Cink and Verplank Tabbed as Captains Picks

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36th Ryder Cup MatchesMEDINAH, Ill -- Tom Lehman filled out the U.S. Ryder Cup team Monday by taking Stewart Cink and Scott Verplank as his captain's picks, hoping experience and accuracy will help his squad end a dozen years of European dominance.
 
Cink was a captain's pick two years ago, and the 33-year-old has been one of the few Americans to play well over the last two months in moving up to No. 12 in the standings.
 
Verplank was a surprise.
 
He was a top candidate to be a pick going into the PGA Championship because of his accuracy off the tee and his putting, along with his 2-1 record at The Belfry in 2002 when Verplank became the first Ryder Cup rookie to make the team as a pick.
 
But Verplank, 42, missed the cut at Medinah after taking two double bogeys over the final three holes. He finished 20th in the Ryder Cup standings and was picked over players like Lucas Glover (No. 14), Davis Love III (No. 15) and Tim Herron (No. 17).
 
Lehman said he had a short list of six players -- the two picks, Glover, Love, Steve Stricker and vice captain Corey Pavin. He didn't make his decision until Monday morning, and said the phone call to Glover was the toughest.
 
'Our team is unbelievably motivated to win,' Lehman said. 'I feel very confident with this team.'
 
It will be a largely unknown U.S. team that goes to The K Club in Ireland on Sept. 22-24 to try to beat Europe for the first time since 1999. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson easily qualified, and the top six are loaded with players familiar to these matches -- Jim Furyk, Chad Campbell, David Toms and Chris DiMarco.
 
But the bottom four are not exactly household names.
 
Vaughn Taylor has never played match play in his life. Also on the team is J.J. Henry and Brett Wetterich, who won PGA Tour events for the first time in their career over the last four months, along with Zach Johnson.
 
Missing from the U.S. team for the first time since 1993 is Davis Love III.
 
Love has played on every team -- Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup -- since 1993, the longest streak of any American. He was fourth in the standings at the start of the season, but has not finished in the top 10 since his runner-up finish to Geoff Ogilvy in the Accenture Match Play Championship at La Costa.
 
'Davis hasn't played well, plain and simple,' Lehman said. 'He's been injured. He's still slightly injured. With all the experience he has and all he has accomplished, I still want to have guys playing well.'
 
After two years of qualifying and two captain's picks, the U.S. team isn't much different from last time.
 
The 2004 team had five rookies and five players who had won on the PGA Tour that year. This American squad has four rookies, but seven players who have won in 2006.
 
The new points system was designed to emphasize playing well in the year of the matches, with a 75-point bonus for winning and quadruple points in the major championships.
 
But that only raised questions about Lehman's picks.
 
Cink hasn't won on the PGA Tour since the NEC Invitational two years ago, right after Hal Sutton picked him for the '04 team. He was a safe pick, and one of the few Americans who have shown any form the last two months with three top 5s. Cink tied for 24th at the PGA Championship, closing with a 69 while playing with Pavin.
 
Verplank last won at the 2001 Canadian Open, two weeks after Curtis Strange made him a captain's pick.
 
In the four majors this year, the captain's picks have only one top 10 between them -- Cink was 10th at the Masters.
 
Lehman relied heavily on a separate, unofficial list that awarded points to U.S. players in PGA Tour events, concerned that so many international players on tour made it difficult for Americans to finish in the top 10.
 
Cink was sixth on those standings, while Verplank was ninth.
 
Cink will be playing in his third Ryder Cup team. He has a 2-4-1 record and lost both his singles matches. Verplank was strong in 2002 at The Belfry, beating Lee Westwood in singles. He also is a former U.S. Amateur champion.
 
Verplank said he slept with his cell phone under the pillow, hopeful of a call from Lehman.
 
'I'm so pumped,' he said. 'To me, it's the premier event in the world. I haven't won a major -- maybe one day I'll get that done if Tiger takes a couple of years off or something. I don't know how you can have a better event than the Ryder Cup. I told Tom I was put on this earth to play in things like this.'
 
Europe's will be decided in two weeks, after the Bridgestone Invitational this week and the BMW International Open in Germany.
 
European captain Ian Woosnam was not surprised by the U.S. picks.
 
'Clearly, Tom's decision to go with experience provides the United States with balance, considering that there are four rookies in their team,' Woosnam said. 'Both have played Ryder Cup, World Cup and Presidents Cup golf for their country, and therefore will bring a lot of international experience to Ireland.'
 
Europe has captured the cup seven of the last 10 times. It won 18 1/2 -9 1/2 last time, its largest margin of victory ever.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - 36th Ryder Cup Matches
  • U.S. Ryder Cup Points List