Azinger finalizes US Ryder Cup team

By Associated PressSeptember 2, 2008, 4:00 pm
Ryder CupNEW YORK ' Chad Campbell lingered in the parking lot of a Dallas hospital as his wife waited inside to get the latest report on their first child, due to be born later this week.
He wanted a clear signal on his cell phone to hear the good news: Campbell is going to the Ryder Cup.
Paul Azinger completed his American team Tuesday with captains picks, adding Campbell, Steve Stricker, Hunter Mahan and Kentucky native J.B. Holmes to a team that will have six Ryder Cup rookies and no Tiger Woods.
I think that we have rounded off this team with the best possible players at this time, Azinger said.
Stricker was at the top of his list all along, the No. 8 player in the world ranking and among the best putters in golf who would have qualified for the team if the points counted over the last two weeks.
Azinger also favored Holmes, a big basher off the tee who is sure to get local support when the Ryder Cup is played Sept. 19-21 at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky. Mahan opened his eyes with a 62 at Ridgewood Country Club in the first round of The Barclays.
The final piece was Campbell, who played on the last two Ryder Cup teams but was barely mentioned as speculation increased over the last few weeks. The quiet Texan made one last impression by finishing 69-66 at the TPC Boston.
I knew I was on the outside looking in, but I felt like I played pretty well over the last couple months, other than a couple of tournaments, Campbell said. I was just hoping that he saw that. I feel like Im playing as well as I ever have right now. Im honored to be picked.
The final choice was between Campbell and Scott Verplank, who was 33rd in the Ryder Cup standings but is a rarity among Americans with a winning record this decade. Verplank is 4-1 in his two Ryder Cups, beating Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington in singles, while playing on teams beaten by a combined 12 points.
Also bypassed were Woody Austin, who finished at No. 10 in the standings except that only the top eight earned sports this year; Rocco Mediate, who lost a 19-hole playoff to Woods in the U.S. Open; Tampa winner Sean OHair, Bob Hope Classic winner D.J. Trahan and Brandt Snedeker.
Its hard for me to justify why the guys didnt make the team, Azinger said. I can just tell you why I picked the guys that I did pick. Theres a lot of guys that deserve to be on this team, and theres a lot of guys that were really close to making it.
The eight players who qualified were Phil Mickelson, Stewart Cink, Kenny Perry, Jim Furyk, Anthony Kim, Justin Leonard, Ben Curtis and Boo Weekley. Along with the four picks, they face a big chore.
The United States has not won the Ryder Cup since 1999, when Leonard holed a 45-foot birdie putt at The Country Club to complete the biggest comeback in history. Europe has captured the cup eight of the last 11 times dating to 1985.
Azinger thinks this European squad is the strongest ever.
I like the team that we have and Im really confident with who we have, Azinger said. We are going to be underdogs in this event, and I think its OK to be the underdog.
European captain Nick Faldo picked Ian Poulter and Paul Casey on Sunday to fill out his 12-man team, overlooking Darren Clarke, who had won twice in the last four months and had played in the Ryder Cup the last five times.
Azinger revamped the criteria, doubled his picks to four, then asked to delay his selections three weeks with hopes of finding someone who could get hot with the matches approaching.
That didnt make the job any easier. His wife, Toni, celebrated her 50th birthday on Monday as Azinger made a series of phone calls trying to decide how to fill out his team.
I kept telling him, Paul, its my birthday, Mrs. Azinger said with a laugh. It was a long night. He put a lot of thought into those picks, and hes real excited.
No one was as excited as Stricker, about the only person who didnt know he was a lock. After the first round Friday at the Deutsche Bank Championship, he sat alone at a table, staring at the scores.
Its eating me up, he confided.
Azinger showed mercy by calling him soon after the tournament ended to end the suspense.
I asked Paul right away if this was a good (phone) call or a bad call, Stricker said. I needed to know. And obviously, it was a good call. Im very excited. It has been my No. 1 goal at the start of the season.
Mahan also had reason to be concerned.
Some thought his chances were damaged when he was quoted in a magazine article criticizing the largesse of the Ryder Cup week and claiming that PGA of America officials cared only about making money.
Mahan owned up to the remarks, apologized to the PGA and to Azinger, then shot 81 in the first round of the PGA Championship. But he showed enough of his firepower ' the 62 at Ridgewood and a 64 at the TPC Boston when he rallied to make the cut ' that made him an obvious choice to Azinger.
I think that weve all moved on from those comments, and Im just looking forward to the Ryder Cup, Mahan said. Im so grateful that captain Azinger has given me this opportunity, and Im looking forward to starting it up. Im looking forward to every minute, every second of it. And Im going to enjoy every second of it.
Along with bashing his tee shots, Holmes is a two-time winner on the PGA TOUR, adding another title at the FBR Open this year when he birdied the last hole and then beat Mickelson in a playoff. Along with his Kentucky heritage ' he made the high school team in tiny Campbellsville when he was in the third grade ' Holmes knows Valhalla as well as anyone.
All I can tell you is that the four guys that I have, those were the four guys that became very obvious to me, Azinger said. And Im happy with those four guys.

Related Links:
  • European Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • Full Coverage - 37th Ryder Cup
  • Getty Images

    Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

    By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

    One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

    Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

    "I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

    Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

    "I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

    Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

    "Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

    Getty Images

    Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

    Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

    Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

    “I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

    The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

    “I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

    Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

    This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

    The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

    Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

    The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

    A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

    And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

    The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

    Masters victory

    Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

    Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

    Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

    Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

    Green jacket tour

    Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

    Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

    Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

    Man of the people

    Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

    Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

    Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

    Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

    Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

    Growing family

    Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

    Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

    Departure from TaylorMade

    Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

    Squashed beef with Paddy

    Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

    Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

    Victory at Valderrama

    Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

    Getty Images

    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm