A Conversation with Captain Hal

By Rich LernerAugust 19, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 Ryder CupIm going to be decisive, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton told me Monday morning after he had announced that Stewart Cink and Jay Haas were on board. He said it as if he was about to lead the Crimson Tide of Alabama into a Saturday battle against Tennessee. Suttons an SEC football coach in soft spikes. He wont hesitate to tell his boys when theyve gone soft.
Im gonna ask everybody to be men, he emphasized. In the past weve been politically correct hoping to make people feel good.
Im gonna play the guys I think we need to play to win.
In other words, no whining if your names not called. Guys who are struggling may only play twice.
Sutton also stated that he wont pair guys simply because they like each other. Hal isnt looking to make players comfortable.
Hal even had the guts to suggest that right now Tiger Woods looks uncomfortable.
With his swing or with all the pressure heaped on his shoulders week to week? I asked.
The latter, the captain replied.
But Suttons not worried. Tiger will be ready, he said. Every time hes challenged he rises.
I wondered how Tiger was in the team room when Sutton played at The Belfry. He was good, Hal said. He can be pretty funny sometimes.
What remains to be seen is if Tiger, sometimes thought to be a lone wolf who doesnt thrive in the team environment, can embrace a leadership role. Sutton understands that will be one of his tasks in the month ahead.
Another will be to foster camaraderie. In the words of London Times golf writer John Hopkins, the Europeans come into every Ryder Cup as the featherweight but hit like the heavyweight. The romantic notion is that the Euros are the team that gathers round the bar and laughs and carries on deep into the night and then plays spirited golf by day. The Americans, the thinking goes, are in bed by 10:30 with milk and cookies, well rested but without much feeling for each other.
Sutton agrees that by nature the Europeans tend to eat together more often on the road than the Americans. He added with a smile, If its in my power we will come together as if were drinking beer at night and playing golf by day. In general though he believes putting may be more important than back slapping.

He has eight very good putters on his team, including his captains picks. Woods, Mickelson, Furyk, Toms, DiMarco and Riley can all, to use DiMarcos phrase, brush it.
Oakland Hills puts a premium on putting.
Youd rather have a 15-footer uphill than an 8-footer downhill, Sutton said.
Jay Haas, who played in 1983 and 1995, said, So often the team that wins is the team that consistently makes the 6- to 8-footers.
With just a couple par-5s at Oakland Hills, Sutton believes hell be able to strategically put his best putters in position to do what they do best on the par-3s.
Itll be set up a lot like a U.S. Open, which doesnt bode well for the Europeans.
Still, the Ryder Cup is funky. The Euros seem to enter another dimension every other year. And this time around, they dont look all that inferior to the U.S. on paper.
But paper at the Ryder Cup burns quickly. And while theres no chance the Americans will come in as the featherweight, maybe they can tip the public perception scales the other way and shed a few burdensome pounds. Marvin Hagler packed a pretty good punch as a middleweight, didnt he?
In any event, the U.S. has the right man in the corner. Suttons directive from the brass at The PGA of America was straight forward in a language the plain spoken man from Louisiana has always understood.
Win the Ryder Cup.
Email your thoughts to Rich Lerner
Related links:
  • U.S. and European Ryder Cup Points List

  • Full Coverage - 35th Ryder Cup
  • Getty Images

    Phil rubs fan's Donald Duck hat seven times, signs it

    By Nick MentaJune 18, 2018, 3:09 pm

    There is a case to be made that what Phil Mickelson did on Saturday made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

    There is also a case to be made that the USGA's setup of Shinnecock Hills made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

    Whatever you think about what Mickelson did on Saturday - and how he attempted to justify it after the fact without even a hint of remorse - watch this video.

    The next time you hear someone say, "If anybody else had putted a moving ball on purpose and not apologized for it, it would get a different reaction," you can point to this video and say, "Yeah, here's why."

    Here's what happened once a still-strident Mickelson was done rubbing Donald Duck hats on Sunday, per Ryan Lavner:

    If you’re wondering whether Mickelson would be defiant or contrite on Sunday, we don’t know the answer. He declined to stop and speak with the media, deciding instead to sign autographs for more than a half hour and then offering a few short answers before ducking into player hospitality.

    “The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’” he said. “I don’t know.”

    The 2024 Ryder Cup at Bethpage is going to be a three-ring circus, and Mickelson, a likely choice to captain the U.S. team, will be the ringmaster.

    Separately, shoutout to 2017 Latin Am champ Toto Gana, who does a terrific Donald Duck (skip to end).

    Getty Images

    Ryder Cup race: Mickelson out, Simpson in

    By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 2:34 pm

    There's a new man at the top of the U.S. Ryder Cup race following the U.S. Open, and there's also a familiar name now on the outside looking in.

    Brooks Koepka's successful title defense vaulted him to the top of the American points race, up four spots and ensuring he'll be on the team Jim Furyk takes to Paris in September. Dustin Johnson's third-place finish moved him past Patrick Reed at No. 2, while Webb Simpson entered the top eight after a a tie for 10th.

    While Bryson DeChambeau remained at No. 9, Phil Mickelson dropped two spots to No. 10. Tony Finau, who finished alone in fifth, went from 16th to 13th, while Tiger Woods fell two spots to No. 37.

    Here's a look at the latest U.S. standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically:

    1. Brooks Koepka

    2. Dustin Johnson

    3. Patrick Reed

    4. Justin Thomas

    5. Jordan Spieth

    6. Rickie Fowler

    7. Bubba Watson

    8. Webb Simpson


    9. Bryson DeChambeau

    10. Phil Mickelson

    11. Matt Kuchar

    12. Brian Harman

    On the European side, England's Tommy Fleetwood took a big stride toward securing his first Ryder Cup appearance with a runner-up finish that included a Sunday 63 while countryman Matthew Fitzpatrick snuck into a qualifying spot after tying for 12th.

    Here's a look at the updated Euro standings, with the top four from both points lists joining four picks from captain Thomas Bjorn at Le Golf National:

    European Points

    1. Tyrrell Hatton

    2. Justin Rose

    3. Tommy Fleetwood

    4. Francesco Molinari


    5. Thorbjorn Olesen

    6. Ross Fisher

    World Points

    1. Jon Rahm

    2. Rory McIlroy

    3. Alex Noren

    4. Matthew Fitzpatrick


    5. Ian Poulter

    6. Rafael Cabrera-Bello

    @jenamsims on Instagram

    Koepka autographs local kids' 'Go Brooks' sign after win

    By Grill Room TeamJune 18, 2018, 2:30 pm

    Brooks Koepka is a two-time U.S. Open winner, but that doesn't mean he's now too big to go sign a couple pieces of cardboard in somebody's front yard in the middle of the night.

    Koepka's girlfriend, Jena Sims, posted two pictures to her Instagram story on Sunday of "Go Brooks" signs she says were put up by some local kids in the area where Koepka was staying for the week.

    The first is dated prior to Koepka's final-round tee time.

    The second is from Sunday night.

    And here, separately, for no reason in particular (other than the fact that she posted it) is a video of Sims running over a parking cone at last year's U.S. Open at Erin Hills.

    Speaking of kids, just feels those two are gonna make it.

    Getty Images

    Koepka moves to No. 4 in world with U.S. Open win

    By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 2:05 pm

    After successfully defending his U.S. Open title, Brooks Koepka reached a new career high in the Official World Golf Ranking.

    Koepka held off Tommy Fleetwood to win by a shot Sunday at Shinnecock Hills, becoming the first player to go back-to-back in nearly 30 years. As a result, he jumped five spots in the latest rankings to No. 4, six spots higher than he reached with last year's U.S. Open victory at Erin Hills.

    Fleetwood finished alone in second place and moved up two spots to No. 10, tying his career-best placement. Patrick Reed moved up two spots to No. 11 by finishing fourth, while fifth-place Tony Finau went from No. 37 to No. 31.

    Updated Official World Golf Ranking

    It was a largely quiet week in the rankings despite the fact that a major championship was contested. Outside of Koepka and Finau, the only other player inside the top 50 to move up or down more than three spots was Jason Dufner, who went from 53rd to 48th with a T-25 finish.

    Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1 for the second consecutive week, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Koepka and Jordan Spieth. Jon Rahm dropped one spot to No. 6, with Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day and Fleetwood rounding out the top 10. Hideki Matsuyama fell two spots to No. 12, dropping out of the top 10 for the first time since October 2016.

    Despite a missed cut at Shinnecock, Tiger Woods actually moved up one spot to No. 79 in the latest rankings. He plans to play the Quicken Loans National and The Open in the coming weeks, which will be his final two chances to move into the top 50 in time to qualify for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. The event is being held for the final time this summer at Firestone Country Club, where Woods has won eight times.