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Hal Sutton closing in on Captain's picks

United States Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton is likely to opt for strong finishers when he announces his two wildcard selections in five days' time.

The battle for the last few spots in the U.S. team to take on Europe at Oakland Hills has intensified in recent weeks and Sutton's two picks could come from a minimum of 10 players.

"I don't want to single any one player out on who I might pick, but we want people that finish strongly in my team," the 46-year-old Sutton told a news conference on Wednesday, the eve of the 86th U.S. PGA Championship.

"I'm looking at the way a guy finishes, and the last few holes -- 16, 17 and 18 -- has a great deal to do with what will happen in a match.

"In 1987, if we could have just played the 18th hole, the outcome of that match would have been a lot different. In 1987 at Muirfield (Village at Columbus, Ohio), we lost the 18th hole practically every time our guys played it."

The Americans lost to the Europeans by 15 points to 13 that year.

Sutton will round out his 12-man team on Monday, the day after the U.S. PGA Championship at Whistling Straits is decided.

Assuming no change by the end of this week in the PGA Tour Ryder Cup standings, the 10 players who would automatically qualify would be: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Davis Love III, Jim Furyk, Kenny Perry, David Toms, Chad Campbell, Fred Funk, Steve Flesch and Jay Haas.

However, only 29 points separate Flesch in ninth place from Scott Verplank in 14th, and Sutton is expecting a tense battle in this week's major as those players bid to advance their positions.

"That's not very many points there between ninth and 14th place, so we may see some jockeying around after this week," he said.

"My advice to everybody that is outside that top 10 -- and to those that are in probably eighth, ninth and 10th -- is you'd better go after it this week because there's a bunch of guys right behind you that are going to be going after it."

Sutton's captain's picks are likely to come from Jerry Kelly, Jeff Maggert, Scott Verplank, Stewart Cink, 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.

Whatever the final make-up of his U.S. team, Sutton conceded there was very little he could do during the week of the Ryder Cup to make a difference.

"The nuts and bolts of whether someone wins or loses the Ryder Cup will be if the 12 guys that make the team play well that week," he said.

"If they don't, nothing a captain can do will make up for that. And if they do, I probably couldn't do anything to get in their way to keep them from winning it.

"These guys are champions and they know what to do. I think that the role of the captain is overstated the week of the matches."

The 35th Ryder Cup will be held at Oakland Hills in Detroit, Michigan from September 17 to 19.

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