Cook: Ryder Cup squad uninspiring

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FARMINGTON -- Scott Verplank, one of the 12 golfers who will carry America's hopes and dreams across the pond to the Ryder Cup next week, asked a frightening question at the 84 Lumber Classic yesterday.

Frightening because it painted a horrifying picture of his game at the moment.

"Did I beat her?"

Michelle Wie.

Yes, Verplank beat her.

Barely.

It doesn't exactly generate a lot of confidence that Verplank will be ready for Colin Montgomerie, Sergio Garcia and the other Europeans at the K Club in Straffan, County Kildare, Ireland.

Verplank missed the cut at Mystic Rock after stumbling to a hideous 6-over-par 78 yesterday. That was only a portion of the distressing news for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Chad Campbell also shot 78 and won't be playing here this weekend.

This is just a guess:

They must be shaking in their boots in Europe.

At least David Toms, Chris DiMarco and Brett Wetterich made the cut. DiMarco had to birdie No. 16 and Wetterich had to birdie two of his final three holes to make it right on the cut line at 1-over par. Toms made it a little more comfortably -- his two-day total is even-par 144 -- but he's hardly a threat to win. He trails second-round co-leaders Ryan Moore and Ben Curtis by nine shots.

That Toms, DiMarco and Wetterich survived hardly makes up for the stunning crash-and-burning of Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk, the world's Nos. 1 and 2 players, Thursday in the first round at the World Match Play Championship in Virginia Water, England. It's always shocking when Tiger loses, especially when he gets blitzed in match play, 4 and 3, by another American, in this case, Shaun Micheel, who wasn't deemed worthy of a spot on the Ryder Cup team by captain Tom Lehman. It almost was as surprising that Furyk got spanked by Robert Karlsson, 6 and 4. Furyk had just won the Canadian Open last week, one of six top-four finishes in his past seven tournaments.

Throw in the fact that Phil Mickelson has played a lot of lousy golf since his Sunday collapse at Winged Foot at the U.S. Open two months ago and it gets harder to believe the Americans can win back that Ryder Cup and end the Europeans' dominance that has seen them win the past two competitions and four of the past five.

"I guess you have to look at the positive," Campbell said on his way out of Nemacolin Woodlands. "[Tiger and Furyk] have been playing a lot of golf. They should be fresh now. At least they won't be worn out playing 36 holes every day."

Is that stretching, or what?

Campbell and Verplank talked a better game than they played here, predicting big things for the American team in Ireland. It's one thing to get psyched for the 84 Lumber Classic or the World Match Play Championship, they said. It's a little easier to get pumped for the Ryder Cup.

You know, patriotism and that.

"I'm glad to put this behind me," Verplank said. "I wasn't ready to play here mentally this week. Everyone will be ready next week ...

"I don't think this means anything. I really don't."

A lot of the pros are sad to see the end of the 84 Lumber tournament after a four-year run. Verplank, most definitely, is not among them. He missed the cut in 2004 and left thinking, happily, "I'm never going to see this place again." He came back only because Lehman insisted. Lehman, it seems, had questions about a back/rib injury Verplank had a month ago.

Verplank -- one of Lehman's two captain's picks for the Ryder Cup squad -- insisted he's healthy.

Other than his pride, of course.

"I hit the ball really good here, which is a good sign," Verplank said. "But I had 38 putts today and I think I had 35 yesterday. I just putted it awful. The same thing happened a couple years ago. I can't read the greens here for some reason."

Campbell wasn't quite as charitable toward his game after a dismal round that included four bogeys and two double bogeys.

"One of those days. I didn't play very good. It happens," Campbell said. "I know I have to play better next week. Obviously, this isn't going to get it done."

Not here.

Certainly not over there.


Ron Cook can be reached at rcook@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1525.


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