Ryder picks: Pate, Lehman

Crenshaw chooses to fill out squad with tough competitors

`I don't plan on losing'

U.S. team members have won 10 majors

August 17, 1999|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

MEDINAH, Ill. -- In announcing his two captain's picks for the U.S. Ryder Cup team yesterday at Medinah Country Club, Ben Crenshaw chose blue-collar players he believes care more about the outcome than the income involved in golf's most prestigious team event.

The expected choice was Tom Lehman, who has not taken a week off since the end of May in hopes of making his third Ryder Cup team. The less obvious pick was Steve Pate, who will get a second chance after being injured for most of his first.

Lehman, 40, said last week that "I would pay to play" in the Ryder Cup, a clear shot at players such as Mark O'Meara, David Duval and Tiger Woods, who have questioned whether it was fair not to be compensated, even so they could give the money to charity.

Crenshaw last week chided several members of the team for their stance on pay.

Both players he picked are known for their competitiveness, demonstrating it in different ways. Lehman is quietly intense, whereas Pate was called "Volcano" earlier in his career for his on-course eruptions.

Of Pate, 38, Crenshaw said: "This man has a determination and competitive attitude, and he has shown it in the last two years. He is a very, very fierce competitor who would walk through a wall for you if you asked him."

What might have helped Pate's cause was a telephone call Crenshaw received Sunday from O'Meara, who pointed out that Pate had tied O'Meara for third at the 1988 U.S. Open.

It was played at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., site of next month's competition.

"It was one of the things I overlooked, quite frankly," said Crenshaw, among golf's best-known history buffs.

Crenshaw said he seriously considered a number of other players. He eliminated Bob Estes and Chris Perry, who, like Pate, finished in the top 10 at the 81st PGA Championship, because of a lack of Ryder Cup experience.

Fred Couples, who has played in five Ryder Cups, didn't become a third straight captain's pick because of inactivity this year. Lee Janzen, who played heroically on the team that lost in Valderrama, has struggled for much of the year. Crenshaw also briefly considered Hale Irwin after the 54-year-old three-time Open champion was in the hunt here for two days.

"From an emotional standpoint, Freddie Couples was probably the hardest call to make," Crenshaw said. "The whole world loves Fred. He has not played enough this year. I just look at these players [the picks] and the way they are playing now, I felt like Steve Pate was maybe the most intent, and the most determined about his game right now. And I think it boiled down to that."

Pate's performance here -- he finished tied for eighth at 4-under-par 284 -- seemed to revive his fading chances. Since he finished second at the Bob Hope, tied for fourth at the Masters and second at the Byron Nelson, Pate had not finished higher than a tie for 34th at the Open and had missed the cut three of his last seven tournaments.

While having played only one match in the 1991 Ryder Cup in Kiawah Island, S.C., after being injured in a freak car accident early that week, Pate showed his affinity for match play at this year's world match-play event in late January. He beat Couples and Davis Love to reach the semifinals, losing to eventual champion Jeff Maggert.

"I've always loved match play. I've always liked the fact that you start the day and at the end of the day, either you won or you lost," he said. "The immediate result for some reason makes me focus better."

Lehman and Pate join a team that is generally considered the best group the United States has put together for a Ryder Cup since 1981. The only rookie is Duval, who lost his No. 1 spot in the world rankings when Woods held off 19-year-old Sergio Garcia of Spain to win the PGA Championship by one shot Sunday.

The team also includes players who have combined to win 10 major championships: Woods, former PGA champions Love and Hal Sutton, former British Open and Masters champion O'Meara, reigning Open champion and former PGA champion Payne Stewart and former British Open champion Justin Leonard.

Some of those players were at the center of the pay-for-play issue that remains unresolved. The players, who receive a $5,000 stipend, want the PGA of America to give them a more significant sum from an event that brings in a reported $63 million in revenue.

"It's something I'm no longer concerned with, nor should my teammates be," said Lehman, a former British Open champion who has recovered from off-season shoulder surgery. "I think the focus is solely on winning the cup back. We haven't won for a few years, and I know personally I don't plan on losing."

The European team got a tremendous boost here from Garcia, who, despite finishing second, clearly emerged a more popular player with the American fans than Woods. Crenshaw said he was captivated by the teen-ager's performance and personality.

Crenshaw described his time at the PGA leading up his picks as "a tough week."

"My only job as captain is to bring these guys together to bring back the cup," he said. "That's all I'm concerned with."

The outcome, not the income.

U.S. team

World Ryder

Player rank rec.*

Tiger Woods 1 1-3-1

David Duval 2 N/A

Payne Stewart 7 8-7-1

Davis Love 3 5-8-0

Mark O'Meara 9 4-7-1

Hal Sutton 15 3-3-3

Justin Leonard 12 0-2-2

Jim Furyk 14 1-2-0

Phil Mickelson 11 4-1-2

Jeff Maggert 20 4-3-0

Tom Lehman 23 3-2-2

Steve Pate 32 0-1-1

*Won-lost-halved in match play

Pub Date: 8/17/99

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