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

    Watch: Strong start, rough finish for Koepka

    By Golf Channel DigitalJune 21, 2018, 4:45 pm

    U.S. Open hangover? Not for Brooks Koepka. The two-time national champion has carried over his form and confidence from Shinnecock Hills to TPC River Highlands.

    Koepka began his round with a par at the par-4 10th and then reeled off four consecutive birdies, beginning at No. 11.

    And here is the capper at the 14th

    Koepka turned in 4-under 31. Here's more action from his opening nine holes.

    After a par at the first, Koepka added a fifth birdie of the day at the par-4 second.

    A bogey at the par-4 fourth dropped him to 4 under, but just one off the lead. That, however, sparked a wild ride to the finish line as he also bogeyed Nos. 5, 7 and 9, and birdied the sixth. It totaled to a second-nine, 2-over 37 and an overall score of 2-under 68.

    Getty Images

    Lyle going through 'scary' period in cancer recovery

    By Associated PressJune 21, 2018, 12:58 pm

    MELBOURNE, Australia – Jarrod Lyle's wife says the Australian golfer is struggling through a ''really scary'' period in his third battle with cancer.

    Lyle, 36, underwent a bone marrow transplant last December following a recurrence of acute myeloid leukemia.

    ''It's been 190 days since Jarrod's stem-cell transplant and we are going through a really rough patch at the moment,'' Briony Lyle wrote on ''I'm typing this blog on his behalf because he's not able to do it. Jarrod's not able to drive, struggles to prepare any food for himself, can't read stories to the girls and is not able to offer much help at all around the house.

    ''He is also starting to look like a very frail, sick person.''

    Briony Lyle added: ''We are both very aware of the amount of drugs and medication that has gone into Jarrod's body over the years but things are starting to get really scary at the moment. It looks as if this recovery is going to be the longest and hardest one so far.''

    Lyle has twice beaten acute myeloid leukemia, in 1998 and 2012, and was able to return to play professional golf.

    He made an emotional comeback to the golf course during the 2013 Australian Masters in Melbourne before using a medical exemption to play on the PGA Tour in 2015. He played four seasons on Tour, where he earned $1.875 million in 121 tournaments.

    Lyle has since returned to Australia permanently to be with Briony and daughters Lusi and Jemma.

    Getty Images

    Vermeer wins PGA Professional; 20 make PGA Championship

    By Associated PressJune 21, 2018, 12:42 pm

    SEASIDE, Calif. – Ryan Vermeer won the PGA Professional Championship on Wednesday, overcoming front-nine problems to top the 20 qualifiers for the PGA Championship.

    The 40-year-old Vermeer, the director of instruction at Happy Hollow Club in Omaha, Nebraska, closed with a 1-over 73 on the Bayonet Course for a two-stroke victory over Sean McCarty and Bob Sowards.

    The PGA Championship is in August at Bellerive in St. Louis.

    Three strokes ahead entering the day, Vermeer played the front in 4 over with a double bogey on the par-4 second and bogeys on the par-4 seventh and par-4 eighth. He rebounded with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-4 11th and also birdied the par-5 18th.

    Full-field scores from the PGA Professional Championship

    Vermeer finished at 5-under 283. The former University of Kansas player earned $55,000. He won the 2017 Mizuno Pro/Assistant Championship and finished ninth last year in the PGA Professional to qualify for PGA at Quail Hollow.

    McCarty had a 68, and Sowards shot 69. Sowards won the 2004 title.

    David Muttitt and Jason Schmuhl tied for fourth at 1 under, and 2012 and 2015 champion Matt Dobyns, Jaysen Hansen, and Johan Kok followed at even par.

    Marty Jertson, Brian Smock and Ben Kern were 1 over, and Zach Johnson, Craig Hocknull, Matt Borchert and 2016 winner Rich Berberian Jr. were 2 over. Nine players tied at 3 over, with Shawn Warren, 2017 champion Omar Uresti, 2014 winner Michael Block, Craig Bowden and Danny Balin getting the last five spots at Bellerive in a playoff. Balin got the final spot, beating Brian Norman with a par on the seventh extra hole after Norman lost a ball in a tree.

    Getty Images

    Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

    Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

    While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    “It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

    Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

    “I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”