Decision time looming for Hal Sutton
United States Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton will be feeling the heat during this week's U.S. PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin.
While the game's best players challenge for the last of the year's four majors, Sutton can only watch and wait -- in case he needs to make any last-minute changes before announcing his two wildcard selections in a week's time.
The day after the 86th U.S. PGA Championship is decided, Sutton will round out his 12-man team to take on Europe at Oakland Hills in Detroit, Michigan from September 17 to 19.
His two captain's picks are likely to come from Jeff Maggert, Scott Verplank, Stewart Cink, Jay Haas, British Open champion Todd Hamilton, Chris DiMarco and John Daly, though the likes of Fred Couples, Tim Herron, Jonathan Kaye, Charles Howell III and Scott Hoch cannot be ruled out.
The above names offer a good blend of experience, youth, raw talent and patriotism and Sutton could do no worse than perm any two from those 12.
Sutton, who prides himself as being decisive, has already penciled in his two preferences. He just needs to feel doubly certain by the end of this week's championship, the last counting event on the PGA Tour for U.S. Ryder Cup selection.
"I like a mix of all of it," the 46-year-old American told reporters. "I like experience and I like youth. I like guys that have both, and this team has a lot of that makeup, you know.
"I think the team is shaping up great. I'm really excited about it."
Assuming no change by the end of this week in the PGA Tour Ryder Cup standings, the 10 players who would automatically qualify for the U.S. team would be: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Davis Love III, Jim Furyk, Kenny Perry, David Toms, Chad Campbell, Fred Funk, Steve Flesch and Jerry Kelly.
Should Sutton decide to base his wildcard selections on the same standings, then Maggert and Verplank, at numbers 11 and 12, would get the nod.
But this week could throw up several possible scenarios as Ryder Cup points are doubled at majors and 34 players have a mathematical chance of qualifying for the automatic top 10.
Haas and twice major winner Daly would provide especially poignant Ryder Cup call-ups.
The 50-year-old Haas would become the oldest American to qualify for the team while big-hitting Daly, the eternal fans' favourite, would play in the team competition for the first time.
"He deserves consideration," Sutton said of Daly, who won the Buick Invitational in February and gave eventual winner Vijay Singh a run for his money on the last day before having to settle for second place at the Buick Open two weeks ago.
"But I'm not just looking at him. I'm looking at everything."
Daly is the only twice major winner never to have played at a Ryder Cup, and he did not help his cause by deciding against trying to qualify for last month's British Open.
"I don't know what's going on personally in everybody's life and I don't know why they're making those decisions, so I'm not going to judge them by that standard basically," Sutton added.
"But John has indicated to me that he would love to make the team."
Haas, who played in the 1983 and 1995 Ryder Cups, has not won on the PGA Tour since 1993. However, he has produced vintage form on this year's tour, with six top-10 finishes in 16 starts.
"And he's played better golf than John Daly the last two years," said Sutton. "But I'm only using John Daly as an example because that's the name everyone uses."
Sutton will announce his Ryder Cup team a fortnight before his opposing captain, Germany's Bernhard Langer, is scheduled to name his own 12-man lineup. Langer will add his two wildcard picks to the 10 automatic European qualifiers after this month's BMW International Open in Munich.
The fact that Sutton will be disclosing his Ryder Cup hand well before Langer may help the temperature rise a little higher for the American during this week's U.S. PGA Championship.
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