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Monday 21 April 2014

The five greatest Ryder Cup captains

As Jose Maria Olazabal and Davis Love III square up to do battle in the 39th Ryder Cup this week at Medinah Country Club, we look back at some the most succesful captains in the tournament's history.

1 TONY JACKLIN (EUR)

1983, Palm Beach Gardens: Lost 13.5-14.5

1985, Belfry: Won 16.5-11.5

1987, Muirfield Village: Won 15-13

DESCRIBED by Nick Faldo as "the first European captain who genuinely believed the US could be beaten." Jacklin provided the faith and infrastructure which helped Seve translate his genius and passion into hard results. The former British and US Open winner was a visionary.

In 1983, he led an ill-equipped European side to within a point of the US in Florida. Two years later, Jacklin ensured his team had the best of everything and they responded in style, beating Lee Trevino's crack side at the Belfry before winning for the first time on US soil at Jack's place, Muirfield Village in 1987. The Ryder Cup revolution was complete.

2 PAUL AZINGER (USA)

2008, Valhalla: Won 16.5-11.5

AMERICA had lost three times in a row and back-to-back by a humiliating nine points at Oakland Hills and The K Club when Azinger (right) -- firebrand, patriot and a gushing font of ideas and enthusiasm -- was appointed.

"It's really incredible how much thought and passion he put into it. I could list a dozen things he told us to do," explains current skipper Davis Love III, smiling. "When my iPhone says Paul Azinger, I have to decide do I have 30 or 45 minutes or do I hit the ignore button. Sometimes I hit ignore and sometimes I answer it."

3 SAM TORRANCE (EUR)

2002, Belfry: Won 15.5-12.5

STUNNING is the only word to describe this garrulous Scotsman's captaincy. This gifted golfer had a reputation for playing just as hard off the course as on it. Yet Torrance was meticulous in his approach to his mission at the Belfry, using the 12-month delay in the match to set up the golf course to perfection.

He even sought expert coaching in the art of public speaking. Clever and exceptionally quick-witted, he ran rings around Curtis Strange. Torrance is rated by Paul McGinley as the best captain he's played for.

4 BERNHARD LANGER (EUR)

2004, Oakland Hills: Won 18.5-9.5

FAMOUS for his attention to detail throughout his playing career, Langer was no different as captain. His team dissected Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, et al by a record margin in Detroit.

"Bernhard was very methodical and hands-on when it came to strategy and club selection," recalls Padraig Harrington, a long-time admirer.

"I was given out to for laying-up into water at a par-five. 'How could you do that?' he asked me, but that was Bernard."

Tellingly, Langer ordered his team to oblige every autograph request on practice days, winning over the home crowd in the process.

5 SEVE BALLESTEROS (EUR)

1997, Valderrama: Won 14.5-13.5

IT was tempting to nominate Dave Stockton, who broke a stretch of three Ryder Cups without a win for the US in the 1991 'War on the Shore' at Kiawah. Yet no Ryder Cup list would be complete without the late Seve. The image of him dashing around in his buggy at Valderrama like a latter-day General Patton is indelible.

"There was a positive side to his constant darting about and popping up everywhere during that Ryder Cup," says Colin Montgomerie.

"The passion and determination spread around the course like wildfire."

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