2002: Newsmakers - Capt. Sutton calls for Ryder passion

Newly appointed U.S. Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton says he wants to instill more passion and intensity into an American side that has lost a “disturbing” six of the last nine biennial meetings against Europe. And he sounds as if he’ll start at the top by working on Tiger Woods.

Woods, of course, is on target to break every meaningful individual record in golf, but he has a 5-8-2 record in three Ryder Cup appearances. And through the first day of the recent team competition at the Belfry, Woods inexplicably had lost eight consecutive four-ball matches in Ryder and Presidents Cups combined.

“I’m going to talk with Tiger,” Sutton said Oct. 24 upon being announced captain for the 35th matches Sept. 17-19, 2004, at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. “Tiger parallels his career to Jack Nicklaus’. He has Jack Nicklaus right in his sights. I would like to challenge him to look at Jack Nicklaus’ Ryder Cup record (17-8-3 overall, 8-1 in foursomes) and let’s go after that one, too. Jack understood the passion of the Ryder Cup.”

Sutton went on to “assure” that Woods would display his unparalleled game at the next matches. “Tiger before too long is going to shine in the Ryder Cup,” Sutton said. “He’s too great a champion.”

Sutton, 44, wasted little time taking charge upon being appointed and left little doubt that infusing a passionate spirit would be his modus operandi as leader of the 12-man U.S. team. He talked about “getting chills” at Ryder Cup opening and closing ceremonies, adding, “If you don’t understand the significance of it when the jets fly by and the flags go up . . .”

Among his potential players, Sutton seems to be a popular choice. “In the Ryder Cups I have played on,” said Phil Mickelson, “nobody has been a more inspirational or a more emotional leader than Hal Sutton. I think he will be a tremendous captain.”

Sutton’s team will attempt to wrest away the cup that Europe reclaimed with a 151⁄2-121⁄2 victory Sept. 29 in England.

“I don’t know what the missing ingredient is other than I think we need to be more passionate about it,” Sutton said. “It’s passionate to me. If we take that to that level with every player, I think we’ll come out on top.”

Sutton later said he didn’t want to leave the impression U.S. players aren’t enthused about playing in the Ryder Cup. “If you would see us in the team room,” he said, “it would be easier for you to write about our passion.”

Europe has been especially dominant in team play in recent times, going 44-28 in four-ball since 1985. “It’s pretty apparent they work together better as a team . . . reading putts and talking,” Sutton said.

As a result, the captain cited probable need to pair differently than some U.S. captains have. That means matching power with power. Woods and Mickelson, ranked 1-2 in the world, were not paired with one another at The Belfry. “What we need to do with the U.S. team is put our best players in the world together and try to secure at least two matches (in each four-match session),” he said.

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