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Fifty-year-old, Cink gain final spots

MILWAUKEE -- Jay Haas passed up easy money on the
50-and-older Champions Tour for a chance to play for free in the Ryder Cup.

On Monday, he felt like a million bucks.

Haas, who turned 50 last December but continued to compete
against guys half his age, became the second-oldest player in the
Ryder Cup when he joined Stewart Cink as the two captain's picks
for a U.S. team that will try to regain the cup from Europe in the
Sept. 17-19 matches at Oakland Hills.

"Now everyone knows the team," captain Hal Sutton said. "And
everyone knows the mission."

Haas returns to the Ryder Cup for the first time since he lost
the decisive singles match to Philip Walton that allowed Europe to
win in 1995 at Oak Hill.

This wasn't about redemption. Haas only wanted to prove he made
the right decision by staying away from the Champions Tour with
hopes of making one last Ryder Cup team.

"You can't hide the fact I'm 50 years old," Haas said. "As I
said this year, I was trying to put myself in the mix of players
trying to accomplish this goal."

Raymond Floyd was 51 when he was picked as a wild-card in 1993
by captain Tom Watson.

Haas, who last won on the PGA Tour at the '93 Texas Open, was
10th in the standings and in position to earn an automatic spot on the
team until he closed with a 77 on Sunday at Whistling Straits and
dropped two spots to No. 12.

"Hal had some small talk and said, 'I'd sure love to have you
on the team.' I was kind of waiting for 'But you screwed up
today,' " Haas said. "I'm pretty emotional about it. It's
something I pointed to for the last couple of years. To have
realized that is pretty exciting."

Cink will play on the Ryder Cup team for the second straight
time. He was well back in the standings until closing strong at the
Buick Open and the International. He didn't earn any points at the
PGA Championship, although he fared better than other candidates
with a tie for 17th. Cink wound up 14th in the standings.

"I don't remember ever being this flattered in my life," Cink said.

There were no big surprises from Sutton, although the final
round of the PGA Championship complicated his choices when Chris DiMarco lost in a playoff and Chris Riley tied for fourth, both
good enough to play their way onto the team for the first time.

Justin Leonard would have qualified with a victory, but he
missed six putts inside 12 feet on the back nine at Whistling
Straits to fall into the playoff, won by Vijay Singh.

Leonard only moved up to 17th in the standings, but one good
week wasn't enough to sway Sutton.

"I don't want it to be about one championship," Sutton said of
the three-year process to select this team. "It's a moot point.
Justin played great. He could have won. But he didn't, and I picked
the two guys who I think can help."

Also left out were Scott Verplank, a steady player who had an
outstanding Ryder Cup at The Belfry two years ago by going 2-1-0,
and Todd Hamilton, whose two victories this year include the
British Open.

Sutton noted that Hamilton won on two courses (Royal Troon and
Mirasol at the Honda Classic) that are nothing like what the
players will face at Oakland Hills outside Detroit.

"All of the guys are disappointed," Sutton said. "But they
all know 'I could have presented a different case.' "

Still, his two picks have only one PGA Tour victory -- Cink at
the MCI Heritage in April -- over the last four years. The U.S. team
features five rookies -- Kenny Perry, Chad Campbell, Fred Funk,
Riley and DiMarco -- and only five of its dozen players have won
this year.

The rest of the American team is Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson,
Davis Love III, Jim Furyk and David Toms.

Sutton noted that the U.S. team has higher ranked players,
although the Americans can no longer be considered the favorite.
Europe has won the Ryder Cup six of the last nine times.

Europe's team will be determined in two weeks, with captain
Bernhard Langer getting two picks.

Sutton also passed over Steve Flesch, who shot 76 in the final
round of the PGA and fell two spots to No. 11, and Jerry Kelly, who
missed the cut at his homestate major and dropped two positions to
No. 13.

Flesch could still make the team if Riley, whose wife is
expecting their first child the day the Ryder Cup begins, is unable
to play.

Sutton endured a week of lobbying by players on the bubble, but
he took it all in stride.

"I wanted the clubs to do the talking," Sutton said. "I
picked two guys whose clubs were talking."

While Haas hasn't won, he has played consistently well for two
years as he resurrected his career to rejoin the elite players on
the PGA Tour. He also was a captain's pick at the Presidents Cup
last year in South Africa and won his singles match to go 2-1-1 for
the week.

He played two majors on the Champions Tour, finishing second at
the Senior PGA Championship and tied for third at the Senior U.S.
Open. On the regular tour, he is 23rd on the money list.

"It's a very satisfying feeling to be competitive with the best
players in the world," Haas said. "I've had more fun in the last
two years than I've had in my whole career, to fight my way back to
respectability."

He fought all the way back to the Ryder Cup, an event that
doesn't pay prize money. To Haas, making the team is worth a lot more.