Ryder Cup Logo Ryder Cup: Team USASeptember 22-24 2006, The K Club, Straffan, County Kildare, Ireland
Story Image Teammates Chad Campbell (left) and Chris DiMarco share a laugh during Tuesday's practice round at the K Club. (Photo: AP)

In-tune U.S. players sing Lehman's praise

From a bond-building team trip to Ireland last month, to an off-key singing exhibition, to his impressive attention to detail, Tom Lehman has thus far drawn high praise from his players as he prepares them for the 2006 Ryder Cup.

T.J. Auclair, Junior Editor
September 19, 2006

STRAFFAN, Ireland -- No one will know exactly how effective Tom Lehman's role as captain of the U.S. Ryder team is until the matches are decided on Sunday evening.

What is known, however, is the fact that Lehman is being credited with taking a rather unorthodox approach that seems, well, quite orthodox -- he's making his players bond to create a sense of "team" over "individual."

Sure, it seems like an easy concept, but not one recent U.S. captains have been able to grasp, evidenced by the Americans having lost four of the last five Ryder Cups, including a record 18.5-9.5 record thumping at Oakland Hills in 2004.

Basically, regardless of the outcome of the 36th edition of these matches, it's pretty safe to say the U.S. captain won't be second-guessed.

What exactly has Lehman done so far? For starters, he managed to round up all 12 of his players for a two-day trip to Ireland one month ago. The trip was less about business -- although they did take in a couple of practice sessions at The K Club -- and more about developing friendships.

"That little trip we made a few weeks back was one of the greatest little adventures and it was one of the greatest ideas that I've ever been a part of," said Scott Verplank, who was selected to the team as one of Lehman's two captain's picks. "It kind of gave us a couple extra days to get rid of all the, you know, how are you guys getting along and getting together. So we already did that. We're like 12 little kids just playing around, which I think has made a nice atmosphere for everybody."

On Monday night, Lehman broke players from their shell by actually making them sing their respective college fight song in front of everyone in the team room. Tiger Woods snuck out while it was going on, but was harassed to the point that he finally did warm up the vocal cords for his amused teammates. According to Lehman, an appearance on American Idol isn't in Woods' future.

"I saw him sing and I can tell you right now, he can't sing," Lehman said.

"He wasn't good and he didn't like doing it," Verplank said, recalling Tiger's performance. "I wouldn't recommend he go to a recording studio or anything like that. Tom got him a little on the embarrassed side, which was good and everybody had a good laugh."

Most of the Americans agree that the biggest contrast between Lehman and past captains is his structure and attention to detail. Lehman has given the U.S. the type of direction it hasn't had in years and his team is hoping it will serve them well as they enter the 2006 Ryder Cup as decided underdogs for arguably the first time ever.

"I think his leading is what I really enjoy," said Stewart Cink, who is making his third appearance in the Ryder Cup. "He's telling us where to go, who to play with, what time to be there. He's not giving us any wiggle room. He's telling us what to do, who to play with, how to play, how much money to put in the pot. He's telling us everything and I love it. I think it's a great way for us to get prepared."

Chris DiMarco, making his second Ryder Cup appearance and playing in his fourth international team competition overall, gave high praise to his captain following Tuesday's practice round.

"I told him last night that I respected him and that I thought he was the best captain I've ever had," DiMarco said. "That trip we took a month ago was awesome. I knew mostly everybody, but when I walked off that plane, I knew that I had 12 or 15 really close friends after that. It was a good thing and I think he's done numerous little things that in the whole scheme of it are just huge."

While Lehman is happy that everyone is enjoying themselves, he hasn't lost sight of the reason they're here -- to get a win.

"We're here to play golf and we're having a good time," he said. "We will be ready to play on Friday. There's no question about that. Once 8 o'clock on Friday morning comes around, our team will be ready. They are prepared, they are excited, they are looking forward to it. We are just enjoying every step along the way."

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