DiMarco, Riley make team; Leonard falls short
More of the same.
DiMarco and Riley played themselves into the pressure-packed Ryder Cup with their performances Sunday in the year's final major. DiMarco finished second after a three-man, three-hole playoff and Riley was fourth -- good enough to knock Jay Haas and Steve Flesch out of the top 10 in the Ryder Cup point standings.
Justin Leonard needed to win the tournament to make the team, but he missed a 12-foot putt on No. 18 to win in regulation and he couldn't manage a birdie on the extra holes. Vijay Singh won his third career major when he made his first birdie of the day on the first extra hole, No. 10, and it stood up as they played the 17th and 18th.
That put Riley on and left Leonard among a handful of others hoping to be one of captain Hal Sutton's two picks.
"It's gut-wrenching coming down to the end," Riley said. "To play for your country, I got chills out there thinking about it. I really am proud of myself. ... To finish fourth in a major championship -- it's pretty awesome and I feel really good."
DiMarco made two double bogeys the final round at the '01 PGA, four strokes that kept him from making the U.S. team that year. He only needed an eighth-place tie to make it this year, so all he was playing for in the extra holes was his first major title.
After hitting his 6-iron onto the green at No. 18, "I looked at my caddie and said, 'That's good enough, for sure,"' DiMarco said. "I'm proud of myself that I went out and did it."
Riley, 30, is expecting his first child on Sept. 17. When he missed a 4-foot putt on the 18th, he figured he would be home with his family when the Ryder Cup starts at Oakland Hills in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., but he made the team when Leonard didn't.
Fred Funk, 48, would have been knocked off the team only if Leonard, Riley and DiMarco had all made it. Having missed the cut, Funk was watching on television and doing the calculations in his head.
"It hasn't really hit me yet, other than I'm getting a million phone calls," Funk told The Associated Press. "That was my goal going into this year. To have it actually happen at this stage in my career, it's a great way to finish my regular tour career."
Funk played in the Presidents Cup last year at Fancourt in South Africa, where DiMarco made a clutch putt on the 17th hole on the final day. "Hal said, 'Just take that moment, with a Ryder Cup on American soil, and multiply it by a 100,"' Funk said.
The Ryder Cup race has been called the tournament within a tournament and, in the end, it was almost as exciting as the main one.
Seven players had clinched a spot regardless of what happened at the year's final major: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Davis Love III, Jim Furyk, Kenny Perry, David Toms and Chad Campbell. With 300 points at stake for a victory in the PGA, anyone in the top 46 was within range of making the team; 24 of them needed to win outright.
Flesch, who came to Whistling Straits ninth in the standings, and Haas, who was 10th, were the big losers in the wild scramble that determined the majority of the team.
"It's out of my hands now. I had my chance and I didn't play that well this week," Flesch said. "I'm tired of hearing about it. I can't wait until he makes his two picks and it's over."
Jeff Maggert, who was 13th in the standings and needing to move up, withdrew because his wife gave birth to twins. By Sunday, after cuts and withdrawals, there were 17 players left in contention for the three spots up for grabs.
Stewart Cink needed a sixth place and finished 17th. Scott Verplank needed to finish ninth and came in 62nd. Todd Hamilton needed a seventh and got a 37th. Seven golfers, including Leonard, needed to win and didn't.
They're all candidates for the captain's picks.
Leonard will get consideration for his performance this week, and Sutton certainly remembers the 45-foot putt Leonard made to help the United States win the 1999 Ryder Cup in Brookline, Mass. That highlight aside, Leonard's Cup career isn't very good; he is 0-3-5 there.
Haas, 50, would be the second-oldest player ever picked for the team, second only to Raymond Floyd in '93. Haas last played in the Ryder Cup in '95 at Oak Hill. On the 18th hole of the deciding match, he popped up his tee shot on his way to making bogey, losing to Philip Walton and giving Europe the win.
Verplank, who went from 6 under to 1 under after twisting an ankle on Friday, will also get consideration. He is the eighth American in the world rankings -- the highest-ranked U.S. player who isn't already on the team. Last time, he was the first captain's pick who had never played on a Ryder Cup team.
Sutton himself missed the cut at Whistling Straits. He spent the last two days in his hotel room watching the tournament on television with the volume turned down.
"I just hope one day doesn't change the way the captain's thought for two years," Verplank said.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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