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Tom Lehman seeks Ryder Cup passion

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman prizes passion above experience in the make-up of his team to take on Europe at the K Club in Ireland next month.

"I'm not the kind of person that thinks it's everything to have the experience of having played (the Ryder Cup) before," Lehman said during a teleconference on Tuesday.

"It doesn't take long to get used to that environment. Practice rounds, you're nervous. The first match is always nerve-wracking.

Lehman said he believed a good player who was mentally strong would be able to handle the pressures of the Ryder Cup, regardless of whether he had played in it or not.

"There's also an intangible: Just how badly do you want it?" added the 47-year-old American.

"There are some guys who want it so bad, they would do anything. They would run through a wall.

"It's tough to weigh that, what it's worth to the team. But when a person is willing to do anything to get on the team, that's worth something."

While veteran PGA Tour players such as Fred Couples and Davis Love III are likely candidates for his two wildcard picks, Lehman is excited four rookies are in the frame for automatic selection with just three events remaining.

J.J. Henry, Zach Johnson, Brett Wetterich and John Rollins occupy the final four spots in the Cup standings and would qualify for the team on merit if they retain top-10 positions by the end of the PGA Championship at Medinah on Aug. 20.

While none of that quartet would have the European team quaking in their boots, Lehman is confident all four would shine in Ireland if given the chance.

"These guys belong here because they play good golf and I also firmly believe it's a good thing to have a competitive chip on your shoulder," he said.

"These guys feel they have got something to prove. It's about having pride in what you're doing, believing in what you're doing and taking that as a motivation.

"I think they are going to come up really big, huge."

Probably the biggest smile on Lehman's face in recent months was provided by Chris DiMarco, who vaulted to sixth in the Cup standings by finishing second behind Tiger Woods at last month's British Open.

"Getting Chris back in there is a huge boost to our team, a huge boost," he said. "He's the passionate, outspoken-type guy that you need.

"He's the guy that's going to be in the locker room chest-bumping and stuff like that. Our team needed that."

With Woods, Masters champion Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Chad Campbell and David Toms occupying the top five places in the standings, Lehman has every reason to feel satisfied with the likely balance of his team.

Hs biggest headache will come on Aug. 21 when he has to name his two captain's picks to complete the 12-man line-up.

"It's going to be very tough to do that," he said. "It's tough to pick two guys when there's probably six or seven or eight who can probably fit the bill.

"So I'm not looking forward to that, but that's part of the job. I think our team is looking good, so I'm excited about that."

The 36th Ryder Cup takes place at the K Club in County Kildare, Ireland from Sept. 22-24.

August 2, 2006


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