No Experience No Problem for Lehman

By Mercer BaggsAugust 16, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 PGA ChampionshipMEDINAH, Ill ' Tom Lehman was wondering why it took so long.
 
It took all of two questions, he said Wednesday. I thought that was for sure No. 1. Im actually a little disappointed.
 
Lehman, the U.S. Ryder Cup captain, met with the media on the eve of the 88th PGA Championship. But while he had plenty to say on this day, what he says this coming Monday will bear far more significance.
 
Davis Love III
Davis Love III is one of many players this week trying to earn his way onto the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
It is on that day, at 9:00 a.m. local time, that Lehman will reveal his two captains selections. And, as he said, it took all of two questions in this session to ask if one of those two picks might be used on himself.
 
Earlier in the year when I was playing extremely well, I thought this was possible, he said about being the first player-captain since Arnold Palmer in 1963. I was putting well and hitting it decently. Over the last three or four, five months, Ive hit it very well and putted very poorly. The Ryder Cup is all about the short game, really.
 
In some ways, I feel Id be a detriment to our team because my putting is streaky.
 
Lehman said he was cornered Tuesday by Chris DiMarco, who is currently sixth in the U.S. points standings and is all but a lock to make the team. DiMarco told him that he and other team members agreed that Lehman had to play if he qualified.
 
I go, Well, thats really nice, but I am the captain and I get to make that decision, Lehman said with a smile.
 
Lehman almost wrapped up a spot on his own team last week at The International. He lost in a playoff and moved to 19th in the current standings. A win would have put him in seventh place with just one qualifying tournament remaining.
 
The PGA Championship is the last chance for U.S. players to earn points for the Ryder Cup. The top 10 on the points list will automatically qualify for the team, which will try and win back the Cup from the Europeans Sept. 22-24 in Dublin, Ireland.
 
The European team will be finalized three weeks after the PGA.
 
As of now, the top 5 players on the U.S. list are guaranteed a spot on the team ' Tiger Woods; Phil Mickelson; Jim Furyk; Chad Campbell; and David Toms, who said Wednesday that he is nearly 100 percent healthy after dealing with a back injury. DiMarco is almost a certainty at sixth.
 
But the final four spots are up for grabs.
 
And the final four spots are currently held by would-be Ryder Cup rookies.
 
Vaughn Taylor, J.J. Henry, Zach Johnson and Brett Wetterich, respectively, occupy positions 7-10. Just beyond them are a few other players with no Ryder Cup experience: John Rollins at No. 11; Jerry Kelly at No. 13; and Lucas Glover at No. 14.
 
Lehman, however, isnt concerned that his team might consist of a quartet of first-timers.
 
Ive been saying all along, when it comes to the Ryder Cup, there was a time when Jack (Nicklaus) was a rookie, there was a time when (Tom) Watson was a rookie, there was a time when (Hale) Irwin, (Fred) Couples, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer ' they were all rookies at one time, he said.
 
So the idea of not having experience does not scare me at all.
 
Experience, Lehman said, isnt always a good thing ' not when that experience consists of nothing but defeat.
 
The U.S. has lost four of the last five Ryder Cup Matches, including an embarrassing 18 - 9 defeat on American soil two years ago.
 
But, the Yanks got big boost of confidence last year, when they won back the Presidents Cup over the International team. Lehman paid close attention to that contest and called it a very important victory for the Americans. He believes that the attitude the U.S. players displayed that week needs to transfer over in order for them to reverse the tide in this biennial competition.
 
When the American team won the Presidents Cup, I kind of felt like, you know what, thats one ' thats one off the list. Weve got one more to go. And so that was motivating to me, said Lehman, who has played on three Ryder Cup teams, including the last victorious squad in 1999.
 
To see them play well was important. To see the style in which they played was more important. They played very aggressively, they were loose, they had fun.
 
Enjoying oneself, Lehman believes, is essential to winning. Thats something he picked up from legendary basketball coach John Wooden when the two met earlier this year.
 
His whole things was, if you dont have fun, youre not going to love it, and if you dont love it, youre not going to work hard enough to be successful, Lehman shared.
 
The U.S. team has always seemed to play like they are afraid of losing something that they dont have, he added. The Cup isnt ours; its theirs. So that puts us in a different role, I think. We may be the underdogs.
 
That may well be the case given the Americans recent track record in the Ryder Cup. But, regardless of how many first-timers make this years team, they still have the top 3 players in the world in Woods, Mickelson and Furyk.
 
Thats important, said Lehman. Those guys are champions. I think they are going to bring that champion mentality to the rest of the team, whoever they might be.
 
Exactly. There are a myriad of possibilities, a bevy of players who could earn their way onto Lehmans team by weeks end.
 
The winner of the PGA will earn 675 points. Wetterich, currently in 10th place, has only amassed 746 points over the last two years. That means its possible for Robert Gamez, at 104th, to still make the team.
 
As for those with a more realistic chance, theyre trying their best to narrow down their focus to the immediate task at hand.
 
Theres one more week to win a tournament,' said No. 9 Johnson, who held the 54-hole lead at The International before ultimately finshing outside the top 10 and not earning any Ryder Cup points. 'Thats my thought process.'
 
Ive focused on (making the team) in the past and I didnt do well in tournaments. If I do well in the tournaments then the Ryder Cup takes care of itself, said No. 13 Kelly, who skipped the last two events to better prepare for this final trial.
 
No. 11 Rollins, who missed the cut while playing the first two rounds alongside Lehman last week, shares Kelly's approach. Im I focused on the PGA and trying to win the PGA. If I do that, then good things will happen,' he declared.
 
That, of course, is easier said than done.
 
Its tough. I just need to go play. Ive been thinking about points too much, said No. 15 Davis Love III, who has played on every Ryder and Presidents Cup team since 1993.
 
I know I can help out. I know I can add some experience. But you want to take the best players.
 
As to who Lehman will select with his two discretionary picks is anyones guess.
 
Even his.
 
Im going to be completely honest with you and say I dont have the first clue right now who Im going to pick, he said.
 
I dont want to sound like Im clueless about what Im looking for. Im just saying that theres about four or five or six guys that I think could really fit.
 
Which means Lehman will be as much spectator this week as competitor.
 
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

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    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

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