Several American golfers will have endured a difficult night’s sleep last night – not because of Tiger Woods’ dominance at the USPGA Championship but because US Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman is set to announce his two wildcard picks at 10:00 local time on Monday in the United States.
The automatic qualifying berths (see below) were unchanged after the USPGA Championship, which finished at Medinah yesterday. Fifty-six players had the opportunity to force their way into automatic selection, but all of them failed. Lucas Glover, ranked in 14th place, took a share of the lead at Medinah after round one but his challenge faded tamely in the subsequent rounds, as did the challenge of Ryder Cup veteran Davis Love III. Love also started the tournament well as he searched for the eighth placed finish that would have ensured an automatic spot, but like Glover he also faded and eventually finished in a tie for 34th.
2003 USPGA Champion Shaun Micheel managed to finish second, but his woeful form over the previous two years means that it was not enough for him to qualify. Micheel was delighted at his showing, but is not expecting it to be enough for Lehman to pick him.
“I played really well this week and am delighted to have done so,” Micheel said.
“But I’m not expecting a call from the captain. You can’t be average for two years and then expect to be picked on the back of one decent tournament, even if it was in a Major.”
There is much speculation as to who Lehman will choose later on today, and earlier in the week the man himself even admitted to being somewhat confused as to who might make the team. What is certain is that the US team will have at least four rookies, after Vaughn Taylor, JJ Henry, Zach Johnson and Brett Wetterich all finished in the top ten. Johnson and Wetterich all missed the cut at Medinah but survived after none of their rivals played well enough to overtake them.
The presence of so many rookies in the top ten has led many golf writers in the USA to reach the conclusion that Lehman will opt for experienced men as his wildcard picks, with Love and Stewart Cink being the most likely. Love has played in the last six Ryder Cups but has never needed a wildcard berth, while Cink has played in two Ryder Cup teams – including Hal Sutton’s losing team in 2004, when he was chosen by the captain. Another experienced possible is the veteran Fred Couples, though his below-par form since a good finish at The Masters in April may well lead Lehman elsewhere.
Automatic qualifiers for the 2006 US Ryder Cup team:
1 Tiger Woods
2 Phil Mickelson
3 Jim Furyk
4 Chad Campbell
5 David Toms
6 Chris DiMarco
7 Vaughn Taylor
8 JJ Henry
9 Zach Johnson
10 Brett Wetterich
Tom Lehman’s two wildcard choices will be revealed at 15:00 BST on Monday. Log on to www.golf-monthly.co.uk shortly afterwards for confirmation.