Sutton Named 2004 US Ryder Cup Captain


The speculation came to an end Thursday as the PGA of America announced Hal Sutton as the United States captain for the 2004 Ryder Cup.
In a press conference held at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield, Mich., site of the 35th Matches, Sutton was officially named the 23rd different person to captain the U.S. side.
Im overwhelmed, honored, looking forward to the challenge, Sutton said. Its one of the greatest honors any player could have bestowed upon them.
Sutton is a four-time Ryder Cup team member. He competed in 1985 and 87, and then waited 12 years for his next appearance. As a 41-year-old, he went 3-1-1 in helping the Americans to a startling come-from-behind victory at Brookline in 1999.
He went 1-1 this year at The Belfry, making his career Ryder Cup record 7-5-4. His loss came in the singles matches to Bernhard Langer, who is on the short list to be the next European captain.
But more than his record, Sutton has been credited with being the teams emotional and locker-room leader.
He is now shouldered with the task of bringing the Cup back to the States. Europe defeated the U.S. last month in Sutton Coldfield, England. They have held onto the Cup six of the last nine competitions.
We possess all kinds of talent in America when it comes to golf, Sutton said. We got the worlds greatest player and the worlds second-greatest player on our team. I dont know what the missing ingredient is right now other than that I think we need to become more passionate about it.'
'In no way do I want anyone to have the impression that the American players are not passionate about winning the Ryder Cup,' he added. 'Let's face it, everybody wants to knock the Americans off, you know, and they get pretty intense about doing that. We need to be just as intense to make sure that that doesn't happen.'
One of the players criticized for a perceived lack of passion about the Ryder Cup is Tiger Woods. Woods didn't help matters when he said he would rather win the $1 million first-place prize at the American Express Championship than win the Cup.
Such statements - even though Tiger later said he made them in jest - and a career 5-8-2 Ryder Cup record, make Woods an easy target as one who is far more concerned with individual accomplishments than being a team player.
'I would like to challenge Tiger to look at Jack Nicklaus' Ryder Cup record (17-8-3), and let's go after that one, too,' said Sutton. 'Jack understood the passion of the Ryder Cup and what it was like to play.
'Tiger's the greatest, if not the greatest one of the greatest players that we've ever seen in the game. And he's going to bring that game out this next time, I assure you.
'I want him to quarterback this team; I want him to lead this team.'
Sutton was earmarked the next Nicklaus after he defeated the legend for his first major title at Riviera in 1983. Beginning in his first full season in '82, he won seven times in five seasons, including The Players Championship and the PGA Championship.
But a seemingly Hall-of-Fame career hit a wall a couple of years later.
Sutton went winless on tour from 1986 to 1994. He ended that drought with a victory in the 95 B.C. Open, but again failed to win the next two seasons.
Everything changed, however, once he turned 40. He won six times from 1998-2001, adding another Players Championship (2000) trophy to his mantle, as well as the 98 Tour Championship, when he held off Woods.
Sutton has dealt with nagging back injuries and sleep apnea over the last 18 months, and has made only 11 cuts in 26 starts this year. Still, he says he will continue to play a full schedule over the next two years, though he wont compete on the 2004 team should he again qualify.
I waited a few days to say I would take the captaincy, Sutton said. I dont want to throw in the towel as a player. I still dont feel Ive accomplished everything that I can. Its been a tough year for me this last year and I do want to continue to play, and play at a high level.
'I think part of being a captain is being current. I think I need to be out there, I need to be listening to these guys, communicating with these guys, and I need to be playing well enough that they respect me a little bit.'
Europes captain is expected to be chosen by the end of the year. Langer and Ian Woosnam, a vice-captain to Sam Torrance in 2002, are among the leading candidates.