By T.J. Auclair, Junior Editor
MEDINAH, Ill. -- Perhaps change isn't a bad thing. At least that's what U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Tom Lehman is hoping when he brings a team that includes four rookies to the 36th edition of the biennial matches between the United States and Europe at the K Club in Straffan, Ireland, Sept. 22-24.
On Monday morning, in need of some veteran help, Lehman announced his two captain's picks: veterans Stewart Cink and Scott Verplank.
"Quite frankly, I slept about two hours last night," said Lehman, who admitted he didn't finalize his picks until Monday morning. "It's been a difficult decision for me to make. It's tough for me to call people who I respect and admire so much as players and as people and let them know that, no, I did not pick you.
"I basically talked to everybody from position 11 through 25 on the phone except for two guys who I talked to in person yesterday at the course to let them know what my decisions were. So it's not easy for me," he explained. "It's emotional for me. I've been on the side of the coin where I've been looked over and not picked and it's no fun to be in that spot."
Cink finished 12th in the standings, two spots out of an automatic berth, and for the second time in as many Ryder Cups he was selected as a captain's pick. Former U.S. Captain Hal Sutton chose Cink for the 2004 matches at Oakland Hills, where the Americans were trounced by a record margin -- 18.5-9.5.
That was the second Ryder Cup appearance for Cink. In seven matches, he has a record of 2-4-1.
"I really expected to know something last night as we all kind of did, so we were a little nervous," said Cink, who since the 2004 matches has posted 13 top-10 finishes. "There were some nervous moments. I was hoping to be picked but I didn't know for sure what was going to happen.
"You know, it was a little bit of a sleepless night last night. There was a lot of nervous energy around the house between my wife and I and the kids. The kids were very interested," he added. "So I was really relieved to get that call this morning and to know that Tom was interested in putting me on the team. Like I said before, I'm honored and just very relieved and I'm ready to go."
As for Verplank, this will be his second appearance in a Ryder Cup. He was 20th in the final standings before getting a nod from Lehman. He also joined the losing American side as one of former captain Curtis Strange's captain's selections at the Belfry in 2002. In fact, when Verplank was chosen in 2002, he became the first Ryder Cup rookie ever chosen as a captain's selection, and he represented himself well, going 2-1-0.
"I basically slept with my cell phone under my pillow, whatever sleep I did get," Verplank said. "I'm like Stewart -- I got calls kind of late into the night and I woke up this morning about 5:30 just wide awake. I'm so pumped and I can't wait to play on another team. I love playing for the United States, and to be quite honest with you, I'm really looking forward to playing for Tom.
"I know when Tom got passed over as No. 11, I was one of the picks in 2002, and I know how much that hurt him," he added. "The last time, two years ago, I was fairly certain I was going to be picked and I did not get picked. So I've been on both sides. This side is definitely a heck of a lot better. I can't wait."
Cink and Verplank will join the top 10 point-getters, who were finalized once the 88th PGA Championship at Medinah Country Club concluded on Sunday evening.
The top 10 closed as follows:
1. Tiger Woods -- 4,825.000
2. Phil Mickelson -- 2,474.375
3. Jim Furyk -- 2,076.000
4. Chad Campbell -- 1,129.602
5. David Toms -- 1,072.250
6. Chris DiMarco -- 830.000
7. Vaughn Taylor -- 780.833
8. J.J. Henry -- 778.750
9. Zach Johnson -- 756.477
10. Brett Wetterich -- 746.000
With a team featuring a quartet of Ryder Cup rookies -- Taylor, Henry, Johnson and Wetterich -- it wasn't surprising that Lehman leaned on the veteran leadership of past Ryder Cup players to revive an American side that has lost four of the last five matches. The last time the Americans won was at the Country Club in Brookline, Mass., in 1999.
"I think what I'm really wanting more than anything is a team that is just tough, strong, guys that will never give up and who will never quit," Lehman said. "I could have picked any number of guys knowing they are going over to Ireland, going over to foreign soil to play, knowing how the crowd is going to be, knowing the pressure of the situation.
"And not really seeing a guy like Lucas Glover playing well through the summer, it made the decision for itself. And it came down where Scott Verplank and Stewart Cink made their decision for me, that's the way I look at it."
Woods, who ran away with the No. 1 spot in the standings with 4,825 points -- nearly double that of Phil Mickelson in the No. 2 spot with 2,474.375 -- was looking forward to heading over to the K Club after the 12th major win of his illustrious career in the PGA at Medinah Country Club Sunday night.
"I'm excited. We're excited to go over and play," he said. "We haven't won it in a while, I guess since '99. Hopefully we can get the job done this time. I've played The K Club a number of times, being over there right before the British and fishing and playing golf.
"If they set it up like they did at the European Open last year, it'll be a pretty tough set-up because they had the rough extremely high and the scores weren't very good. We'll see. We're excited about getting over there and trying to win the Cup and trying to bring it back home."
The European team will be finalized in two weeks, at the conclusion of the BMW International Open in Munich, Germany.
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