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Tom Lehman backs Tiger Woods for Ryder Cup success

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman has no concerns over Tiger Woods's commitment to the biennial team competition.

Although Woods has never been entirely comfortable with the event's playing format, Lehman is backing him to play a significant role at the K Club in County Kildare, Ireland from September 22-24.

"Matchplay is a matter of the heart," Lehman told reporters on Wednesday as he prepared for this week's Bay Hill Invitational in Orlando, Florida.

"It's all about what's inside of you, and we all know that Tiger Woods has more inside of him than any three guys put together almost.

"He's got an incredible amount of heart. He's also got a pretty strong singles record."

Widely regarded as the best player in the game since Jack Nicklaus, world number one Woods has been criticised in the past for lacking team commitment at Ryder Cups.

The 30-year-old American claims this is more a reflection of his personal style but the statistics reflect his failure to make much of an impact in his four previous Cup matches with a mediocre return of seven wins, 11 losses and two halves.

Lehman was hugely impressed, though, with what he saw of Woods in last year's Presidents Cup at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Virginia where the U.S. beat the Internationals by 18-1/2 points to 15-1/2.

"He played extremely well and he won a lot of matches," Lehman said. "He and Jim Furyk teamed up together beautifully, so I'm not at all concerned about that."

Woods and 2003 U.S. Open champion Furyk won 2-1/2 points out of three in the two fourballs and one foursomes match they played together.

Lehman, a veteran of three Ryder Cups as a player, underlined the unpredictability of matchplay golf.

"Matchplay is the kind of thing where anyone can get beaten," he said. "Number 150 can beat number one any day over 18 holes.

"Then you throw the team thing in and maybe you're not playing well or your partner is not playing well or your drive is in the rough a few too many times. Before you know it, you've gotten beat."

Lehman expects the general shape of his 12-man team for the K Club to be decided by the July 20-23 British Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in England.

"I'm sure it will work out this year the way it always has," the 46-year-old American said. "Most of the team is solidified by the end of July.

"There are usually only a few spots that end up changing names a whole lot from the British Open on."

Lehman reiterated the statement he made earlier this year that he had not ruled out the possibility of being a player at the K Club.

"As a team, we would be completely foolish to not put our 12 best guys on the golf course, whoever they are," he said.

"Knowing how strong the European Team is and how well they play, to have a chance to beat those guys, you need to have your 12 best guys."

Lehman has produced some of his best golf in nearly a decade this season and lies 11th in the U.S. Cup standings after top-seven finishes in his last three PGA Tour starts.

He would need to get into the top 10 by the end of the U.S. PGA Championship at Medinah, Illinois on Aug. 20 to qualify for the team on merit.

March 16, 2006


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