Azinger and Verplank Named to Ryder Cup


Scott Verplank and Paul Azinger were formally announced as wild card picks by United States captain Curtis Strange for the upcoming Ryder Cup early Monday morning.
The announcement came the day following the 83rd PGA Championship, where David Toms solidified a fifth-place ranking on the points list with his dramatic win on the 72nd hole.
Strange claimed that his two picks came by way of recent good play as well as another important factor to the Ryder Cup ' heart.
Azinger, a three-time Ryder Cupper with a career record of 5-6-2, came back from a well-documented bout of lymphoma that sidelined him following his finest season in 1993, when he won the PGA Championship at Inverness.
He has since won once on tour at last years Sony Open in Hawaii, and this season, has played in 15 events, finishing in the top-10 three times, including a second-place showing at The Memorial.
Following a good performance of 22nd in Atlanta, he moved into the 22nd position on the points list Monday morning.
I picked him for his golf game, Strange said flatly. He hasnt played a lot this year, but when he has, hes played well.
'Paul is a great leader and a great motivator,' Strange went on to say. 'He can play alternate shot or best ball, and he can play with anyone because of his personality.'
Final U.S. Ryder Cup Points Standings
While Azinger was a reasonably expected pick for the team, Verplank came as a bit of a surprise for many.
Yet, he will be present at The Belfry in September, playing in his first-ever Ryder Cup.
Hes a very good ball striker, very straight off the tee, said Strange of Verplanks game. Over the last two years, he never seems to have a bad tournament.
Plus, like Azinger, Verplank has had his share of adversity in the game.
A lifelong diabetic, Verplank lives and plays with a MiniMed insulin pump, which regulates his blood sugar on a daily basis.
In addition, he nearly left the game back in the early 90s, when he underwent serious elbow surgery. He missed most of the 92 season and then had surgery again in 96. Entering 98, he earned medallist honors at Qualifying School, and was named as the PGA Tour Comeback Player of the Year.
A win at last years Reno-Tahoe Open saw him through to three career victories, and he has been rock solid this year, recording five top-10s in 20 events, with his best showing coming by way of third at the Byron Nelson Classic.
He also played extremely well at the PGA, finishing tied for seventh. The showing boosted his standings on the points list to 14th.
Said Strange: 'He came here, he played well, and he has a huge heart, as he shows by fighting diabetes every day.'
Azinger and Verplank will join a star-studded team for September's Matches, and will look to help the United States retain the title from the controversial victory at Brookline in '99.
Meanwhile, the European squad will not be finalized until the end of August after the BMW International Open.
Full Coverage of the 34th Ryder Cup Matches