Golf: Lehman and Pate win wild cards

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The Independent Online
STILL SOMEWHAT in awe at the dramatic conclusion to the 81st USPGA, when Sergio Garcia almost caught Tiger Woods in the first of what promises to be many confrontations, Ben Crenshaw showed his determination to recapture the Ryder Cup by leaving Fred Couples off the American team, writes Andy Farrell.

Crenshaw's side will go to the Country Club of Brookline, in Boston, next month in a bid to win the match against Europe for the first time in six years without what would have been their most experienced player. Instead, Crenshaw chose Tom Lehman, as expected, and, more surprisingly, Steve Pate as his wild cards. After the disharmony caused by the pay-for-play controversy earlier in the week, Crenshaw moved to complete his team with two of the strongest characters he could find. Lehman has been on the road since the end of May trying to make the team and has already played a practice round at Brookline. After undergoing shoulder surgery in the winter, he has been a runner-up four times.

"Everyone knows Tom Lehman is a confident individual who exudes leadership," Crenshaw said. "I talked to a lot of people, and they all said: `Steve Pate'. No one has more determination or competitive attitude and he's a players' player. He is very self-effacing and everyone enjoys being in his company. He brings a lightness which is needed."

Pate, 38, played in the 1991 match at Kiawah Island, where the Americans regained the Cup after eight years, but he was injured in a car shunt and played only one match, forcing David Gilford into the envelope when their singles could not take place.

Known as "Volcano", he broke his wrist in another car accident in 1996 and six months later fractured it again falling off a bicycle. He missed a year's golf but earlier this season reached the semi-finals of the World Matchplay in San Diego, losing to the eventual winner, Jeff Maggert.

Crenshaw made a number of consolation calls on Sunday evening, including one to Bob Estes, who bogeyed two of the last three holes in the final round at Medinah to miss out on an automatic spot, and Lee Janzen, the double US Open champion who played at Valderrama.

But the hardest call, he said, was to Couples, who beat Ian Woosnam 8 and 7 at Valderrama but recently took six weeks off. "The whole world loves Freddie," Crenshaw said. "Fred always wanted to be on the team but he has not played as well as he would like over the last two years. If you look at his schedule, he just hasn't played enough."

Crenshaw can still boast a team featuring seven major champions with 11 titles between them. There will be only one rookie, David Duval, one of the players the skipper criticised for calling the event an "exhibition".

"My job as captain," Crenshaw added, "is to bring these players together to bring back the Cup. Everything that happened last week is behind us. I've talked to all the players and they are looking forward to Boston. Regardless of what happened, we know we have to be a team because we know the Europeans are going to be a team. My players will be intense and focused."

As for the Garcia-Woods show, Crenshaw said: "When it comes to drama, golf is in good hands. I didn't believe I'd see golf like it in my lifetime. It's talent, youth, power, imagination.

"Tiger showed tremendous determination to hold on, but Sergio is absolutely electrifying and captivating. He's magic, charismatic, graceful. When he played that shot from behind the tree on the 16th he captured America's imagination. How can you not love this kid?"

AMERICAN RYDER CUP TEAM

Age Cups

David Duval 27 0

Jim Furyk 29 1

Tom Lehman 40 2

Justin Leonard 27 1

Davis Love 35 3

Jeff Maggert 35 2

Phil Mickelson 29 2

Mark O'Meara 42 4

Steve Pate 38 1

Payne Stewart 42 4

Hal Sutton 41 2

Tiger Woods 23 1

EUROPE'S RACE FOR THE RYDER CUP

Leading positions in the European Ryder Cup table after the USPGA Championship

1 C Montgomerie (Sco) 18,862pts (pounds 1,347,350)

2 L Westwood (Eng) 11,232 (pounds 802,235)

3 D Clarke (N Ire) 9,047 (pounds 646,233)

4 P Lawrie (Sco) 7,586 (pounds 541,907)

5 M A Jimenez (Sp) 6,864 (pounds 490,332)

6 J M Olazabal (Sp) 6,842 (pounds 488,720)

7 S Garcia (Sp) 6,753 (pounds 482,379)

8 J Sandelin (Swe) 6,375 (pounds 455,409)

9 J Van de Velde (Fr) 5,374 (pounds 383,909)

10 R Karlsson (Swe) 4,725 (pounds 337,518)

11 A Coltart (Sco) 4,446 (pounds 317,580)

12 J Parnevik (Swe) 4,165 (pounds 297,556)

13 P Harrington (Rep of Irl) 4,061 (pounds 290,130)

14 B Langer (Ger) 4,060 (pounds 290,052)

15 M James (Eng) 4,043 (pounds 288,830)

16 A Cejka (Ger) 3,908 (pounds 279,207)

17 S Struver (Ger) 3,858 (pounds 275,609)

18 C Rocca (It) 3,687 (pounds 263,426)

19 G Orr (Sco) 3,655 (pounds 261,135)

20 D Howell (Eng) 3,608 (pounds 257,737)

(1pt for every 100 euros won - 1.4 euros, pounds 1. Top 10 after BMW International next Sunday qualify. Captain Mark James then adds two wild cards).

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