Sutton won't be a statistics
For golf fans, the fun of the Ryder Cup often goes beyond the shots struck.
Golf is an individual sport that once every two years becomes a team game and
allows the fans to partake in many of the things normally associated with the
other sports, such as quarterback controversies, choosing lineups and second-guessing
At the Ryder Cup, there are two most intriguing player issues.
* Which two players will be the captain's picks?
* What will the pairings look like? The final decisions in both instances are
the responsibility of the captain, Hal Sutton.
Sutton isn't a stats man. With 13 months still remaining before he must make
those decisions -- the wild-card picks come first -- Sutton isn't allowing himself
to get bogged down.
His decisions on behalf of the United States team for the 2004 Ryder Cup Match
at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills will be made as much on feel
and the moment as anything else.
"To me, stats are meaningless," Sutton said. "Truth is, we're
going to have different players, different courses every time. It's matching strengths
at that point. It's realizing who will be the best together at that time on that
golf course. I'm not sure past statistics prove that much. They might."
The points available to earn one of the 10 automatic spots on the team will
triple in value in 2004 to better reflect the players' performance nearer the
matches. Sutton is paying little attention on who stands where each week.
"I get (the player standings) each week on e-mail," Sutton said.
"I glance down, look at it, see the changes, and then I delete it.
"It's meaningless at this point. There are going to be so many more points
earned next year."
But already the top half of the team is a virtual certainty: Tiger Woods, Davis
Love, David Toms, Jim Furyk, Ken Perry. A few others are closing in, but those
players will be the core of the team. The rest will be identified over the next
year, and Sutton will add two captain's choices.
When all that is done and he has his 12-man team, the next critical decision
will be the lineup and the pairings. Every captain has his own ideas of how the
players should be paired. Some of the considerations are temperament, friendships,
style of play, whether some players prefer to sleep in or play at the crack of
dawn and even equipment.
Past captains have conjured up partnerships based on which players are using
what golf ball so that the transition in alternate shot matches is seamless. Alternate
shot, or foursomes, and four-balls (best ball) are the two formats used in pairings.
There are four foursomes and four four-ball matches in each of the first two days
of competition and 12 singles matches on the final day.
"Pairings are obviously important, but I really believe there will be
a lot of work done leading up to it, both on the players' part and on my part,
which will establish where we're at in terms of being ready to play or not being
ready to play," Sutton said.
"I think that's one thing the Europeans have done a nice job on, and one
of the things the writers have picked up on is that it looks like they're more
of a team when they get there. I don't know if that's something they've done prior
to that. I don't know. It's widely publicized that the Americans look like a bunch
of individuals playing out there, and they look like more of a team."
Sutton has available to him "a few things that might help in that situation"
to bring his squad together.
"When I get a better idea of who's going to be making the team, we might
invite 15 or 20 guys to dinner," he said. "Some guys who might make
the team and some guys we're sure are going to make it."
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