WHEN Tom Lehman, the US Ryder Cup captain, urged his men to win more tournaments in the run-up to the match against Europe at the K Club next month, it's safe to assume he didn't have either Loren Roberts or Corey Pavin in mind. On Sunday, however, it was Lehman's backroom assistants who showed the others the way with victories at Turnberry and Milwaukee.
While pleased for his friends, Lehman, privately, must be questioning the lack of experience in a side which is shaping up as stellar at the top of the order - the expected partnerships of Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco will be crucial to US hopes of success - but something of an unproven quantity further down.
As things stand, the last four places on the US side will be filled by JJ Henry, Zach Johnson, Brett Wetterich and John Rollins, rookies who would add an element of the unknown to the American team for the first time in years. With an injury doubt over the involvement of David Toms and fitness and form question marks also lingering against possible wild card selections such as Davis Love III and Fred Couples, even the Yanks (whose qualifying race ends after the US PGA at Medinah on 20 August) accept Europe go into the 36th match as favourites.
A well-designed short course will often be more popular than many long, tiresome, unkempt courses which boast of championship length. ROBERT HUNTER