The tip-off came during a press conference at the PGA Championship last month when Sutton was talking about who his captains picks might be. Sutton went to great lengths to tell reporters that the Ryder Cup venue at Oakland Hills, in his opinion, favored a certain kind of player. That kind of player, Sutton said, did well on par-3s and par-4s.
If you wanted to know who he might favor, Sutton recommended, check out the par-3 and par-4 stats. Oakland Hills, he reminded everybody, has only three par-5s. (Actually, it has just two. But that made Suttons point even more.)
He wound up tabbing Jay Haas and Stewart Cink. Sunday Langer named Colin Montgomerie and the 26-year-old Donald. Donalds rank on the PGA Tour this year in par-3 birdie leaders is eighth. His rank on the PGA Tours par-4 performance category is 12th. He is 30th in driving accuracy and 14th in greens in regulation.
If you are playing a course where par has value, then Luke is the player you want on your side, said Pat Goss after Langer announced his choices. Goss coached Donald at Northwestern University and still serves as his teacher when Donald returns to his stateside home near Chicago.
Even more interesting is the possibility that Langer may pair Donald with another Euro rookie, fellow Englishman Paul Casey. Casey and Donald have terrific history together. Most notably they were Walker Cup teammates on the 1999 GB&I team that defeated the Americans in Scotland. Casey and Donald played together and won both of their foursomes matches. They also won both their singles, compiling a combined 8-0 mark between them.
Langer, Donald, Casey and Goss are all well aware that there is a world of competitive difference between the Walker Cup and the Ryder Cup. But rookies need something on which to hang their hats. Moreover, Casey and Donald are not ordinary rookies. Casey ranks 28th in the world, Donald 47th.
The conventional wisdom says you dont pair rookies in Ryder Cup foursomes or fourballs. In each of the last seven instances a European captain has thrown rookies together, the pairing has failed to produce a full point.
But Langer has a long memory. In 1981, Langers rookie Ryder Cup year, Euro captain John Jacobs paired Langer with fellow rookie Manuel Pinero of Spain in the Saturday morning fourballs. They beat Ray Floyd and Hale Irwin, 2-and-1.
Goss says Casey and Donald get along famously and their styles complement one another. He believes they are well-equipped to transcend the notion that rookies should not play together in the Ryder Cup.
If he (Langer) is ever going to take a chance pairing rookies, Goss says, this would be the time.
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