oakland Hills, this could be his best chance.
He said: “If I get the job in Ireland, I think Faldo should get it in 2008 and Monty should be captain at Celtic Manor in 2010. After that I think Olazabal should get it.”
Colin Montgomerie (6/1)
Needed a wild card from Langer to play at Oakland Hills and now appears to be keen to resurrect his career and play again.
But like Woosnam, Montgomerie is not prepared to wait until the event reaches his homeland, in this case Scotland, in 2014.
After his winning performance at Oakland Hills he said: “There's plenty of time to be a captain, possibly. I'm only glad that Bernhard had some faith in me and that I managed to perform half-decent and help the team cause. If I can do that again, I'd be delighted to do it.”
Des Smyth 16/1
Fed up with the politics involved, Smyth appears to have taken himself out of the running. He admits that keeping in touch with players is nearly impossible now that he is concentrating on the US Champions Tour.
Would have an excellent chance of being a Ryder Cup vice - captain to the likes of Woosnam.
He said: “I am listening to the politics and I don’t think they are getting ready for an Irish captain. I’m tired of all that chit-chat at this stage.
“The big guns are all piling up and they all have a case. But I hope Bernhard doesn't go another year. That has been part of the problem with our side. Jacklin had the captaincy for too long and Gallacher had it for too long.”
Eamonn Darcy 20/1
Still keen on the job, Darcy has opted out of the US Champions Tour and shown his loyalty to Europe by deciding to support the European Seniors Tour.
Still remembered for his heroics in the 1987 match at Muirfield Village when he clinched the winning point, he looks to be too far removed from the current generation of young stars.
He said: “My hat’s in the ring too and has been for some time.
I let my views know to the committee years ago and I’d certainly be over the moon if I got the job. But it looks as though politics will stop an Irishman getting it, which is a shame.”
Christy O’Connor Jnr 20/1
His two-iron over water to five feet at the Belfry in 1989 ranks as one of the great shots under pressure in the history of golf.
But he is no longer a full time tour player and while he continues to campaign vigourously for the job, he would always be second favourite to a Major winner such as Woosnam or Faldo.
He said: “I have not dropped the idea of being captain. I am not out of the equation, and no one has told me that I am dropped. I filled in my forms a long time ago.”