Point/Counterpoint: Whom should Sutton choose?

Originally Published: August 15, 2004
ESPN.com

Justin Leonard barely missed out on winning the PGA Championship, losing to Vijay Singh in a playoff.

Is he Ryder Cup-worthy? Or does consideration instead go to Jerry Kelly, Jay Haas, Scott Verplank or someone else?

Sutton makes his announcement tomorrow, but we at ESPN.com make our decision now.

Who should Sutton choose?
KELLY AND HAAS

Golf is an individual sport. What Vijay Singh accomplished on Sunday was an individual achievement.

The Ryder Cup, however, is a team event and as such, Hal Sutton needs to choose the two best team golfers from the millions of Americans not in the top 10. (Yes, you too Mr. 18-Handicapper could be chosen by Sutton on Monday morning.) He needs to choose the two players who have faught hardest for it and want it the most -- Jay Haas and Jerry Kelly.

At 50 years old, Haas is four years Sutton's senior. But he's also playing some of the best golf of his life, with seven top-10 finishes in 18 starts this season. How much has Haas sacrificed to be on this team? He could be making millions on the senior tour, playing in three-round tournaments and riding in a golf cart, but instead he's spent his entire year (save two weeks) battling guys half his age (including his son!) just for the right to be a Ryder Cupper for the first time since 1995. If that grit and determination doesn't spell team player, then nothing does.

In order to choose Kelly, Sutton must ignore his two rounds at the PGA. Playing in front of the home folks, with a Ryder Cup bid on the line, just didn't work out for Kelly, who missed the cut for the first time in his last 27 starts. But the word most often used to describe Kelly -- "bulldog" -- should be enough for Sutton. Kelly will battle the Europeans down to the end, just like the hockey player he is.

Whatever happens, some good players are going to get snubbed.
-- Jason Sobel

LEONARD AND VERPLANK

Justin Leonard told Hal Sutton on Sunday that he hoped he would make his decision difficult. Leonard didn't make it difficult at all. Sutton should take Leonard for the following reasons.

  • He plays the tough courses well. Look at where he has won -- Royal Troon, TPC at Sawgrass, Hilton Head, and he made playoffs at Carnoustie and now, Whistling Straits.


  • Experience in the Ryder Cup is paramount. Seems like Leonard has that. I recall a certain 45-foot bomb in 1999 at The Country Club that shook all of golf to its foundation.


  • A hot hand. Leonard has turned his game around over the last six weeks. Crushing as his loss Sunday may be, he understands that the big picture is nothing but positive.

    With the other pick, I think Sutton should take Scott Verplank, a success as a captain's choice in 2002. Verplank has played consistently well all year. His down-the-middle, on-the-green game has been good enough for top-10 finishes in the 2003 U.S. Open and the 2004 British Open. He also finished as low amateur at the 1985 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills, so he can play well at the venue.

    That means saying no to Jay Haas and Jerry Kelly, both of whom could be justified with ease. Leonard and Verplank make more sense from this end.
    -- Ivan Maisel

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