Desperate times call for desperate measures, which helps explain Woosnam's aggressive campaigning. While all the candidates have been deferential toward one another, Woosie gave James a jab last week. Asked if the Englishman had helped contribute to the victory at Valderrama in his role as one of Ballesteros's lieutenants, Woosnam let out a snort and offered, "You know the answer," he said, "but we've got to try and keep it friendly."
Woosnam has never been known as a team player. Two weeks after last year's Ryder Cup he was still smarting about having been benched for the first two sessions. "To be honest, I didn't particularly enjoy it this time," he was quoted as saying. "Seve had his own way of doing things, and that was it. If I was captain, I would be in touch with my players."
Another knock on Woosnam is his often churlish behavior. A classic example came two weeks ago at the Benson & Hedges International. Leading after the first round, Woosnam was invited to the pressroom by by a tour official. "Aw, f- - -me. I've been here all day already," Woosnam said. "Why don't you put someone else through that." This from the man who hopes to speak for Europe.
Like Ballesteros, though, Woosnam is a fighter who loves a good scrap, a quality that separates him from the low-key James and the even-tempered Torrance. The genius of Gallacher's leadership was his ability to stay out of the way of his experienced players, and he often sought their counsel on important decisions. As these old-timers are phased out, the captain will be more crucial in shaping the personality of the team. There is a new wave of golfers making a splash on the European tour, players such as Sweden's Sj�land, Andrew Coltart of Scotland and Paul McGinley of Ireland. Five others- Thomas Bjorn, Darren Clarke, Ignacio Garrido, Jesper Parnevik and Lee West-wood—made their Ryder Cup debuts at Valderrama. Neither James nor Torrance played with that group in Spain, which gives them less credibility as captains than Woosnam.
"Woosie would make a wonderful captain," says Bjorn, "because he's so good at reaching out to the younger players." In Valderrama, Woosnam took Bjorn under his stubby wing, not only nursing him to a crucial four-ball victory but also instilling so much confidence in Bjorn that after the young Dane won this year's Heineken Classic in Australia, he singled out Woosnam in his victory speech. "Without you, I might not be here," Bjorn said.
Still, as Langer noted, Woosnam might be too good to be sacrificed as a player. In '98 he has had three top 10s, and after finishing 54th at Wentworth is ninth on the money list. Ultimately, James may get the job, and not just because he's expendable as a player. (His Ryder Cup record, 8-15-1, is on par with Torrance's, 7-15-6.) James also gets bonus points for his much-praised leadership of the tournament committee, his successful apprenticeship under Ballesteros (not everyone agrees with Woosnam on that score) and the kind of obsession with detail that allows him to maintain a garden that is more than an acre back home in Ilkley, England. (He's particularly proud of his sweet peas.)
"If I was a gambling man, I would bet on Mark James being the next captain," says Gallacher. "Then I would invite Sam to lead the side when it returns to the Belfry [in 2001], the scene of his winning putt. It would be full of nostalgia for him. After that you go for names like Ian Woosnam, Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer to maintain the tradition of those who have played so well for Europe over the years."
So James would appear to be the pick, but he had better not start playing too well.