Source: Sutton to be next U.S. Ryder Cup captain

Posted: Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Hal Sutton's next role in the Ryder Cup is to make sure the American team shares his passion for the matches.

A no-nonsense player and the emotional leader of the last two teams, Sutton agreed Tuesday to become the U.S. captain for the 2004 Ryder Cup, according to a PGA Tour source speaking on condition of anonymity.

Sutton met with PGA of America officials last week during the Disney World Golf Classic and accepted the job after talking with his family, the source said.

PGA spokesman Julius Mason declined comment, except to say there would be an announcement Thursday at Oakland Hills Country Club outside Detroit, where the next Ryder Cup will be played.

Reached on his cell phone, Sutton declined to confirm his selection.

Sutton will be in charge of bringing the Ryder Cup back to the United States after the Americans lost to Europe at The Belfry by the largest margin in 17 years.

Europe has won or retained the Ryder Cup in six of the last nine matches.

''We shouldn't lose these things the way we're losing them,'' Sutton said last week at the Disney Classic. ''There's way too much talent over here.''

Strange was criticized for putting his best two players -- Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods -- at the bottom of the lineup last month. The strategy failed when Mickelson lost a critical match to Phillip Price, who was No. 119 in the world.

Paul McGinley clinched the Ryder Cup for Europe by making a 12-foot birdie on the 17th hole to square his match with Jim Furyk, then tying the final hole for a half-point by making an 8-foot par putt. Europe won 15 1/2-12 1/2.

Sutton and several U.S. players said the criticism of Strange was not warranted. Sutton said all 12 players gathered around the pool table in the team room and went over the lineup, and Woods' and Mickelson's positions were never debated.

Sutton said last week that if he were ever asked to be captain, he would not be afraid of any criticism that comes with the job.

''The neat part about that is you're in a big enough position that everybody not making that decision can sit around and criticize you,'' Sutton said. ''If you're afraid to be second-guessed, you better not make any decisions.''

Asked about his prospects of being a Ryder Cup captain, Sutton said at Disney that he would be honored.

''Making Ryder Cup teams, whether as a player or a captain, is what you strive to do when you're young or old,'' he said.

He will be 46 at the next Ryder Cup, although he still plans to play a full schedule on the PGA Tour next year. He has won 14 times in a career of amazing peaks and shocking lows.

Sutton was considered golf's next star when he beat Jack Nicklaus in the 1983 PGA Championship at Riviera. He won seven times in his first five years, but then went into a deep slump, winning just one tournament over the next 11 years.

His return to top play was just as stunning.

He won the 1998 Tour Championship, one of six tournaments he has won since turning 40. Another was The Players Championship in 2000, when he went toe-to-toe with Woods in the final round and beat him by one stroke.

Sutton played on four Ryder Cup teams, none more memorable than 1999, when he was the anchor of a U.S. team that rallied to beat Europe at Brookline. Sutton went 3-1-1.

He has had nagging back injuries and sleep apnea the last 18 months but still rallied to win an alternate-shot match with Scott Verplank at The Belfry. Sutton was 1-1, losing to Bernhard Langer in singles.

Strange played him only once during the team matches, but he said Sutton was the consummate team player when it came to the Ryder Cup.

''We had a discussion earlier in the week and he said, 'Anything to do with me will be accepted, so don't worry about me.' That goes to show that team is first with him,'' Strange said. ''Winning was the only thing he was after.''

Europe's captain is expected to be chosen by the end of the year. Langer and Ian Woosnam are among the candidates.

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