Notes Verplank MIA Miller Irritating US

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36th Ryder Cup MatchesSTRAFFAN, Ireland -- Scott Verplank must be wondering why Tom Lehman picked him for the Ryder Cup.
 
After not playing on the first day of the matches, Verplank -- an alternate-shot specialist because he is among the straightest hitters in golf -- was sent out in a fourballs match Saturday morning. He and Zach Johnson produced the only U.S. victory.
 
Then Verplank returned to the bench.
 
'I would be lying if I told you I wasn't disappointed and feel like I shouldn't have another chance or two,' Verplank said. 'But I'll have another chance tomorrow, and hopefully ... we'll still have a chance as a group to win. That's what we're all here for.'
 
Even so, it was peculiar.
 
Only one other American to make the team as a captain's pick has played only one team match -- Paul Azinger in 2002, the year the Ryder Cup was delayed one year because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
 
Stranger still was that Lehman told Verplank on Thursday night that he would not play in either match Friday, which would indicate it didn't matter how anyone performed in the opening session.
 
Verplank finished 20th in the Ryder Cup standings, so it was considered a bold move for Lehman to take him.
 
'One of the things that I think our team needs is somebody who can really putt and really can chip, who can drive the ball, put it in the fairway, who is a tough, tough, tough competitor, who will never quit, never give up,' Lehman said of Verplank the day he picked him.
 
Apparently, that didn't come with a guarantee to play.
 
Johnson made all the birdies in their 2-and-1 victory, although Verplank's contributions were quiet. He was in virtually every hole, assuring the Americans no worse than par.
 
'It was a team effort, regardless of what anybody says,' Johnson said.
 
Verplank said Lehman approached them on the 13th hole to tell Johnson he would play in a foursomes match Saturday afternoon.
 
'I said, 'Am I playing this afternoon?' And he said, 'No,'' Verplank said. 'And I said, 'We're going to win this match. I'd like to play.' But he already had it set. And fortunately, we won the match.'
 
Verplank tried to say all the right things, although it was an awkward handshake with Lehman after his fourball victory, and Verplank walked away shaking his head.
 
After a team meeting Saturday evening, Lehman said Verplank was fine.
 
'I'm sure he's disappointed -- or was disappointed -- and that's what makes him such a great competitor,' Lehman said. 'I simply felt that this afternoon, we needed to put what I considered to be our best teams out there.'
 
Verplank said ultimately he cared only about winning. A captain's pick in 2002, he played both foursomes matches and went 2-1 in another U.S. loss.
 
'If we win the Ryder Cup, captain Lehman is going to look like a genius,' Verplank said. 'And that's what I'm hoping.'
 
DRESS CODE
Ian Woosnam and Tom Lehman have to guess how the other captain is going to arrange his team for each session of matches. Apparently, they don't trade secrets on uniforms, either.
 
Both teams arrived on the first tee Saturday morning wearing dark slacks and blue shirts, and the only way to tell them apart was when the Americans put on their black sweaters.
 
The Americans kept their same uniforms for the afternoon, while the Europeans switched to a lavender top.
 
SMALL MAN AND A BIG HEART
The sure sign Europe is in the lead is when Colin Montgomerie turns into a standup comic.
 
Sergio Garcia was asked about the attributes of captain Ian Woosnam, especially after Europe built a 10-6 lead.
 
'He might be a short man, but he's got a huge heart,' Garcia said.
 
Monty interrupted.
 
'He IS a short man,' Montgomerie said of the 5-foot-4 captain. 'There's no question about that, Sergio. He is a short man with a very, very big heart.'
 
'But I think he's grown about 3 inches this week,' Garcia countered.
 
MILLER TIME
Johnny Miller might have been getting on the nerves of U.S. players without even knowing it.
 
Ryder Cup officials made available NBC Sports' raw feed, which included the chatter during commercial breaks. Miller had no shortage of material, whether it was Tiger Woods' sloppy game or Scott Verplank needing to 'wake up' because his partner, Zach Johnson, was making all the birdies.
 
Once it was pointed out the raw feed was going to the U.S. team room, it mysteriously ended.
 
There was talk the U.S. players decided not to speak to NBC, but Chris DiMarco said that wasn't the case and that players weren't even listening.
 
'We don't flatter him that way,' he said.
 
Miller's most infamous line at the Ryder Cup was in 1999, when it was suggested Justin Leonard should have sat out a team match Saturday when Europe was dominating. Miller said Leonard should have stayed home.
 
The Americans rallied around that remark, winning at Brookline when Leonard holed a 45-foot putt on the 17th.
 
'Since then, nobody really hears anything he says,' Verplank said. 'I don't think he's important enough to inspire Tiger or Phil.'
 
JUNIOR CHEERLEADERS
The gang in U.S. team clothes hanging around the 16th green Saturday morning was doing its best to cheer on their fellow Americans.
 
It was the junior Ryder Cup team, just back from their matches in Wales, and they were determined to make their voices heard over that of thousands of European supporters in the nearby bleachers.
 
The crowd had been serenading the Europeans with a rousing 'Ole, Ole, Ole,' and the U.S. juniors tried to come up with their own version of the song. Failing that, they reverted to a basic 'USA, USA' chant.
 
That's what greeted Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood as they arrived at the green with Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk. The group kept it up as the two Europeans arrived at Clarke's ball, which was just off the back edge of the green only a few feet away from them.
 
Then they stopped, except for one unfortunate cheerleader who kept going.
 
'Didn't you get the memo?' an amused Westwood asked him.
 
Clarke wasn't exactly intimidated. He walked up to his ball in the muddy rough and calmly chipped it into the hole, sending the crowd into a frenzy and giving the Euros a win.
 
Next to the green, though, things grew suddenly quiet.
 
DIVOTS
Zach Johnson made seven birdies as he and Scott Verplank won their fourballs match Saturday morning. That's more birdies than Chris DiMarco and Phil Mickelson made combined in their two fourball matches at the Ryder Cup. ... Mickelson now is 1-7-1 in his last nine Ryder Cup matches. ... Europe's captains picks (Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood) have contributed half of Europe's 10 points. ... Sergio Garcia didn't play Tiger Woods on Saturday, but he still took a shot at him. Asked why the Europeans got along so well, Garcia said it was important to laugh about bad shots and give encouragement. 'You don't give them any weird looks or anything like that,' he said. It was a reference to the last Ryder Cup, when Woods looked disgusted after his partner, Phil Mickelson, hit a 3-wood on the final hole at Oakland Hills that one-hopped off a fence and cost them the match.
 
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