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Cink immediately repays Sutton's faith

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton said on Monday that Stewart Cink's victory at the $7 million WGC-NEC Invitational "proved to the world" he was an ideal wildcard choice in the U.S. team.

Sutton added he did not need Cink's second win of the 2004 season to convince himself he had made the right decision in picking the 31-year-old American as one of his two wildcard selections with veteran Jay Haas.

"I guess it proved to the world, but I knew last Monday morning when I chose Stewart Cink that he was capable of doing that at any point in time," Sutton said in an interview with Reuters.

"He's played great for the last three months. I'm happy for him, but it didn't surprise me. I think he is going to be a tremendous asset to the U.S. team. He's smart. He's talented. He's a fiery player."

Europe have won five of the last nine Ryder Cup matches and will defend the trophy at Oakland Hills outside Detroit, Michigan from September 17 to 19.

Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia, Darren Clarke, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Lee Westwood secured their places in the European team as the leading five players in the Ryder Cup world points standings after completing the WGC-NEC Invitational.

Five more players will qualify from the European points standings after this week's BMW International Open in Munich, and European captain Bernhard Langer will add two wildcard selections.

The players who automatically qualified for the U.S. team were: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Davis Love III, Jim Furyk, Kenny Perry, David Toms, Chad Campbell, Chris DiMarco, Fred Funk and Chris Riley.

Sutton said the U.S. and Europe Ryder Cup teams were both going through a transitional period with several newcomers to the pressure of the biggest showdown in golf.

In 2002, Britain's Colin Montgomerie helped inspire Europe to victory with four wins and one tie, better than any other competitor, but the Scot is hoping for a wildcard pick for the 2004 match after a difficult year.

Sutton surprisingly named American Ryder Cup rookie Chris DiMarco when asked who might inspire the U.S. team next month in the same way that Montgomerie spurred on Europe at The Belfry in 2002.

"I think Chris DiMarco is a fiery person that says what is on his mind and has a fiery sort of game," said Sutton.

"I think he is the sort of guy who will stand up and say what he thinks at the team meeting and he will back it up with his play. He could be that guy for the U.S."

Sutton added that Tiger Woods, who held on to his world number one ranking by finishing joint runner-up to Cink at Firestone in Akron, Ohio on Sunday, will play a crucial role at Oakland Hills.

Sutton is confident the biggest name in golf can deliver for the U.S. team, despite his relatively poor record at the Ryder Cup. In 2002, Woods won twice, lost twice and tied once as Europe triumphed by 15-1/2 points to 12-1/2.

"I see Tiger playing a huge role any time he plays golf," said Sutton. "I think Tiger is going to be in form. I think he'll play great in the Ryder Cup."

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