Ryder Cup Logo Ryder Cup: Team USASeptember 22-24 2006, The K Club, Straffan, County Kildare, Ireland
Story Image His young challengers are motivated to make the team, says Tom Lehman. (Photo: Getty Images)

Lehman believes his young Americans will come through

U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Tom Lehman knows that half his team might be inexperienced in international play, but trusts that the zeal of young players such as Zach Johnson and Lucas Glover could carry the Americans back to victory.

July 05, 2006

STRAFFAN, Ireland (AP) -- U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Tom Lehman has no problem going into September's match against Europe with half his team inexperienced in international play.

He believes the zeal of players like Zach Johnson, Vaughn Taylor, J.J. Henry, Brett Wetterich and Lucas Glover can carry the Americans after their 18 1/2 -9 1/2 loss to the Europeans at Oakland Hills in 2004. The five are all in the top 10 of the Ryder Cup points standings.

The U.S. standings have fluctuated wildly this year under a new points system that emphasizes winning, and the bottom half of the team likely will not take shape until early August. Still, players such as Davis Love III and Chris DiMarco have fallen out of the top 10, and there is a chance this could be the most inexperienced U.S. team in years.

"You know, the young guys are really hungry. They are really motivated to be part of this team," Lehman said. "You can't replace the attitude of guys who have a bit of a competitive chip on their shoulder. They have something to prove. That's a great way to play golf. They have this bit of an edge to them. I like that."

Lehman was responding to comments the previous day by Europe captain Ian Woosnam, who suggested inexperience might hurt the United States. He also said he was upset with criticism at home that American players are pampered -- traveling to tournaments in private planes -- and play well only in warm weather with no wind.

"People say they don't have heart," he said. "To me, it's so far from the truth."

Still, Lehman acknowledges that the Europeans will be favorites Sept. 22 on the Palmer Course in Straffan.

"I'd say we're underdogs, no question. We've gotten thumped quite regularly over the last decade and I think right now there are more Europeans in the world ranking top 25 than Americans. But I think being the underdogs is good. I have no problem with that."

After all, the U.S. does have Tiger Woods. And last year at the Presidents Cup, Lehman saw how well Woods played with Jim Furyk. At Oakland Hills, Woods and Phil Mickelson were paired, and both lost their matches on opening day.

"Now I can start with Furyk and Tiger," Lehman said. "That seems to be a strong option."

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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