Lehman's Ryder Cup Decisions Not Easy
Monday, August 21, 2006
MEDINAH, Ill., Aug. 20 -- The tournament within the tournament at the PGA Championship on Sunday produced no change in the 10 men who automatically qualified on points for the U.S. Ryder Cup team, which will try to win back the Cup at the K Club in Ireland Sept. 22-24. It also will give U.S. captain Tom Lehman a fitful night of sleep as he tries to determine his two captain's picks to be announced here Monday morning.
Only five players had locked up berths going into the PGA Championship -- Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Chad Campbell and David Toms. The next five players on the team did not change from a week ago. They are Chris DiMarco and four Cup rookies -- Vaughn Taylor, J.J. Henry, Zach Johnson and Brett Wetterich.
Lehman had hoped that Davis Love III, No. 15 on the list going into the week, would have played well enough here to make the top 10. Instead, Love finished his final round with three straight bogeys, shot 76 and 2-under 286 for the tournament and could be in danger of missing his first Ryder Cup team after six straight appearances.
"I don't know what [Lehman] should do, really," Love said Sunday. "He doesn't really have anyone from 10 down who's playing that well. He's in a tough position. I saw [Lehman] sneaking around out there watching. I didn't really show him much and I don't think anyone else did either."
There has been some talk this week that Lehman may consider putting his assistant captain and Cup veteran Corey Pavin on the team. Pavin, who last played in the Cup on the 1995 team, won in Milwaukee last month and has always had the reputation as a bulldog in match play. Love said it wouldn't bother him at all if Lehman makes Pavin a captain's choice.
"You pick someone who can help the team," he said. "It doesn't matter how many times they can play or how many teams they haven't played on. Corey Pavin might be great with a partner. He's a competitor and he's played a lot of them."
Said Pavin, "I think everyone knows what's going on and what the options are, so there's not much to talk about."
Another possibility for one of Lehman's picks is Stewart Cink, still 12th on the points list and also a veteran of the last two U.S. teams. Cink shot 69 in the final round Sunday and finished tied for 24th place in the PGA.
He's a solid putter, an attribute Lehman said is the most important he'll use in making his final picks.
Cink played Sunday with Pavin and said: "I feel like I can help the team. These guys [Lehman and Pavin] have seen what I have to offer in my golf game. Just one round is not going to make or break my chances for making the team."
Of the four rookies who made the team, only one, Henry, made the cut here this week. After an opening 68, he played his last three rounds in 4 over, finished Sunday with two bogeys and was at even par 288 for the week, tied for 41st.
Other than champion Tiger Woods, No. 1 on the points list, DiMarco, one of the heroes of the U.S. Presidents Cup team, had the best tournament of any of the American Cup players. He finished at 8-under 280, good for a tie for 12th. Toms (73) and Mickelson (74) tied for 16th at 6-under 282; Campbell (66 -- 284) tied for 24th and Furyk (74 -- 285) tied for 29th.
The European Cup team, which has won the last the last two competitions, will be finalized on Sept. 3. Only five players have qualified so far -- David Howell, Colin Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazabal, Henrik Stenson and Luke Donald, who clinched his position with a tie for third this week.