Originally created 08/17/99

Lehman, Pate fill out Ryder Cup team



MEDINAH, Ill. -- Captain Ben Crenshaw went with experience when he completed the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Crenshaw added Tom Lehman and Steve Pate to the U.S. squad on Monday, citing their experience in pressure-packed matches as well as on the PGA Tour.

Lehman turned out to be the "logical choice" that Crenshaw has been talking about all summer. The slight surprise was Pate over Fred Couples, who has played more Ryder Cups than any other active American but who hasn't been playing much this summer.

"If you look at these players and if you look at the way that they're playing right now, this summer and onto Boston, I felt like Steve Pate was maybe the most intent, and the most determined about his game right now," Crenshaw said. "I think it boiled down to that."

The wild-card selections give the U.S. team far more experience for the Sept. 24-26 matches at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., although that hasn't mattered lately.

Europe has won the last two biennial matches, and has kept possession of the trophy in five of the past seven Ryder Cups.

And while the U.S. team has won a combined 11 major championships and features only one rookie -- David Duval -- only four players have ever been on a winning Ryder Cup team.

"I'm sick and tired of losing," said Lehman, who has done his part with a 3-2-2 record in his only two Ryder Cups.

Europe's team will not be finalized until Sunday after the BMW International in Munich, Germany. Sergio Garcia played his way onto the team by finishing second to Tiger Woods in the PGA Championship, and at 19 will become the youngest Ryder Cup player ever.

Crenshaw's announcement capped a taxing week on the 49-year-old captain known as "Gentle Ben." A firestorm erupted over how the Ryder Cup profit -- $23 million -- is distributed, and Crenshaw publicly singled out Woods, Duval, Mark O'Meara and Phil Mickelson.

"It burns the hell out of me to listen to some of their viewpoints," he said earlier in the week.

The dynamic play between Woods and Garcia finally shifted the focus back to golf, and Crenshaw declared Monday that a unified team would try to win back the cup next month.

"That issue is behind us," Crenshaw said. "Regardless of what happened this week and how it happened, we have to be a team. Boston is right around the corner. Unification is a big part of this and it's done."

Couples will miss his first Ryder Cup since 1989, turning the experience over to O'Meara and Payne Stewart, who each have played on four teams.

Couples finished 17th in the standings. The only points he earned since March was a tie for 10th in the Buick Classic on June 28, which also was the last time he played until the PGA Championship.

"Mediocre for Fred is tremendous for somebody else," Crenshaw said. "But you've got to consider his schedule this year, this being a Ryder Cup year. How many times did they play at different places? Those things weighed in on the decision."

Crenshaw also skipped over Bob Estes, who made a heroic effort to make the team on his own Sunday. Needing a two-way tie for fifth, Estes had fourth-place to himself on the 15th hole until he bogeyed the next two and tied for sixth. He finished 11th in the standings, 13.75 points behind Jeff Maggert.

"The only thing lacking in his column was experience," Crenshaw said.

The same held true for Steve Stricker, who finished 13th. Crenshaw also considered Chris Perry and two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen, who missed the cut in the PGA Championship and was well back at No. 24 in the standings.

"He could have picked anybody else and they'd all be good picks," Pate said. "I'm just glad it was me."

Pate played only one match in the 1991 Ryder Cup, where he was injured in a car accident. He reached the semifinals of the Match Play Championship, losing 1-up to Maggert, the eventual champion.

He was the victim of Duval's 59 on Sunday in the Bob Hope Classic, and lost in a playoff against Loren Roberts in Dallas.

"He's a very fierce competitor who would walk through a wall for you if you asked him to," Crenshaw said.

Crenshaw said he spoke with Ryder Cup captains before him and countless players on how to use his wild-card selections. Pate's name kept coming up, and a phone call from O'Meara on Sunday afternoon only bolstered his belief.

On his way to the airport, O'Meara called Crenshaw and reminded him what happened in the 1988 U.S. Open at The Country Club.

O'Meara and Pate tied for third, two strokes out of the playoff.

"I was sitting right there with Steve," Crenshaw said. "I said, 'This is Mark. He said you finished third." And he said, 'Yep, I did.' It was good."

Woods topped the 10 automatic qualifiers, followed by Duval, Stewart, Davis Love III, O'Meara, Hal Sutton, Justin Leonard, Jim Furyk, Mickelson and Maggert.