Azinger mulling over his four captains picks

By Associated PressSeptember 1, 2008, 4:00 pm
Ryder CupNORTON, Mass. ' Scott Verplank was a footnote in 2002 when he became the first American to be a captains pick without any previous experience in the Ryder Cup.
 
There might be four Ryder Cup rookies who get picked this year.
 
U.S. captain Paul Azinger announces his four wild-card selections Tuesday morning in New York, having asked for an additional three weeks to find the hottest players but getting a tepid response from his candidates.
 
The final audition was the Deutsche Bank Championship, where the only American to finish in the top five was Tim Herron, who recorded his first top 10 of the entire season.
 
The Ryder Cup will be played Sept. 19-21 at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville.
 
All indications were that Steve Stricker would be one of the picks. Stricker, No. 10 in the world ranking, was bumped out of making the team on his own when Ben Curtis tied for second at the PGA Championship and finished among the top eight qualifiers.
 
Im glad the playing part is over, said Stricker, 41, who has never played in a Ryder Cup. I havent been able to enjoy these playoffs. Hopefully, I get that call. I feel like Ive played well enough.
 
Another pick likely will go to J.B. Holmes, who grew up in Kentucky, has played Valhalla more than any other player and has enormous power off the tee. Holmes was the 54-hole leader at the PGA Championship until a wretched start sent him to an 81. He missed the cut at the Deutsche Bank.
 
If he picks J.B., Id love to play with J.B., said Kenny Perry, a feature player because of his Kentucky roots. Hes a rookie, young kid, he bombs it. Two Kentuckians out there, wed be rock stars. Wed feel like Tiger Woods.
 
The other two? It might be just as easy to draw names from a hat.
 
Among the players under consideration, only one has Ryder Cup experience. That would be Verplank, who has made both teams as a captains pick, has a 4-1 record but finished 33rd in the final standings.
 
I might not be on his list, and I would understand, Verplank said after a tie for 63rd at the TPC Boston. I might be at the top of his list, and I would understand that, too. Theres a thousand ways he can go, and I just hope Im one of those thousands.
 
Azinger revamped the criteria this year to award points based on earnings, counting only the 2007 majors and 2008 tournaments, with double points for this years majors. Then, he asked for four picks ' double the usual number ' with hopes of finding the hottest players.
 
The first part of the equation worked beautifully. Of the top eight, only Jim Furyk and Curtis are without a victory this year. The other qualifiers were Perry, Phil Mickelson, Stewart Cink, Anthony Kim, Justin Leonard and Boo Weekley.
 
As for finding four players in form?
 
Theres nobody that really showed up, Perry said.
 
Hunter Mahan opened the PGA TOUR Playoffs with a 62 at The Barclays, and Stricker took the 36-hole lead, but both faded on the weekend. Mahan shot 69 on Monday and tied for 15th, and as he walked out of the scoring trailer and saw a group of reporters, he pre-empted the questions.
 
I dont know, he said. And I hope so.
 
Others under consideration include D.J. Trahan, Brandt Snedeker, Sean OHair and perhaps Heath Slocum. Woody Austin and Rocco Mediate finished 10th and 14th, respectively, in the final standings, and could merit a look.
 
Trahan had a chance to show something in the final round, but opened with a double bogey and the damage didnt stop until he signed for an 80. He walked past reporters without talking.
 
Austin wore a patriotic shirt Monday, but his putter failed him in a round of 75.
 
This really isnt about the Ryder Cup, he said of his attire. Its a special weekend.
 
Asked what was so special, he mentioned that it was Memorial Day. Then he was reminded it was Labor Day.
 
Im punch drunk, Austin said. This course beat me up.
 
Austin might have made the U.S. team under the old system of taking the top 10 qualifiers, but he understood Azingers wish to get four picks. Finding those four turned out to be harder than imagined.
 
Nobody really broke out and had a great performance except the guys who are playing well already, Kim said. Theres a lot of guys who have a chance to make that team. Nobody really won a tournament, like Darren Clarke did on the European side.
 
Clarke won two tournaments in the past four months, but still was left off the European team in favor of Paul Casey and Ian Poulter, neither of whom has won all year.
 
Strangely, several U.S. players and caddies believed that Bubba Watson was getting serious consideration because of his length off the tee. But Watson, who has never won on the PGA TOUR or Nationwide Tour, almost certainly wont be picked. Even he doesnt think hell be picked.
 
I dont think I have a chance, Watson said. Im friends with Zinger, but I havent done anything.
 
Related Links:
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    Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 11:14 pm

    John Daly on Friday somehow got up and down for birdie from the deepest bunker on the PGA Tour.

    The sand to the left of the green on the 16th hole at the Stadium Course at PGA West sits 18 feet below the surface of the green.

    That proved no problem for Daly, who cleared the lip three times taller than he is and then rolled in a 26-footer.

    He fared just slightly better than former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill.

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    Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

    Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

    Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

    In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

    Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

    “I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

    Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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    Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

    In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


    Made Cut

    Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

    Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

    “If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    September can’t get here quick enough.

    Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

    There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

    In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

    “I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

    The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

    Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

    Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

    The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

    The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

    “My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


    Missed Cut

    Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

    After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

    It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

    Tweet of the week:

    It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

    The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.