Verplank wishes he'd gotten more chances to contribute
Veteran Scott Verplank sat out on Friday, won his Saturday morning match with Zach Johnson and then returned to the bench until the Sunday singles. He's disappointed, but hoping that Captain Lehman's decisions work out for the best.
September 23, 2006
STRAFFAN, Ireland (AP) -- Scott Verplank must be wondering why Tom Lehman picked him for the Ryder Cup.
After not playing on the first day of the matches, Verplank -- an alternate-shot specialist because he is among the straightest hitters in golf -- was sent out in a fourballs match Saturday morning. He and Zach Johnson produced the only U.S. victory.
Then Verplank returned to the bench.
"I would be lying if I told you I wasn't disappointed and feel like I shouldn't have another chance or two," Verplank said. "But I'll have another chance tomorrow, and hopefully ... we'll still have a chance as a group to win. That's what we're all here for."
Even so, it was peculiar.
Only one other American to make the team as a captain's pick has played only one team match -- Paul Azinger in 2002, the year the Ryder Cup was delayed one year because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Stranger still was that Lehman told Verplank on Thursday night that he would not play in either match Friday, which would indicate it didn't matter how anyone performed in the opening session.
Verplank finished 20th in the Ryder Cup standings, so it was considered a bold move for Lehman to take him.
"One of the things that I think our team needs is somebody who can really putt and really can chip, who can drive the ball, put it in the fairway, who is a tough, tough, tough competitor, who will never quit, never give up," Lehman said of Verplank the day he picked him.
Apparently, that didn't come with a guarantee to play.
Johnson made all the birdies in their 2 & 1 victory, although Verplank's contributions were quiet. He was in virtually every hole, assuring the Americans no worse than par.
"It was a team effort, regardless of what anybody says," Johnson said.
Verplank said Lehman approached them on the 13th hole to tell Johnson he would play in a foursomes match Saturday afternoon.
"I said, 'Am I playing this afternoon?' And he said, 'No,"' Verplank said. "And I said, 'We're going to win this match. I'd like to play.' But he already had it set. And fortunately, we won the match."
Verplank tried to say all the right things, although it was an awkward handshake with Lehman after his fourball victory, and Verplank walked away shaking his head.
After a team meeting Saturday evening, Lehman said Verplank was fine.
"I'm sure he's disappointed -- or was disappointed -- and that's what makes him such a great competitor," Lehman said. "I simply felt that this afternoon, we needed to put what I considered to be our best teams out there."
Verplank said ultimately he cared only about winning. A captain's pick in 2002, he played both foursomes matches and went 2-1 in another U.S. loss.
"If we win the Ryder Cup, Captain Lehman is going to look like a genius," Verplank said. "And that's what I'm hoping."
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Thank you for submitting your email. You will receive offers as they become available.
Europeans clinch a third consecutive Ryder Cup victory.Watch
- Don't ever question my Ryder Cup desire, says Furyk
- Woods has some ideas on how to fare better in the future
- Excuses for U.S. Ryder loss are wrong, says Ferguson
- No quick fixes for U.S. Ryder Cup team, says Lehman
- Teamwork, not team spirit, was a problem, Toms says