It's not about Ryder Cup picks; it's about Woods et al

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor

MEDINAH, Ill. -- Tom Lehman could have picked Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus to round out his U.S. Ryder Cup team Monday, and although it would have been shocking, it really wouldn't have mattered.
Stewart Cink and Scott Verplank got the last two spots on the team that will try to stop the U.S. slide against Europe next month in Ireland, and Lehman gave numerous reasons why they will travel to the K Club. All are well and good, but Lehman should have saved his breath.
For the Americans to bring the Cup back, they need a better performance out of their top players.
All the second-guessing and consternation about who is better suited to play in this biennial team competition becomes moot when the players you expect to be there - Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk - step up and win a majority of the points.
It doesn't matter who gets along with whom, how the team practices, if they head to Ireland for a practice round next week or what the pairings will be. Yes, those are all factors that can help the cause. They are all analyzed in defeat.
But if Woods, Mickelson and Furyk play to their potential - they are ranked Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the world, after all - then the Americans should prevail.
"I'll tell you what's got to happen: Our big guys, Tiger and Phil, need to step up and win five points," said CBS-TV analyst Lanny Wadkins, who captained the 1995 team that lost to the Europeans. "They need to dominate. It's about time. That would change everything."
Woods' Ryder Cup record is 7-11-2 in four appearances. Mickelson is 9-8-3 in five appearances. And Furyk is 4-9-2 in four appearances, although he is 3-0-1 in singles.
It remains perplexing that Woods, the game's best and most intimidating player, is ordinary at the Ryder Cup. Perhaps it is a partner pulling him down. Maybe he, like everyone else, is not immune to the maddening nature of match play.
But the fact remains that Woods has not been a force. He is just 2-5-1 in foursomes, the alternate shot format that seems to give the Americans fits. Two years ago at Oakland Hills, Woods went 2-3.
At his news conference Monday to announce the picks, Lehman made it clear he "would go crazy" if anyone questioned Woods' desire to win the Ryder Cup - as some have in the past.
"Tiger Woods cannot wait to play in this Ryder Cup," Lehman said. "He is looking forward to playing in this Ryder Cup every bit as much as the PGA Championship, the British Open, the Masters and the U.S. Open. ... Tiger told me, 'We've got some young guys on the team. Don't worry about the young guys, I'll take care of them.' That tells you about the leadership of our team."
Woods likely will be paired with Furyk, a team that worked well at last year's Presidents Cup. You can all but pencil in Mickelson and Chris DiMarco, who also were formidable.
Cink and Verplank were picked as much for their experience as for their style of play. Both have played in the Ryder Cup, and both are considered straight drivers and good putters. Lehman has made it a point to say he believes the short game is crucial in the Ryder Cup.
More important, however, will be getting points out of the great players.
SLEEPING ON IT: The decision to pick Cink and Verplank was not easy, Lehman said. In fact, he didn't finalize the picks until Monday morning. He said he contacted every player between No. 11 and No. 25 on the points list to inform them.
SEEING RED: It was a bit of a surprise to see Luke Donald show up for Sunday's final-round pairing with Woods wearing red - the signature Sunday color for Woods. If it was meant as some sort of show of force, it didn't work, as Donald shot 74 and didn't make a birdie.
"I didn't think anything of it," Woods said. But he added, "I thought it was kind of weird to have a blue belt with it."
AROUND MEDINAH: With 21 sub-par scores in the fourth round of the PGA, Medinah yielded 170 for the tournament. That was well short of the PGA record of 194 set in 1995 at Riviera Country Club. ... Woods' win helped CBS' TV ratings increase 22 percent from last year to 7.2 with a 16 share The rating is the percentage of all homes with TVs, whether in use or not. The share is the percentage of in-use TVs tuned to a given show.
GATOR SHOOTS 60: Florida sophomore Billy Horschel shot a USGA championship record 11-under 60 to take the first-round lead in the U.S. Amateur stroke play qualifying in Chaska, Minn. It broke the previous record of 62 set by current LPGA star Christina Kim at the 2001 U.S. Girl's Amateur and by PGA Tour veteran Loren Roberts at this year's U.S. Senior Open. Horschel had an eagle and nine birdies, including on the par-5 18th after putting his drive in the water.