Haas, Cink picked to fill out U.S. Ryder Cup team roster

Posted: Tuesday, August 17, 2004

MILWAUKEE Jay Haas passed up easy money on the 50-and-older Champions Tour for a chance to play for free in the Ryder Cup.

On Monday, he felt like a million bucks.

Haas, who turned 50 last December but continued to compete against guys half his age, became the second-oldest player in the Ryder Cup when he joined Stewart Cink as the two captain's picks for a U.S. team that will try to regain the cup from Europe in the Sept. 17-19 matches at Oakland Hills.

''Now everyone knows the team,'' captain Hal Sutton said. ''And everyone knows the mission.''

Haas returns to the Ryder Cup for the first time since he lost the decisive singles match to Philip Walton that allowed Europe to win in 1995 at Oak Hill.

This wasn't about redemption. Haas only wanted to prove he made the right decision by staying away from the Champions Tour with hopes of making one last Ryder Cup team.

''You can't hide the fact I'm 50 years old,'' Haas said. ''As I said this year, I was trying to put myself in the mix of players trying to accomplish this goal.''

Raymond Floyd was 51 when he was picked as a wild-card in 1993 by captain Tom Watson.

Haas, who last won on the PGA Tour at the '93 Texas Open, was 10th in the standings and in position earn an automatic spot on the team until he closed with a 77 on Sunday at Whistling Straits and dropped two spots to No. 12.

''Hal had some small talk and said, 'I'd sure love to have you on the team.' I was kind of waiting for 'But you screwed up today,''' Haas said. ''I'm pretty emotional about it. It's something I pointed to for the last couple of years. To have realized that is pretty exciting.''

Cink will play on the Ryder Cup team for the second straight time. He was well back in the standings until closing strong at the Buick Open and the International. He didn't earn any points at the PGA Championship, although he fared better than other candidates with a tie for 17th. Cink wound up 14th in the standings.

''I don't remember ever being this flattered in my life,'' Cink said.

There were no big surprises from Sutton, although the final round of the PGA Championship complicated his choices when Chris DiMarco lost in a playoff and Chris Riley tied for fourth, both good enough to play their way onto the team for the first time.

Justin Leonard would have qualified with a victory, but he missed six putts inside 12 feet on the back nine at Whistling Straits to fall into the playoff, won by Vijay Singh.

Leonard only moved up to 17th in the standings, but one good week wasn't enough to sway Sutton.

''I don't want it to be about one championship,'' Sutton said of the three-year process to select this team. ''It's a moot point. Justin played great. He could have won. But he didn't, and I picked the two guys who I think can help.''

Also left out were Scott Verplank, a steady player who had an outstanding Ryder Cup at The Belfry two years ago by going 2-1-0, and Todd Hamilton, whose two victories this year include the British Open.

Sutton noted that Hamilton won on two courses (Royal Troon and Mirasol at the Honda Classic) that are nothing like what the players will face at Oakland Hills outside Detroit.

''All of the guys are disappointed,'' Sutton said. ''But they all know 'I could have presented a different case.'''

Still, his two picks have only one PGA Tour victory Cink at the MCI Heritage in April over the last four years. The U.S. team features five rookies Kenny Perry, Chad Campbell, Fred Funk, Riley and DiMarco and only five of its dozen players have won this year.

The rest of the American team is Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Davis Love III, Jim Furyk and David Toms.

Sutton noted that the U.S. team has higher ranked players, although the Americans can no longer be considered the favorite. Europe has won the Ryder Cup six of the last nine times.

Europe's team will be determined in two weeks, with captain Bernhard Langer getting two picks.

Sutton also passed over Steve Flesch, who shot 76 in the final round of the PGA and fell two spots to No. 11, and Jerry Kelly, who missed the cut at his homestate major and dropped two positions to No. 13.

Flesch could still make the team if Riley, whose wife is expecting their first child the day the Ryder Cup begins, is unable to play.

Sutton endured a week of lobbying by players on the bubble, but he took it all in stride.

''I wanted the clubs to do the talking,'' Sutton said. ''I picked two guys whose clubs were talking.''

While Haas hasn't won, he has played consistently well for two years as he resurrected his career to rejoin the elite players on the PGA Tour. He also was a captain's pick at the Presidents Cup last year in South Africa and won his singles match to go 2-1-1 for the week.

''It's a very satisfying feeling to be competitive with the best players in the world,'' Haas said. ''I've had more fun in the last two years than I've had in my whole career, to fight my way back to respectability.''

He fought all the way back to the Ryder Cup, an event that doesn't pay prize money. To Haas, making the team is worth a lot more.



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