Tom Lehman sat atfour under after the first round of the British Open, placing him two shots offthe lead and firmly in the conversation about potential winners. Had Lehmanprevailed, he'd have jumped to fifth place in the U.S. Ryder Cup pointsstandings. The difficulty is that Lehman is already the captain of thatteam.
I can think ofonly one reason why a Ryder Cup captain would also play in the matches: Hedoesn't believe that he has 12 guys who can beat him. Lehman has been playinggreat, but he's going to have a huge problem if he tries to play on the squadhe'll lead to Kildare, Ireland, in September. The captain's task is so muchharder than a player's because there are so many areas in which he can screwup. I can't conceive how anyone could handle both duties.
When I wascaptain at Kiawah Island in 1991, I continually felt I was short of time, eventhough I had both my sons helping me run the team. As captain you're gettinginformation all day. You're trying to assess how your players are playing,you're keeping an eye on the four guys you have practicing, you're making thepairings for the next round, you're meeting with the media, and you're going toteam dinners. Lehman has terrific assistant captains in Corey Pavin and LorenRoberts, and if Tom winds up playing, he's going to rely heavily on thembecause at some point he's going to be out on the course when it's time tosubmit the pairings for the next round. And if he's playing, he'll want topractice--and there'll be almost no time for that.
I was veryimpressed by Sam Torrance when he was the European captain at the Belfry in2002. He stopped to talk to me on the putting green for 10 minutes betweensessions, simply chatting away and signing autographs. I was thinking, How canthis guy be so relaxed between the morning and afternoon matches? It wasn'tlike that for me at Kiawah; it was totally hectic.
Beyond thesedemanding tasks, the captain's main duty is getting the team chemistry right,and that is a full-time job. With the U.S. and European tours pretty equal now,the captain who does the better job with chemistry is going to win. You havethe best players available, so it's your job to motivate them and put themtogether in ways that give them every chance to succeed. To be honest, we'vebeen outcaptained recently. That surprises me, but I have friends on both sideswho agree.
I'm excited aboutLehman's being captain because I think chemistry is his strong suit. He's veryreligious and strong-willed. I hope he finds 12 unbeatable players and guidesthem to victory. I don't know if a playing captain can do that. The job isoverwhelming.
GOLF PLUS willnext appear in the Aug. 14 SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.
By Jim Gorant
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[HEART + CLUTCH PLAY] - [LOSS + INJURY] = THE GATORRISES
ANDY LYONS/GETTY IMAGES (LEHMAN); JACQUELINE DUVOISIN (STOCKTON)
TOM FOOLERY Stockton (right) thinks Lehman should sit out.
PHOTOFEST (SYLVESTER STALLONE); JOHN BIEVER (DIMARCO); CARL & ANN PURCELL/CORBIS (LILLY); PASCAL GEORGE/AFP (SKIER); FRED VUICH (DIMARCO)