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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    Chamblee comments on Choi's unique step-through swing

    By Golf Channel DigitalJune 24, 2018, 3:55 pm

    The golf world found itself enamored with a largely unknown journeyman this weekend.

    Ho-sung Choi went from 554th in the world to No. 1 in the hearts of all those who swing the golf club just a little bit differently thanks to his run at the Korean Open.

    The 44-year-old with the exaggerated step through impact found himself two off the pace through 54 holes and in contention for one of two available invitations to this year's Open Championship at Carnoustie.

    Choi fell out of the hunt for tournament title and the Open exemption with a final-round 74, but nonetheless left an impression with his tie for fifth.

    Asked about Choi's swing Saturday night, Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee offered the following:

    "If Chi Chi Rodriguez and Gary Player had a golf school, what would their first professional golfer swing like? Voila," Chamblee said.

    "Both those legends had walk through finishes, but Ho Sung has taken this move to a new level with a borderline pirouette to keep from hanging back.

    "In an era when professional golfers get accused of having golf swings that all look alike, I’ve never seen anyone swing quite like Ho Sung Choi.

    "I can’t wait to try this on the range tomorrow."

    Getty Images

    Wallace holds off charges to win BMW International

    By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 3:43 pm

    PULHEIM, Germany - England's Matt Wallace shot a 7-under 65 to hold off a record-breaking charge from Thorbjorn Olesen and win the BMW International Open on Sunday.

    Wallace finished on 10-under 278 - just ahead of Olesen, Mikko Korhonen and 2008 winner Martin Kaymer, whose chances took a blow with a bogey on the 17th hole.

    ''I want to keep building on this,'' Wallace said after his third European Tour win. ''Obviously this gives me a lot of confidence to go on and play well and I want to kick on and hopefully do this in the bigger events from now on.''

    Full-field scores from the BMW International Open

    Olesen had played himself into contention with the lowest round in tournament history, with nine birdies and an eagle for an 11-under 61. It was the lowest round of his European Tour career and it gave the Dane a three-shot lead before the final group had even teed off.

    ''I was just trying today to go out there and build on my game, see if I could shoot a low score,'' Olesen said. ''Obviously as the round progressed I kept on thinking birdies and trying to make the round better. Finishing with four birdies was pretty nice.''

    Wallace turned in 34 but then made five birdies in seven holes from the turn to edge a shot past Olesen. He waited as Kaymer and Korhonen went close with rounds of 68 and 67, respectively.

    England's Aaron Rai and Denmark's Lucas Bjerregaard finished joint-fifth with rounds of 69.

    Sunghyun Park (left) and Minchel Choi (right). Getty Images

    Choi, Park qualify for Carnoustie from Korean Open

    By Nick MentaJune 24, 2018, 2:54 pm

    Two players - Minchel Choi and Sanghyun Park - qualified for next month's Open Championship at Carnoustie via the Open Qualifying Series on Sunday.

    Choi (69) held off Park (66) to win the Korean Open by two shots.

    This was the Qualifying Series debut for the Korean Open, whiched awarded Open Championship exemptions to the tournament's top two finishers inside the top eight and ties who were not already qualified.

    Choi, the 532nd-ranked player in the Official World Golf Ranking, punched his ticket in his first professional win.

    Park, the 146th in the world, is a six-time Korean Tour champion who has already won twice this season. 

    Both players will be making their first ever major starts.

    “I am absolutely honored to be playing in The Open and I wanted to win this championship to give me [that] opportunity," Choi said. "I cannot believe that I have won today. I am so happy and excited."

    “It is a great honor to have qualified for The Open and make my first appearance in the championship," Park added. "I’ve watched The Open on television every single year and I can’t really believe that I have qualified, it is amazing."

    The Open Qualifying Series continues next week at the Open de France, where as many as three exemptions will be awarded to the three leading players inside the top 10 and ties who are not already qualified.

    The 147th Open will be held at Carnoustie from July 19-22.

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    Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

    By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

    ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

    The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

    Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

    ''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

    The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.

    Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

    Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

    Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

    ''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

    Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

    Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

    First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.