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Sutton likely next U.S. Ryder Cup Captain
by Doug Ferguson

All signs point toward Hal Sutton being the U.S. captain for the next Ryder Cup. A former PGA champion and an emotional leader, Sutton will be 46 when the 2004 matches are played at Oakland Hills in the Detroit suburbs.

The big question is who will follow, and who will get squeezed out.

The PGA of America tends to pick captains who are too old to consistently compete on the PGA Tour, and too young for the Senior PGA Tour. Likely candidates are Paul Azinger, Corey Pavin, Tom Lehman and perhaps Mark O'Meara.

Assuming Sutton is the captain for Oakland Hills, only two Ryder Cups remain before that quartet turns 50. O'Meara will be 49 when the '06 Ryder Cup is played in Dublin, and would seem to be the most logical choice considering his roots and affinity for Ireland.

However, the PGA of America might not forgive O'Meara for being among the first to raise the compensation issue.

"He's the one that really started it," Curtis Strange said. "To be quite frank with you, I would be shocked if he ever got to be the captain."

The PGA made about $23 million from the '99 Ryder Cup. To avoid a player revolt, the PGA agreed to let players give $200,000 to the charity of their choice.

Lehman is the next oldest of that bunch, but his career pales in comparison - only five career victories.

That leaves Azinger and Pavin as the strongest possibilities for '06 and '08. By the time the 2010 Ryder Cup is played in Wales, Davis Love III will be 46.

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