Ian Woosnam, the man branded “barmy” and “the most pathetic captain I’ve ever seen” by Thomas Bjorn, reckons the Dane now knows what it’s like to be in the spotlight as a Ryder Cup skipper after coming under fire for his own wildcard selections for next week’s match in France.
Bjorn let rip at Woosnam after he lost out to Lee Westwood for one of the Welshman’s picks for the 2006 clash at The K Club in Ireland, launching one of the most venomous verbal attacks ever witnessed in the normally gentlemanly world of golf.
“So far his captaincy has been the most pathetic I have ever seen,” said Bjorn, who’d played in two previous matches and also been one of Bernhard Langer’s vice captains at Oakland Hills in Detriot two years earlier, at the time.
“The man is barmy – to be captain and not communicate with a team or those in contention at all. I haven’t spoken to him for six months, and then I find that I’m not in the team by watching it on television. How can that be right? It sure doesn’t seem as if he is burdened with too many leadership qualities.”
Woosnam, in fact, led Europe to a record-equalling 18½-9½ victory, with both Westwood and Darren Clarke vindicating their selections by picking up four and three points respectively as a United States side skippered by Tom Lehman was steamrollered.
Twelve years on, Bjorn, pictured, will hoping for a similar return from an out-of-form Sergio Garcia, controversially picked ahead of his fellow Spaniard, Rafa Cabrera Bello, and Englisman Matt Wallace, when he becomes the first Scandinavian to captain Europe in the biennial event, which starts at Le Golf National outside Paris on Friday week.
“Now he knows what the job is all about,” said Woosnam, before explaining why he hadn’t told Bjorn about missing out prior to making his own wild card announcement. “When I walked in that press room in Munich in 2006, I hadn’t made my mind up (about picks). I hadn’t actually made my mind up when I went in there. I made my mind up when I was asked the question. I had it worked out which one I felt was the better and that’s what I did. And we got the result. One of the best results ever.”
Woosnam revealed after the match in Ireland that he’d almost quit because of Bjorn’s blast. He then said following the Dane’s appointment that it was “water under the bridge” and wished him well in the role. There still seems to be a hint of bitterness, though. “I didn’t have anything to make up,” he insisted. “He was the one who made the bollocks, wasn’t he?”
Woosnam, who also played in the event eight times, including wins in 1985, 1987, 1995 and 1997, will be in France for the opening day and is hoping that Europe can extend a run of the Americans failing to win on this side of the Atlantic since 1993 at The Belfry.
“It’s all about how Thomas goes around now,” said the former world No 1. “He’s picked his team, it’s all about the captain and vice captains. He needs to be strong and he should have it in his mind what pairings he wants. He’s the captain, it’s his decision. He has to take those decisions. It’s his decision at the end of the day.
“Yes, he can ask his assistants for help, but you have to be positive in your own mind how you feel it will play and who will play with each other. You talk to the players who feel it, and if they feel they are happy to play with certain players then so be it. But, when you are a Ryder Cup player, you should be happy to play with anyone, that’s what I always thought. You go there as a team and you should play as a team.
“Thomas has gone for experience (in picking Garcia along with Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey and Paul Casey). It’s a difficult situation. Do you go for Matt Wallace, a guy in form, someone who’s making lots of birdies, a great fourball player? Had he done enough? He wins three tournaments, maybe the wrong tournaments. Wallace never got to play in enough big world tournaments, so he didn’t get enough points.
“That’s why the four picks are there, to pick someone like that. But a couple of guys who should have been in there are not in there, unfortunately.”