Why is Tom Lehman smiling?

February, 23, 2006
CARLSBAD, Calif. -- Tom Lehman should be a very happy man right now.

Through two days at the Accenture Match Play Championship, Lehman has victories over a pair of higher-ranked Aussie studs, Stuart Appleby and Adam Scott, to advance into the Sweet 16 here at La Costa.

But in his role as U.S. Ryder Cup captain, Lehman is forced to look beyond his own personals goals, factoring in the success of fellow American players in the same match-play format that will determine this year's team competition at The K Club in Ireland.

And like I said, he should be very happy.

U.S. players make up exactly half of the 16 remaining spots in the field heading into Friday's third round. This includes four players who will definitely make Lehman's roster (Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, David Toms, Chris DiMarco), two that will likely make the trip (Chad Campbell, Davis Love III) and one who is putting together a pretty impressive resume reel this week (Zach Johnson).

With victories over Jim Furyk and 2005 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Sean O'Hair, the 15th-seeded Johnson has quietly positioned himself to earn some big-time points if he can knock off Shingo Katayama on Friday.

Of course, that leaves one U.S. player unaccounted for: Tom Lehman. The captain has deflected questions about his own presence as a team member, but is on the record as saying he'll probably play if he earns enough points to finish in the top-10 and qualify for the roster that way. But he has also made it known that he won't name himself as a captain's pick.

This story has six more months to develop, but if Lehman continues his torrid streak, it could become one of the more interesting subplots to the season.

Jason Sobel | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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