For the record, Sutton is a man of four previous Ryder Cups with a record of 7-5-4. This week, his line of thinking and his point of direction might lead to 12 men walking off the course come Sunday as winners. His sense of direction appears that strong.
Hal Sutton, he of 14 career wins and more than 15 million dollars in earnings, is a man of strong desire and a tremendous belief that winning comes from believing. And this week Sutton, for all his speeches and pep talks, is finding it within himself to leave his troops to themselves in search of their own self-motivation. In other words, keep em guessing but keep em focused. And at all times, keep a belief in the plan.
Example #1: Bernhard Langer chose to present his players with Rolex watches as gifts before the matches begin. Suttons response ' He put a lot of pressure right off the bat, didnt he? Yes, we bought gifts, but Im not going to give it to the players until a little later on in the week. I want it to be a surprise.
Example #2: Suttons team dinner on Monday night upon arriving at Oakland Hills was a held at a restaurant chosen by Suttons wife Ashley. The special guest ' Michael Jordan. Jordan was called in for a quick speech and a lengthy appearance. The NBA legend has a fond affection for golf and a good deal of experience in handling pressure at its highest level. As Sutton told it, Jordans zest for the Ryder Cup and the American Ryder Cup team made him the prefect man to make each and every player feel special about just being a part of it.
Example #3: Langer actually had masseuses on board the European team flight to Detroit in an effort to get his team relaxed. When asked about how he will try to keep his team loose with such lofty expectations and a recent record in International team competition that isnt exactly glittering, Sutton responded, Not through masseuses. I think weve got a comedian coming in a little bit later or a trickster of something like that.
Example #4: Sutton shot back at a perception that the Americans havent displayed a strong sign of nationalism, patriotism or whatever it takes. And when asked if he was summoning things to convince his team that it has to care as much as the Europeans, Sutton simply turned around in his chair and pointed to the back of his powder blue shirt. Do you see whats on my back? Sutton asked. Yall see that flag? Anything I can summon up, thats what were going to do.
Hal Sutton gets it. Period. Thats not to say that Lanny Wadkins didnt. Or that Tom Kite wasnt a good leader, or that Curtis Strange wasnt passionate enough, or that Ben Crenshaw, despite winning, wasnt just perfect.
I just see something different in Sutton. And I have from the get-go. He seems to push all the right buttons and SAY all the right things.
Example #5: When asked about possible stylistic differences between the Americans and Europeans, Sutton fired off one of his best lines of the day. Theres always that perception that the Americans play the ball in the air and the Europeans play it on the ground, Sutton said. I think, as a matter of fact, if you go out there, (Tuesdays practice round) they dont have any trouble getting it in the air.
For all his quick-witted thinking and quips made in media news conferences, Sutton has made it clear that this is HIS team, and it will be left up to him and ultimately only him as to how to send it on its way.
Example #6: When asked about possible pairings for Fridays morning fourball matches, Sutton didnt tip his hand. In fact, hes told his team the same thing hes told the media. Hell let them know sometime around the noon hour. I told them last night that I wasnt going to set the pairings for the practice rounds. Dont read anything into anybody youre playing with. Be prepared to beat the other two guys by yourself and if I give you a little help, then thats a bonus.
Suttons two assistant captains Steve Jones (winner of the U.S. Open in 1996 at Oakland Hills) and Jackie Burke (7-1-0 in five Ryder Cup appearances in the 1950s) have been tossing around ideas about certain things. Some have been received well. Others as Sutton put it are not negotiable. And Sutton is a man who wants no confusion about where he stands on his decision making.
Example #7: Sutton in response to questions about how hes handling his own expectations thus far went like this: Probably yall are not going to write one article at the end of this week that said Jackie Burke made some decision that cost the American team from winning, or youre not going to say the same thing about Steve Jones, BUT, that is a possibility where Hal Sutton is concerned. So, I will be decisive and assertive with what I think is in the best interests of the team.
And you know what? The players like that from a Captainat least this captain.
Example #8: Jim Furyk was asked about Suttons tactics thus far. Hes a guy I played along side of, Furyk said. Hes got a lot of spirit.
He has a formula for what he wants to do. Not all of it (pairings) has been conveyed yet. Were getting bits and pieces every day. And hes letting us be individuals as well as being part of a team.
Hal Sutton has made things perfectly clear about preparation. Do it on their own. Do what they do. They know how to do it. Sutton said that if a player knows who his partner might be he might start worrying about his partners game instead of their own.
And as for Tiger Woodsleave no doubt about his form coming in and what impact that might have on his role on this team. And if this quote wont get Tiger to jump in step, then what will?
Example #9: Sutton on Woods. I dont think hes in any sort of slump right now. I mean, I aspire to be in his slumps!
So, no, no dont be worried about Tiger Woods. If thats your only worry, you have no worries.
I think yall might see some of Tigers greatest golf this week, so buckle your chin straps.
One final message was sent Tuesday by Sutton. He was baited by a European journalist on the topic of ambition on both sides of the
Atlantic leading to emotions that have spilled over that some felt were not in the spirit of golf. Brookline specifically was mentioned, and Sutton fired one last parting shot.
Example #10: Sutton to the journalist. Look, yall have been kind of like a bad marriage partner. Weve apologized for five years for what happened in 1999. So yall need to forget about that. If we had it to do over again, we would not have run out on the green. But the truth of the matter is, were going to be ourselves. So we are going out there and were going to be ourselves. No more apologies or anything else.
And thats how Suttons news conference ended. And for me, thats all I needed to hear. Hal Suttons team might not win back the Ryder Cup this week. But Sutton is proving to be a winner of a Captain already. At least thats how I see it.
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