Hes definitely going to get consideration, Sutton told me Sunday night. But not necessarily because Daly can light the kind of primal fan fire that swept across Brookline five years ago, carrying the Stars and Stripes to the greatest comeback ever on one of the greatest Sundays in American golf history.
Maybe, I dont know, Sutton pondered when asked if Dalys hold on galleries would be a factor in his decision. I would hope we can light a fire with the way we play, more so than who we bring to the table.
Sutton emphasized that he wont overly complicate the process. Im looking for the guy whos playing the best at the time, he said. And hes certainly playing well right now.
So, too, are Scott Verplank, who is 12th on the points list, and Stewart Cink, 13th.
Theres a guy playing pretty good right there, Sutton remarked when Cinks name came up. In his last three starts, Cinks finished fifth at the Buick Open, T14 at the British Open, and T8 at the John Deere Classic.
Verplanks also been steady, with a T10 at Buick, T11 in Milwaukee and T7 at the British Open. Its no secret that Suttons a Verplank ally. They partnered at The Belfry and Verplank plays a Sutton kind of game. Hes second in driving accuracy, 25th in greens hit and sixth in scoring. Sutton would love Verplank to make the top 10 so he doesnt have to spend a captains pick on him, but if not, Verplanks a near lock to be chosen.
Which means that if theres no change at the PGA Championship (a big if), then Daly, 20th in the standings, will have to make a more compelling case than Cink, No. 11 Jeff Maggert and Jay Haas, who is 14th in points.
Cinks strength is his putting. Hes No. 1 on tour in putting average. He also makes birdies. He went 1-2 in his first Ryder Cup in 2002, but was 4-0 at The Presidents Cup in 2000.
Jeff Maggert is even more experienced with a 6-5 record in three Ryder Cup appearances. Maggert, as accuracte as they come, and strong in alternate shot, was third at the U.S. Open but will not play the PGA Championship because his wife is expecting in the middle of the month
As for Haas, his no fault, no frills game is well suited to difficult venues. Remember, he unfurled that mind boggling 71 on the final day at Shinnecock when the field struggled to break 80. Statistically, nothing really jumps out except the most important category of all. Haas is ninth on tour in scoring average.
So then, putting aside the obvious impact long John would have on the crowds, heres the statistical case for Daly.
Hes third in putting average, fifth in birdie average, first in all-around, 21st in greens in regulation and interestingly, first in bounce back.
Having earned a reputation as a guy who would simply quit mentally when things went badly, Dalys shown a legitimate toughness this year. The bounce back stat measures the percentage of time a player is over par on a hole and then under par on the next hole. Ernie Els is second in that category, Phil Mickelson third and Vijay Singh fourth. Yeah, Dalys first in bounce back.
Thats the hard evidence. Its the soft hands that Sutton likes.
One thing he has going for him, Sutton said, is that he has a great short game and at Oakland Hills thats important.
Two question marks will dog Daly: can he hit fairways in alternate shot and will he keep it together emotionally on the eve of such a pressure packed moment?
Sutton has plenty to think about. But if he selects Daly, he would stamp himself as a leader not afraid of risk.
The U.S. team has been great on paper. It hasnt always been great when all is said and done. The U.S., with enough steady and dependable types like Furyk, Toms, and Campbell, could use a little more grease in the frying pan just to add some flavor to a mix that at times has been a bit bland. Daly can do that. And he can play.
Whoever he picks, Daly said diplomatically, really theyre going to play good. And I think weve got a really good shot at winning this year.
Notice he said we. Daly wants the Ryder Cup. Hes never played, not even when he won majors in 1991 and 1995. He wants it. The fans want it.
Cant you picture Daly breaking out his guitar to cut the tension on Saturday night in the team room? How about Daly and Tiger teaming up for a best ball match?
Go ahead Captain. Light the fuse. Pick John Daly.
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