The standings for the next U.S. team began the week after the PGA Championship, and Cink got off to a good start by winning the NEC Invitational and tying for fourth at the Canadian Open.
The bigger question is when the PGA of America will select the next U.S. captain.
Hal Sutton and Curtis Strange were interviewed during the Funai Classic at Disney, so that would be a typical timetable. And it doesnt hurt that Mark OMeara, Paul Azinger, Corey Pavin and Tom Lehman traditionally play Disney.
Of those four, Azinger is a lock to be captain'its just a matter of which year.
No one displays a greater passion for the Ryder Cup than Azinger, who mixed it up with Seve Ballesteros and fought Nick Faldo to a meaningless draw in 1993 even though he had cancer.
OMeara has said he wants to be Ryder Cup captain and he is a logical choice given his strong relations to Ireland, site of the 06 matches. But while OMeara has the best record of any other candidate'five Ryder Cup teams, two majors, 16 career victories'he upset the PGA of America in 1997 over the money it makes off the Ryder Cup.
Lehman has that Ryder Cup spirit, although his record is lacking with only five tour victories. Pavin has 14 victories, a U.S. Open and an 8-5-0 record in the three Ryder Cups he played, although this will be the eighth straight year he finished out of the top 30 on the money list, and some wonder if he has lost touch with his peers.
One other player that should not be overlooked: Fred Couples.
He is immensely popular with the players and has played on five Ryder Cup teams. He has become the Yogi Berra of golf with some of the things he says (Im a lot older than I was 10 years ago), but is sharper than people realize.
Kenny Perry has decided to withdraw from the American Express Championship next week in Ireland, which could hurt his chances of getting into the Tour Championship.
Perry is 27th on the money list, and the $7 million World Golf Championship event has no cut.
He just felt like he has played a lot of golf, and he wanted to take a break, said David Parker, Perrys agent at Links Sports. Hes always taken September and most of October off, so its just timing. And this is right after the Ryder Cup.
SETTING THE STANDARD
Jay Haas plans to play a full PGA Tour schedule against next year as a 51-year-old, in part because he wants to try to make the Presidents Cup team.
Plus, he still likes to compete against the best.
Haas thinks he will set a trend for other players in their late 40s to keep playing on the PGA Tour until they have lost their desire or their ability to compete.
All the guys realize'and this is a backhanded compliment'they look at me and say, If he can do it, I can do it, Haas said.
Haas also wonders whether Hale Irwin'the oldest U.S. Open champion at age 45'could have continued to compete, perhaps even win, if he had chosen to stay on the PGA Tour. The 59-year-old Irwin has won 40 times on the Champions Tour, and this season became the first senior with over $20 million in career earnings.
If there was no Champions Tour, they would still be here, Haas said.
Along with making the Ryder Cup team, Haas stayed on the PGA Tour after some advice from Tom Kite.
He just said, Play as much as you can for as long as you can out here. Once you leave, you cant go back, Haas said. Once Ive turned the page, I dont know that I can be as competitive as I want to be. I know its going to end sometime soon, but Ive enjoyed doing it.
Western Open champion Stephen Ames is having his best year and has become one of the top 20 players in the world, meaning the Presidents Cup could have its first player from Trinidad & Tobago.
Or maybe not.
Im not a big fan of team playing, Ames said. When that time comes for me to play the Presidents Cup, then Ill decide if Im going to play or not. I might be the first not to play.
Ames said his disinterest in team matches stems from control.
If its alternate shot, I could be standing up against a tree or in a tree trying to hit the next shot, and I didnt put it there myself, he said.
He has played team matches at the World Cup with his brother'the only other top golfer from the tiny Caribbean country'but for different reasons.
The extra cash just put me over the edge, he said. It was a Christmas present every year.
It wont be long before Hal Sutton and Bernhard Langer do battle again, this time with their clubs. They have agreed to play in the UBS Cup matches Nov. 18-21 at Kiawah Island, the made-for-TV exhibition between the United States and the rest of the world. Half of the team is 40-49, the other half 50 and older. Jay Haas and Colin Montgomerie also will play. ... Vijay Singh can lock up the PGA Tour money record with a second-place finish at the 84 Lumber Classic. He is only $488,755 away from the record Tiger Woods set in 2000, but the 41-year-old Fijian is guaranteed about $116,000 from the no-cut American Express Championship and the Tour Championship. ... Bobby Jones is going digital. The Warner Bros. is releasing Jones famous instructional films, How I Play Golf and How to Break 90 on DVD. The first film originally was produced in 1931 after Jones won the Grand Slam.
STAT OF THE WEEK
By winning the Texas Open at 41, Bart Bryant became the oldest first-time winner on the PGA Tour since Ed Dougherty (47) at the 1995 Deposit Guaranty Golf Classic in Mississippi.
If I had my way, she would be in every event we play because she has a bigger gallery than Annika now, and thats saying something.'Laura Davies, on Michelle Wie playing in the Samsung World Championship.
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