Ryder Cup LogoRyder Cup: Team USASeptember 22-24 2006, The K Club, Straffan, County Kildare, Ireland
Story Image Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski gave Tom Lehman some advice on punching up his motivational tactics. (Photo: AP)

Coaching Up

U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Tom Lehman spoke with Duke Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski for nearly two hours on Monday about bonding his team. Coach K gave Lehman "a million" motivational ideas, and told him to just follow his gut.

12 September 2006

NEW YORK (AP) -- Tom Lehman sought out a motivational coach in an effort to lead the U.S. Ryder Cup team to its first win on European soil in 13 years.

The Ryder Cup captain spoke with Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski for nearly two hours Monday about bonding the team before it heads to Ireland for next week's Ryder Cup.

''The guy is certainly a genius in what he does best,'' Lehman said Tuesday at a luncheon at an Irish pub in Manhattan. ''He listens extremely well. He had just a million ideas about what we could do as a team to achieve our ultimate dream.

''Coach K told me, 'Just follow your gut.'''

Lehman will guide the Americans Sept. 22-24 at The K Club outside of Dublin, trying to stop the Europeans from winning the Ryder Cup for the fifth time in the last six matches.

With Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson on his roster, Lehman has the top three players in the world. But like the U.S. basketball team, which recently returned with a bronze medal from the World Championships, a star-studded squad doesn't guarantee success.

At the last Ryder Cup in 2004, the Europeans won by a record margin, 18 1/2-9 1/2, at Oakland Hills. Woods and Mickelson were paired together and soundly beaten in both their matches on opening day.

The Americans last won in 1999 at Brookline, Mass. -- with Lehman on the team -- and they haven't won in Europe since 1993 at The Belfry in England.

''More than anybody I know, Tiger wants to win,'' Lehman said. ''He is definitely engaged in the process. I have his private cell phone number and he says 'Call me anytime' and I do. 'He's taken a great leadership role, especially with some of our younger guys.''

It's likely Lehman will pair Furyk with Woods, who is coming off his fifth straight tournament win. Woods and Furyk are friends and played together at the Presidents Cup last year, finishing 2-0-1. On Thursday, both will play in the HSBC World Match Play Championship in England.

''I know they want to [play together] and that's a big part of it, if a player feels comfortable with another player and they bring out the best in each other,'' Lehman said.

Woods will provide power on a K Club course that features three par 5s on the back nine, while Furyk adds accuracy.

''They're both very similar in their style of competing,'' Lehman said. ''They're both very private. They go about their work very professionally, almost with a cold kind of ruthlessness. They have totally different kind of games, but they're both great putters and both great competitors.''

European Ryder Cup Captain Ian Woosnam rounded out his 12-man team by picking Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood. Clarke -- making his first start since wife Heather died of breast cancer Aug. 13 -- has played with Westwood on every Ryder Cup team since 1997. They have a 4-2 record together, including a 1-up victory over Woods and Mickelson two years ago.

Lehman knows that pairing his top two players may be risky.

''That's one thing I actually talked to Tiger about,'' he said. ''These guys play great, you get four points, that's wonderful. Or if separated and [they] play great, you might get six, might get seven.''

The U.S. team also includes Chad Campbell, David Toms, Chris DiMarco, Stewart Cink, Scott Verplank and rookies Vaughn Taylor, J.J. Henry, Zach Johnson and Brett Wetterich.

The 12 members of Lehman's squad recently went to Ireland to bond. They spent time on the links and in the local pubs.

''We went sneaking into Tiger's room about 3 in the morning, we were going to write some nasty note on his back,'' Lehman said. ''But he had a shirt on. So we had to pass on him, and then we went sneaking into Mickelson's room and he was still awake.''

Lehman called the Ryder Cup ''a golf match played in the Rose Bowl,'' but he's confident that his team is ready to regain the title.

''I feel really good about the way we've gone about preparing for this,'' said Lehman, who got advice from legendary basketball coach John Wooden earlier in the year. ''I know the guys have poured their heart and soul into it.

''All the guys are playing well. There's lots of momentum we've built over the last year and a half.''

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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