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Hal Sutton Profile --- Team USA Captain for the 2004 Ryder Cup Matches

August 21, 2004

Hal Evan Sutton is the sort of man who commands respect even before he opens his mouth and delivers his version of sense in a voice so deep it starts somewhere around his ankles and rarely rises above knee level even when real excitement encourages a squeak.

For a start the American, who will be 46 when The Matches unfold, has the sort of forearms that suggest his childhood was largely spent chomping on spinach while his neck is thick enough to encourage even Fred Flintstone to drop his gaze quickly.

Yet, though Sutton has a real physical presence, it is his natural inclination to engage eye contact and then to hold it that encourages the thought that the PGA of America chose wisely when it came to picking The United States 2004 Ryder Cup Captain.

"It goes without saying that this is a real honour for me but the whole point now is to win back The Ryder Cup when we play at Oakland Hills. Of course we know it's going to be close - and that's a lot of the fun of it - but I've played in The Matches four times and won once (1999) and I know which one was the most fun for me, " he said, his easy grin failing to disguise the determination lying underneath.

Sutton's personal Ryder Cup record reflects a career that has, more than anyone else, been a game of two halves. When he turned professional in 1981 he carried with him the title College Player of The Year and the first of his 14 US PGA Tour victories was carved out just 12 months later. By 1986 he had added another five, made his Ryder Cup debut at The De Vere Belfry in 1985, and seemed set to move ever onward and upward.

Few things in life are predictable, however, and from this apparently secure position Sutton's professional career was affected by a series of personal setbacks even as he played in his second Ryder Cup in 1987.

After winning The Memorial Tournament in the spring of 1986 it was to be nine long, hard seasons before he announced his return to genuine action when he won the B.C. Open, closing the deal with a record final round of 61. Since then there have been another six wins, a series of 40 years-plus victories that ties him alongside Greg Norman and Loren Roberts for the 'older champion' tag among active players.

The best of these was his second Players Championship title in 2000 - his first was back in 1983 - when he fought toe-to-toe with Tiger Woods on the last day and emerged the champion by one stroke. And nearly 18 years.

So now this Business Graduate has a new challenge. He is ready for it. To make sure, he resigned from the all-powerful PGA Tour Policy Board explaining that "being Captain will take up too much of my time and energy". His study back home in Shreveport, Louisiana, where any worries over his golf game have been somewhat diluted by the success of the family oil business, is already a command centre as he studies the form and character of various potential Team Members.

For relaxation he says he hunts, fishes and breeds horses. This, however, is something of a front because for Hal Sutton one suspects the only true relaxation is competing hard, doing his best and then looking up to see where he has finished. A man used to adversity and, of course, a natural leader.

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