Deconstructing Azingers Picks

By Brian HewittSeptember 2, 2008, 4:00 pm
If European Ryder Cup captain Nick Faldo shocked us with his two captains picks Sunday from Scotland, American captain Paul Azinger did nothing of the kind Tuesday with his four choices announced at a press conference in a New York City Hotel.
 
Faldo gave us Englishmen Paul Casey and Ian Poulter and a million good reasons to second-guess his omission of Northern Irelands Darren Clarke.
 
Azinger gave us, in his order of announcement, Steve Stricker, Hunter Mahan, J.B. Holmes and Chad Campbell.
 
Nobody really jumped off the page, Azinger said.
 
All of which prompted him to go with four captains choices, none of whom have won more recently than early last February when the long-hitting Holmes prevailed at the FBR Open in Arizona.
 
So, at last, the teams are finally selected on both sides of the Atlantic for the matches that will take place later this month in Kentucky at Valhalla Golf Club. And Tuesdays final four puzzle pieces did nothing so much as cement Americas role as decided non-favorites.
 
Unique, Azinger said, to be in America on our home soil as underdogs.
 
The reasons why are rather overwhelming. The Euros have won five of the last six Ryder Cup competitions. They have thrashed the U.S. by a whopping 9-point margin in each of the last two.
 
The American squad is overloaded with rookies ' six. And two of its players with Ryder Cup experience ' Kenny Perry and Justin Leonard ' have never won a Ryder Cup foursomes, four-ball or singles match. Only two players on either squad ' Campbell at No. 53 and Holmes at No. 55 are ranked outside the top 50 in the current world rankings.
 
But before we get ready to concede this to the Euros once again, lets consider a few other things. First of all, the American team has more team length than the Europeans. Phil Mickelson, Perry, Holmes and Anthony Kim all have that extra gear off the tee. And Azinger, who will pay a site visit to Valhalla Wednesday, said Tuesday he doesnt want to handcuff any of his players off the tee.
 
Im tired of playing in 5-inch rough, said Azinger, who will not have to play at Valhalla. A bombers going to like the course. Not a lot of rough.
 
Valhalla head professional Keith Reese said Tuesday the grounds crew, at Azingers direction, has already widened the 1 ' intermediate rough in many areas on the course.
 
Whats really interesting, though, if your rooting interest is the American side and youre looking for encouragement, is an examination of the current FedExCup point standings (Which is almost ironic given that the Ryder Cup and the FedExCup are currently competing for the same buzz in mens professional golf).
 
American Ryder Cup players occupy seven of the first 11 and nine of the first 14 spots in the point standings. Those numbers speak directly to the importance of current form especially in light of the criticism that not one of the six 12 members on the American squad with Ryder Cup experience have winning career records in the event.
 
Im doing it the way I want to do it, said Azinger, who answered most of the Tuesday questions evenly, but showed a stubborn side when pushed.
 
In the days leading up to the matches, Azingers strongest criticism is likely to come from those who will point out that he didnt round out his roster with more good putters, a commodity always crucial in Ryder Cup play.
 
Stricker currently ranks T-33 in average putts per round on the PGA TOUR. Holmes checks in at T-103, Campbell at T-109 and Mahan at 200.
 
A safer pick might have been a proven Ryder Cup campaigner like Scott Verplank, who ranks T-68 in average putts per round. At No. 45, Verplank currently sits ahead of both Holmes and Campbell on the world rankings list.
 
Add to that the fact that Verplanks career Ryder Cup record is 4-1-0, including singles victories over Euro stars Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington, the latter of whom he thrashed 4 and 3 on Harringtons home soil outside of Dublin, Ireland just two years ago.
 
Or Azinger could have gone, with good statistical reason, for Brandt Snedeker. Snedeker ranks No. 47 in the world, No. 57 in putts per round and finished with 27, 29 and 28 putts respectively in his final three rounds at the Deutsche Bank Championship that concluded Monday.
 
I feel like Ive gone outside the box a little, Azinger confessed Tuesday.
 
Which is, perhaps, precisely where an American captain needs to go these days. The conventional way has been the wrong way too often for the U.S. in recent years.
 

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Related Links:
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  • Full Coverage - 37th Ryder Cup
  • 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

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    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
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    Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

    By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

    Well, this is a one new one.

    According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

    “No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

    Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

    “If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

    The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

    “I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

    The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

    Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

    Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.

    PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

    Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

    The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

    The statement reads:

    The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

    Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Web.com Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

    The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

    The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

    The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.