Like it or Not This is Americas Team

By Mercer BaggsAugust 21, 2006, 4:00 pm
36th Ryder Cup MatchesMEDINAH, Ill. -- Tom Lehman said he got about two hours worth of sleep Sunday night. And yet he still looked better Monday morning than he did a few days ago.
 
That can be attributed to a sense of peace and comfort Lehman is feeling now that his entire U.S. Ryder Cup team has been finalized.
 
Lehman, in announcing Stewart Cink and Scott Verplank as his captains selections, admitted in his press conference at Medinah Country Club, the day after the PGA Championship, that he was feeling the stress and strain of making such a decision.
 
Ryder Cup Trophy
The Ryder Cup trophy will be up for grabs at the K Club in Dublin, Ireland in late September.
He said that he called everyone from 11-25 on the list, with the exception of Billy Mayfair and Dean Wilson, both of whom he ran into Sunday afternoon in the player dining room, and let them know their fate.
 
Unfortunately for six of them, they had to wait until Monday morning to find out whether or not they made the team.
 
Its been a difficult decision for me to make. Its tough to call people who I respect and admire so much as players and as people and let them know that, no, I did not pick you, Lehman said.
 
Its been a long two years and its been a grueling summer.
 
Those six left hanging Sunday night were: Cink; Verplank; Steve Stricker; Davis Love III; Lucas Glover; and Lehmans assistant captain, Corey Pavin.
 
Lehman said he looked long and hard at each and every one. He talked it over with Pavin until late in the night. He even talked with Phil Mickelson around midnight for about a half-hour and with Tiger Woods on his way to the airport. And then he slept on it ' for a few hours anyway.
 
Love, he said, was the toughest to tell no.
 
It was not easy, Lehman said. With all his experience and all of the things hes accomplished, I still want to have guys who are playing well. I think he has definitely struggled.
 
For Love, the streak is over. He had played in every Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup dating back to 1993. But, its not like he didnt have his chance to make the team on his own merit. After struggling all year, he put himself in great shape after two rounds of the PGA, just one off the lead, then went on to shoot 73-76 over the weekend to tie for 34th.
 
I think Lehman made the right call. Love has played horribly this season and doesnt deserve to be a part of this team. He even said as much Sunday evening, sounding and looking like a man reserved to an unfortunate fate.
 
Picking Cink was no surprise. Its not like Lehman had a lot of wonderful options from which to choose. Hes a solid player and a good putter. And he was sixth on Lehmans personal points list, which varied from the new system implemented this year.
 
No. 9 on that list was Verplank. I have to admit I was a bit shocked when I heard his name called out. Verplank was 20th on the real Ryder Cup list. I figured Pavin had a better chance of being chosen than did Verplank, who missed the cut this past week.
 
At least Pavin has won this year ' at least hes won in the last four years. Verplanks most recent win came in the 2001 Canadian Open. Cinks, for that matter, came in 2004.
 
The new system, which awards a greater number of points to players finishing inside the top 10 than it did two years ago, is supposed to reward those who are playing well this season. Lehman, by contrast, picked a pair of players who havent won since before the playing of the last Ryder Cup.
 
But, again, its not like he had much to choose from. Of the players 11-25 on the standings, only John Rollins (No. 11), Tim Herron (17) and Dean Wilson (23) had won this year. And did he really want any of these three on a team that already had four rookies?
 
Lehman had said for quite some time that Ryder Cup experience would not be the key to his decision making in rounding out his team. He said it would be desire. And desire, apparently, superseded winning as well when it came down to it.
 
Match Play is a bit of a matter of heart. Almost completely its a matter of heart and the passion that you have ' you take it personal. I think the picks I made ' thats part of why I picked them. I feel like they do that, Lehman said.
 
Now that the team is complete, its time to gel. They will start the bonding process when at least 10 of the 12 team members leave Sunday night after this weeks WGC-NEC Invitational in Ohio and head to the K Club in Dublin, Ireland, site of this years Cup competition, for a three-day excursion.
 
Were going to play some golf, were going to do some fishing, were going to drink some Guinness, were going to have some fun, were going to get our pairings together, Lehman said.
 
The group will consist of Lehman, Pavin, players and their caddies. But Woods wont be there, and Mickelson may skip it, too. Both, said Lehman, had prior obligations.
 
While people may try and make a big deal out of this, they shouldnt. Woods and Mickelson arent just players; theyre sports stars, celebrities in the game. They have schedules that are booked well in advance. I have no doubt that both men would love to take that trip, but if they have obligations which they simply can not cast aside, then so be it.
 
This team will consist of eight veterans and four rookies. Those eight vets consist of the top 3 players in the world, as well as three others in the top 20. Yet, those eight have combined to go 31-39-10 in the Ryder Cup
 
Mickelson, David Toms and Verplank are the only ones with winning records.
 
Ironically, Verplanks lone appearance came at the expense of Lehman. Curtis Strange bypassed Lehman, who was No. 11 in the standings, in 2001 in favor of Verplank. He went on to go 2-1-0 in an overall losing effort at The Belfry.
 
And so, America, this is your 2006 Ryder Cup team: Woods, Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Chad Campbell, Toms, Chris DiMarco, Vaughn Taylor, J.J. Henry, Zach Johnson, Bret Wetterich, Cink and Verplank.
 
Europe will finalize their team in three weeks.
 
This team looks a lot like one of the European squads of a few years ago, one with an extreme amount of leaders and followers. One where you can hide someone for most of the Matches, before sending them out on Sunday for the singles (incidentally, Lehman expects all of his guys to play at least once before the singles).
 
And maybe this is a good thing. The veterans didn't seem to complain this week, and said they looked forward to filling that leadership role; though, Woods looked a bit perplexed Sunday night when he saw that no one new had moved inside the top 10 at the PGA. It looked like he was thinking, 'Brett Wetterich is on my team?!?'
 
I guess it's actually Lehman's team, and one that he says he loves from top to bottom ' not that you would expect him to say anything otherwise. Overall, on paper, they dont look that impressive ' certainly not as impressive as teams in the past.
 
But those teams didnt win. The U.S. has won only one of these things since 1995. Perhaps this team has a chance. Lehman, of course, thinks so.
 
I feel incredibly good about where were at, Lehman said. I feel tremendously, tremendously confident in this squad.
 
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    Rahm (62) fires career low round

    By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

    The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

    Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

    What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

    Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

    Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

    Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

    Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

    Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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    Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

    Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

    "Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

    Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


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    Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

    "That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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    Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

    By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

    There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

    Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

    Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

    Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

    @tommyfleetwood_1

    A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

    The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

    It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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    Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

    Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

    The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

    It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

    "It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."


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    Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

    Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

    "This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."