- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Until Sunday, if
you entered Dean Wilson's name in a search engine, you got a million links to
Annika Sorenstam. It was Wilson, after all--along with fellow Tour striver
Aaron Barber--who escorted the sassy Swede for two rounds when she sampled
mixed-gender golf at the 2003 Bank of America Colonial. "That was always a
positive for me," Wilson said on Sunday afternoon, still acting gallantly
after three years of yada-yada Annika yada-yada. "But I kept telling
myself, Dang it, I have to win a tournament so I can become known for something
Lehman, 47, would be the first to admit that he's no Annika. Even so, if he had won Sunday's playoff the former British Open champ would have become the first American captain since Jack Nicklaus in 1986 to win a Tour event during his term. A win would have also put Lehman in position, with a week left in the Ryder Cup race, to make his own team on points. (The last U.S. captain to play in the matches was Arnold Palmer in 1963.) In other words, Wilson was again primed to appear in newspaper photos above a caption reading "... with Dean Wilson, left, who also played."
Instead, Wilson's name will henceforth summon a host of links along the lines of "Journeyman Pro Birdies Second Playoff Hole for First Tour Win."
"After I won," said Wilson, "there were a couple of fans out there from Hawaii who said, 'You're going to Kapalua [site of the winners-only Mercedes Championships]!' I don't know about all the other perks that come with it, but I'm satisfied--really satisfied--to have a trophy and have my name on it."
Somewhat less satisfied were the passel of top players who had flown to the Rockies to tune up for this week's PGA Championship. The 36-hole cut claimed Chris DiMarco, Phil Mickelson, Jos� Mar�a Olaz�bal and Camilo Villegas, while eight players, including Fred Couples, didn't come back on Saturday morning to finish a second round interrupted by thunderstorms. Of the marquee players, only Ernie Els (tie for 10th) and Sergio Garc�a (29th) made any noise, and Garc�a spoke for the frustrated when he said, "I haven't been able to find a hole on the green."
The subplot, therefore, as players labored up and down the steep slopes at Castle Pines Golf Club, centered on the efforts of a few U.S. players to either pad their Ryder Cup point totals--the top 10 after the PGA make the team--or impress Lehman enough to become one of his two captain's picks (chart, page G13).
The captain, admitting that his own good play distracted him slightly from the evaluation process, was looking for players who didn't sparkle one week and stumble the next. "You want to know what you're getting," Lehman said after the third round. "You want to know what you're taking with you into competition." (Translation: Mercurial John Daly has no chance.) For that reason Lehman was initially pleased with the play of third-round leader Zach Johnson, who started and ended the week ninth on the Ryder Cup points list. "The thing I like is that his bad tournaments have not been too bad," said Lehman. "He plays poorly and [still] finishes 30th or 25th. That's a very comfortable thought when you're going into an international competition."
Johnson, who played two practice rounds with Lehman at the British Open in July, had to be encouraged by the captain's remarks. On the other hand, he was anxiously looking over his shoulder at Lehman, who began the week 29th in Ryder Cup points. "Knowing Tom, I think he wants to make the team himself," said Johnson, who double-bogeyed the 1st hole on Sunday and finished 13th. "And why not? He always hits it good. It's a matter of making putts."
What Lehman should do if he makes the U.S. team on points has been debated since he was named captain two years ago. He has generally been coy about whether he would play. "If I were to win tomorrow and make the team, I don't know what I'd do," he told reporters last Saturday. But he revealed which way he was leaning when he suggested that his U.S. team had quite enough power, but not enough finesse. "At the end of the day, the Ryder Cup is about putting and chipping," he said. "The guys that I pick will have good short games." Following his own reasoning, he added, "So when you ask would I play, probably not, because I'm not putting well. I feel as if I'd be letting the team down with the putter."
Sunday's finish, which had Lehman making birdie putts from 17, 15, three, 16 and 10 feet, might have caused him to reconsider, but he missed the putt that would have won the tournament--a downhill 15-footer for eagle (and five points) on the par-5 17th. "It looked so fast, and it was so shiny going down the hill," Lehman said, "yet it came up about four inches short." Told that he would have won if the format had been stroke play, Lehman smiled the weary smile of a man who has finished second eight times since his last Tour win, the 2000 Phoenix Open.