The likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk have been left in doubt as to what is expected from them at the Ryder Cup next week at the K Club, after US captain Tom Lehman told the media that his best players must perform well if his team are to have a chance of regaining the Ryder Cup from Europe.
Woods in particular has a relatively poor Ryder Cup record (he has lost eleven of twenty matches played) and Lehman is well aware that he needs to step up on his past performances along with Mickelson and Furyk. The three men are rated the top three players in the world in the Official Golf World Rankings and Lehman is hoping they live up to their billing.
“Your stars have to be your stars,” he told the gathered media in New York yesterday.
“Your best players have to play their best and you must give them the opportunity to play their best. I think the best teams are always those where the best players have the best attitudes.”
Furyk and Woods forged a very effective partnership at last year’s Presidents Cup and Lehman confirmed that it is probable that they will play together in Ireland. He also praised Woods for taking the USA’s four Ryder Cup rookies – Brett Wetterich, JJ Henry, Vaughn Taylor and Zach Johnson – out to dinner to boost their confidence.
Lehman engineered a meeting last week with Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, who gave him lots of tips on boosting team morale and man-management skills. Krzyzewski is considered to be one of America’s greatest-ever sports coaches and Lehman was fascinated by what he had to say.
“He had a million ideas about what we could do as a team,” said Lehman.
“A lot of it has to do with creating the environment and the atmosphere to allow the players to play their best. His input has been priceless.”