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U.S. Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton of the USA answers questions at a press conference.
U.S. Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton of the USA answers questions at a press conference. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Sutton faces tough decisions before Monday announcement

United States Ryder Cup Captain Hal Sutton was a very interested observer to the conclusion of the 86th PGA Championship on Sunday, and the performance of several players surely caught his eye as he prepares to announce his captain’s picks on Monday.

By Barry Pump, Special to PGA.com

KOHLER, Wisc. (PGA.com) -- Chris DiMarco knocked Steve Flesch out of the top 10 in the standings to automatically qualify for the Ryder Cup team on Sunday, while Justin Leonard’s tie for second at the 86th PGA Championship may make Hal Sutton think especially hard about his captain’s picks.

Sutton, the United States Team Captain, will announce his two wild-card picks during a news conference Monday morning in Milwaukee.

The 2004 Ryder Cup, a bi-annual competition between 12-man teams from the U.S. and Europe, will be held Sept. 14-19, at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Township, Mich.

DiMarco earned 300 points with his tie for second at the PGA, while Steve Flesch finished in a tie for 37th, shooting a 4-over 76 in Sunday’s final round.

DiMarco’s mission throughout the PGA was to play his way onto the team.

“Only being 40 points out, being in the top 10 the whole week, I’m proud of myself that I went out and did it and got it done,” said DiMarco, who will be playing in his first Ryder Cup.

In fact, DiMarco’s focus on the Ryder Cup may have blinded him to actually winning the tournament. He says that he didn’t even think about a possible victory until his second putt on No. 17 for par.

“Once I made that par on 17 and hit my driver in the fairway on 18 and hit my 6-iron on the green, I looked at my caddie and said, ‘That is going to be good enough for sure,’” he said. “Those holes were playing brutal coming in. They were tough.”

DiMarco finished at 1-under on Sunday for an 8-under 280 for the tournament.

Leonard jumped from 30th place in the standings to 17th after Sunday’s tie for second. The past Open champion and former Ryder Cup participant will be in serious contention for one of Sutton’s picks.

“I would love to be picked,” he said. “I think that I could help the U.S. win the championship. I also know that there are some guys ahead of me in the points that have played a lot more consistently than I have over the last three years. I’m just starting to play well here in the last six weeks.”

Leonard told Sutton on Sunday that he hoped to make his decision difficult.

“I think if I won, it probably would have taken any decision out of play, because I would I have qualified automatically,” he said. “I’m not going to be disappointed if I don’t get picked because I know the criteria to make the team.

“However, if I am, I’d love to be there. I think I can help the team. But there are a lot of other players that can help that team as well.”

Jay Haas and Open champion Todd Hamilton, Nos. 12 and 19 on the Ryder Cup points list, respectively, are considered Flesch’s and Leonard’s biggest competitors for the coveted spots.

But before the tournament, Sutton said that he looks for people who can close tournaments.

“I’m looking at the way a guy finishes; the last 16th, 17th and 18th holes have a great deal to do with what will happen in a match,” he said on Wednesday. “We don’t play 17 holes in a game of golf. We play 18 holes.”

That may make Hamilton the leading contender for one of the phone calls on Sunday night. Despite posting an even-par score for the tournament, Hamilton recorded a 4-under 68 in Sunday’s round, including a birdie on the 17th hole and pars on the rest -- hopefully, he says, making a statement for Sutton.

“I wanted to have a good round today at least to make Hal have a little less sleep tonight,” he said. “He’s got a lot of good players to pick from and I know he’ll do a good job and make good choices.”

Hamilton, who is playing in his first year on the PGA Tour after several years in Japan, won the Open Championship and the Honda Classic to compile 450 Ryder Cup points and hold 19th place in the standings.

“I did it in two tournaments over eight months, and everyone else did it over two years,” he said. “I did all my show in eight months, and now I know what to expect.

“I’m not trying to lobby for myself, but I would give myself some consideration.”

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