Azinger Casts Eye on US Ryder Cup Hopefuls

In previous years, the United States Ryder Cup team would have been announced by now.

The tradition is that the 10 players who had garnered the most Ryder Cup points plus the two captain’s picks would have already been decided by the end of the PGA Championship, which finished two weeks ago.

However, US captain Paul Azinger has decided that a different method is required, especially with the Americans suffering three straight defeats to their European rivals.

Azinger, whose team take on Europe at Valhalla Golf Club from September 16-21, has asked for, and has been granted, four captain’s picks instead of two.

He has also delayed naming the team until mid-way through the four FedExCup play-off tournaments, the first of which is the ongoing Barclays in New Jersey.

This means he can announce his squad by September 2 at the latest, choosing players who are more in form closer to the actual event in Louisville, Kentucky.

After years of American dominance, the Europeans finally emerged as serious contenders in the late 80s.

Such has been the turnaround in fortunes that, over the past few editions, Europe have now become the favourites whenever players from both sides of the Atlantic tee-up together.

Not even the presence of Tiger Woods in the American team seemed to work. Indeed, it proved to be more of a burden, especially when he was paired with Phil Mickelson.

With players like British Open and PGA Championship winner Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia leading the way, Europe will again start this year’s tournament as favourites.

Still, Azinger hopes his policy of picking “hot players” will knock the Europeans off stride. This is in addition to players whose heart will be fully turned on to winning.

Players like Kenny Perry, who missed out on the British Open so he could concentrate on his Ryder Cup ranking.

Perry is determined that he is in the US team as they play in his hometown course.

Mickelson, Jim Furyk and Anthony Kim will provide the Americans with quality while watch out also for Rocco Mediate, the man who took Woods to a play-off at the US Open earlier this year.

He will be using the FedExCup series in order the make the US team and recapture some of that magic that at times cast a spell on Tiger at Torrey Pines.

Woods, of course, will not be there because of a knee injury that will keep him out until next year.

However, he has never really been a team player – a necessary trait for one who has won 14 major titles – and the US might find more cohesion without him.

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