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Captain pick key to Tiger's enthusiasm

Okay, so getting tough with Tiger Woods didn't work. Now what?

Hal Sutton made it clear when he took the job as captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team that he wanted Woods to embrace the event and attack it like he does major championships. "I would like to challenge Tiger to look at Jack Nicklaus' Ryder Cup record and let's go after that one, too," Sutton said.

Woods, apparently, wasn't swayed. On the eve of the Ryder Cup, Woods wondered if reporters could recite the Ryder Cup record of the Golden Bear. Most would have been hard-pressed to come up with 17-8-3. But no doubt they know Nicklaus won 18 major championships.

The message from Woods was the Ryder Cup is never going to be as important to him as the majors, so there is no point trying to force it on him.

But if the United States is to avoid the embarrassment of last weekend, a nine-point loss that was the biggest ever for the Americans, they need Woods on their side. He is too good of a player and commands too much respect from his peers. Once inside the ropes, Woods gives it his all, but seems bothered by all the hoopla that surrounds the event.

That's why an easy-going captain is the best bet for Ireland in 2006. Someone who will let Woods do what he wants, consult him on playing partners, maybe even let him be in on the at-large selections. The idea of coddling Woods might be offensive to some, but the other way didn't work, so why not try this?

Paul Azinger, Corey Pavin and Tom Lehmanhave been rumored as candidates, and Azinger, given his love for the Ryder Cup and strong play in the event (he has never lost in singles), is a lock for a captaincy at some point. But for the next Ryder Cup, when attention will be at an all-time high, the natural pick now is Mark O'Meara, an Irishman and best buddy to Woods.

O'Meara played on five U.S. Ryder Cup teams and though his overall record was just 4-9-1, he does have two major championships and 16 PGA Tour titles on his resume. O'Meara said he wants the job, and no doubt Woods would do right by his friend.

The problem for O'Meara, however, is the PGA of America, which selects the captain, might not want him. Five years ago, O'Meara led the charge among players who believed they should be compensated for participating. He later backed down and said he simply wanted to know where all the funds were going. Eventually, it was resolved that players would be allowed to donate $200,000 each in their name to a charity of their choice from Ryder Cup proceeds.

So if O'Meara doesn't get the call, Fred Couples, who also played in five majors, could be a secondary choice. You won't get any scientific approach to the pairings from Couples, but given what just happened, that might be a good thing.

The PGA of America will begin discussing the candidates soon, with the likelihood that a choice will be made in the next two months. Whoever it is might have a big impact on Woods' 7-11-2 record.

SERGIO'S ANTICS: In their post-Ryder Cup giddiness, the Europeans had a grand time as they entered the media center to answer questions in various states of delirium. When Sergio Garcia hogged the microphone to answer a question, England's Lee Westwood couldn't help but get in a quip about how, just like on the course, Garcia never shuts up.

But he does perform. At age 24, Garcia has played in three Ryder Cups and has a 10-3-2 record. He's well on his way to matching Nick Faldo's record of 25 points won in Cup play.

"None of us likes watching Sergio be Sergio," said Chris DiMarco, who won the most points for the Americans, 2{. "But none of us have been able to beat him."

STAYING YOUNG: Jay Haas stayed on the regular tour this year because he wanted to play in the Ryder Cup. At 50, he has played in just three Champions Tour events (he is 30th on the money list) and looks like he might try to keep competing against the young guys next year.

"I don't know what my plans will be but I've enjoyed this so much," Haas said. "I'll probably play mostly regular tour golf next year and see how we do."

CHRYSLER CHAMPIONSHIP: Next month's PGA Tour event at the Westin Innisbrook Resort is soliciting area charities for its Birdies for Charities program and looking for area elementary and middle schools that might want to take a field trip to the tournament. The Birdies for Charity program returns 100 percent of money solicited through pledges to the charities that participate. Those that accumulate more than $3,000 in pledge money are eligible to receive funds from a $120,000 bonus pool. The Kash n' Karry Kids Day is Oct. 27, the day before the tournament begins, and schools that qualify will have students admitted for free. For information call (727) 942-3737.

MID-AM: The top mid-amateurs in the state are participating in this week's Florida State Mid-Amateur Championship. The tournament begins today at Sawgrass Country Club with a field of 90.

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