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Tom Lehman says he won't be playing Captain

Tom Lehman has changed his tune and says he will "probably not" play in next month's Ryder Cup, even if he qualifies for the United States team.

Lehman, who will captain the American side when it meets Europe at the K Club in Ireland, long has said he would consider being a playing captain if he earned an automatic berth on the team by finishing in the top 10 of the standings.

But he backed off that statement Saturday, admitting he doesn't feel good enough about his putting to play in the most intense of competitions.

"Guys who make a difference in the Ryder Cup are guys who can really chip and putt, and that's been a weakness of my game for several years," he said after moving into fifth place following the third round of the $5.5 million International tournament.

"So when you say, 'Would I play?', probably not, because I'm not putting well. I feel I'd be letting the team down with the putter. I wouldn't want to deal with that. I would feel really good about making the team, but if I don't play, I get to pick No. 11."

Lehman currently is 29th in the standings but will vault into the top 10 if he wins here at Castle Pines on Sunday. That's not exactly out of the question, because he trailed leader Zach Johnson by only three points after 54 holes in the modified Stableford format.

His revelation to all but rule himself out of playing will be widely greeted with relief, because captaining the Ryder Cup has become such an all-consuming position that many wondered how Lehman would prepare to play at the same time. It seems he also has realized as much.

After next week's PGA Championship, Lehman will make two captain's picks to complete his team. Reading between the lines, it appears he has ruled out Fred Couples, whose putting has been suspect for some time.

"At the end of the day, the Ryder Cup is always about chipping and putting," Lehman said. "One thing will be for certain - the guys I pick will have good short games."

But he also wants a player who drives the ball straight.

"We're very, very crooked as a group at the moment," he said. "I'm looking for somebody who can put it in the fairway, and putt and chip like crazy."

Lehman considers the biggest strength of his team to be power, not surprising with a lineup that will be led by Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

"If every hole were a par-5, we'd be unbeatable," Lehman said. "As a group, we abuse the par-5s. We're long, and for the most part, very good iron players."

Lehman acknowledges he may endure some sleepless nights next weekend finalizing his picks, which he will make after the PGA Championship.

"Captains have told me the toughest part is making those two picks," he said. "There are so many players who have poured their heart and soul trying so hard to make the team, and there could be a good reason for picking every one of them who is in the running."

August 14, 2006

 




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