Singh seals Leonard's Ryder pain
Tuesday 17 August 2004
Hal Sutton has told his American Ryder Cup team to act like "grown men" in an effort not to be "heavyweights who fight like featherweights". Sutton's no-nonsense approach became obvious when Justin Leonard had the disappointment of losing the 86th USPGA Championship compounded by not receiving a consolation phone call from the US captain.
Vijay Singh's victory here in a play-off over Leonard and Chris DiMarco made Sutton's choice of wild cards no easier. He went for the 50-year-old Jay Haas and Stewart Cink, both steady players suited to Detroit's Oakland Hills course.
Leonard would have qualified automatically if he had not bogeyed the 18th to fall into the play-off. With DiMarco already playing himself into the team, the last qualifying place instead went to Chris Riley, who finished in joint fourth place with Ernie Els.
Riley, whose wife is expecting their first child next month, is reputed to be one of America's best putters. Leonard, who holed the winning putt at Brookline in 1999, had not expected to be picked despite running into form at the right time after a poor season.
But the former Open champion was overlooked along with the reigning Open champion, Todd Hamilton - not to mention John Daly. "Justin played great but I couldn't pick him because of one tournament," Sutton said, adding that omitting players was part of the "dark side of the captaincy".
With five rookies qualified, Sutton picked Cink, one of six surviving members of the 2002 team, and Haas, who played in 1983 and 1995. Neither has a winning record, but then only Phil Mickelson and David Toms do.
Haas has been consistent this year, having opted not to play on the seniors circuit, but he has not won for 11 years. The US team has a mere six victories between them for this season. Sutton said: "I went for mature guys who are going to help the team whether they play five times or two times. In the past, we may have done the politically correct thing and given everyone a game.
"But I am asking everyone on my team to be grown men. I am changing things. I'm playing the guys who can win this thing. We have only won three of the last nine matches and we have to turn the tide.
"The Europeans are always up for a challenge but we are heavyweights and we are hungry. My mission is for my guys to play like gentlemen but also to play like champions."
As of yesterday, the Americans still had the number one player in the world in Tiger Woods but the best player in the world right now is either Singh or Els, who like Mickelson, finished in the top 10 of all four majors this year.
Since the start of 2003, Els has won 10 times around the world but Singh's nine have all come in America and now include a major. "This feels like the biggest accomplishment of my whole career," said Singh after winning the USPGA for the second time and his third major. It was his second successive win after switching from the controversial belly putter to a more conventional manner.
"I've worked really hard and it was a big change to go back to the conventional putter. But I wanted to win another major and this has come at the right time. I haven't got that many years of contending left but I want to win a few more majors."
Singh made only one birdie on Sunday, from eight feet at the first hole of the three-hole play-off. Pars at the 17th and 18th secured the win. His closing 76 was the highest final round score to win a major since Reg Whitcombe's 78 at Royal St George's in 1938. It was only on Sunday that Whistling Straits dried out to play as intended and the test of the 7,514-yard track was severe.
Leonard missed a series of putts down the stretch as he bogeyed three of the last five holes, including the last where his five-iron approach came up short. "When I hit the shot I thought I had just ended the golf tournament," Leonard said.
"There were at least four putts around 10 feet that could have meant there was a different story," Leonard said. "They are going to be running through my mind for most of the night."
USPGA Championship: final scores
(US unless stated)
V Singh (Fiji) 67 68 69 76
J Leonard 66 69 70 75
C DiMarco 68 70 71 71
(Singh won three-hole playoff)
E Els (SA) 66 70 72 73
C Riley 69 70 69 73
P McGinley (Irl) 69 74 70 69
KJ Choi (S Kor) 68 71 73 70
P Mickelson 69 72 67 74
R Allenby (Aus) 71 70 72 70
B Crane 70 74 69 70
A Scott 71 71 69 72
A Oberholser 73 71 70 70
B Faxon 71 71 70 72
B Davis (GB) 70 71 69 74
D Clarke (GB) 65 71 72 76
S Appleby (Aus) 68 75 72 70
S Cink 73 70 70 72
J F Remesy (Fr) 72 71 70 72
D Toms 72 72 69 72
F Jacobson (Swe) 72 70 70 73
M Gogel 71 71 69 74,
L Roberts 68 72 70 75,
S Ames (Can) 68 71 69 75
T Byrum 72 73 71 70
S Micheel 77 68 70 71
C Campbell 73 70 71 72
J L Lewis 73 69 72 72
G Ogilvy (Aus) 68 73 71 74
T Woods 75 69 69 73
L Donald (GB) 67 73 71 75
N O'Hern (Aus) 73 71 68 75
C Franco (Par) 69 75 72 71
M-A Jimenez (Sp) 76 65 75 71
C Sullivan 72 71 73 71
B Van Pelt 74 71 70 72
C Howell III 70 71 72 74
T Hamilton 72 73 75 68
T Immelman (SA) 75 69 72 72
B Quigley 74 69 73 72
I Poulter (GB) 73 72 70 73
Z Johnson 75 70 69 74
S Flesch 73 72 67 76
J Haas 68 72 71 77
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
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