Above it all, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton peers intently at the list of who his team might be come September at Oakland Hills. All I do know is that the 12 players from each side show up, said Sutton, and we will decide who the best team of those 24 guys are.
The fact that European captain Bernhard Langer will possibly be handicapped by ineligible players doesnt make Sutton feel any more secure. Jesper Parnevik, Luke Donald, Carl Pettersson and Mathias Gronberg, players who might figure in Langers choice for wild card, have been nixed by the European Tour since they will not play in 11 tour events back home. Sutton will not be soothed by the thoughts of a Euro squad made more beatable by the group's absence.
Every time the Ryder Cup comes along, on this sheet of paper right now, everybody seems to think that the American team is the best, said Sutton, perusing the latest rankings at the recent EDS Byron Nelson Championship.
There's only one thing I can guarantee you - the Europeans always seem to pose a very worthy test because they've won six out of the last nine Ryder Cups. Whoever is on their team, I'm sure it will be testy for the United States to win it, and they're a formidable opponent, always.
Actually, in 1989 the two teams battled to a 14-14 tie, but Europe got the cup because it had won the time before. So Sutton is well aware that Europe has been plenty tough for the U.S. in recent years. Sutton himself has been on four American teams, three of them in the down years.
Now he is charged with pulling the strings, deciding the pairings and then selecting the order in which the American team will go out for singles Sunday. Its an awesome assignment for anyone, and Sutton knows that regardless of what happens, he will receive far too much credit, win or lose. He is particularly aware of the singles situation Sunday.
What I do know would help that situation is for us to do some awesome playing on Friday and Saturday, he said. That would make those decisions much easier, and that's my whole thing - to be ready to go Friday morning at 8 o'clock whoever hits the first shot for the United States (Sunday morning), he has to be ready.
Sutton is very sincere when he says he is pleased with his team should the Ryder Cup be played next week. And he says he particularly likes the zeal of those Americans who will be carrying the U.S. banner.
There's not a guy in the top 25 that I don't like and that I don't think wouldn't have burning desire if they made the Ryder Cup team, because I think they're aware of the opportunity of it, said Sutton.
'I'm not going to single anybody out yet, and the reason why I'm not going to do that is because it's too early to do it. It puts too much pressure on that person if they think I'm already just madly in love with them. But I will tell you that the 15 names right below the top 10, I like them all. And I love the top 10.
The top 10 this week is comprised of Woods, Mickelson, Love, Jim Furyk, Kenny Perry, Chad Campbell, David Toms, Jerry Kelly, Steve Flesch and Chris Riley.
The next 15, in order, are Jonathan Kaye, Jay Haas, Scott Verplank, Chris DiMarco, Fred Funk, Scott Hoch, Jeff Maggert, Stewart Cink, Kirk Tripkett, Tim Herron, Daly, Brad Faxon, Charles Howell III, Tway and Leonard.
And Sutton says that whoever makes the American team, they will have an inspirational captain if nothing else.
You know, we're going to run this a little bit more like a team, he says. We're going to be - I'm going to be more of like a jockey. I'm going to call on them. If they're running fast, I'm going to let them run. If they need a little whip, I'm going to give them a little whip.
I'm pretty emotional. I'm pretty passionate about what I think. There's a darn good chance I might pump my fist even if I don't hit the first drive or the last putt. I'll still be excited about it.
In short, it will be Hal Suttons job to make sure the team is as ready as possible when that day in September rolls around. Sutton will make certain of that. Hey - we have to be ready, no excuses. More than anything else, that will be my job, he says.
The Ryder Cup captaincy is Suttons primary job, he believes, to the extent that his duties take precedence over anything that Hal Sutton does on the golf course this season.
I'm thinking about it all the time, he said. You know, I want to do a good job.
That will maybe play a small part in making us a victorious team, so when you take pride in what you're doing, well, then it can affect what you're doing (on a personal basis.)
But that's all right. I said a few weeks ago, somebody asked me the state of my game, and I said, Does it matter? That's kind of how I feel. It matters to me. I like to play well, but this is the Ryder Cup year, and I'm excited about it.
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