August 13, 2008

Don't Trust Anyone Over 30

Paul Azinger should consider youth for his Ryder Cup captain's picks

Are Holmes, Snedeker, Trahan and O'Hair the Ryder Cup youth movement?

Are Holmes, Snedeker, Trahan and O'Hair the Ryder Cup youth movement?

The weekend scores from the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills CC are what they are.

Brandt Snedeker (74-73). Sean O'Hair (76-73). D.J. Trahan (76-72).

And that's doesn't include the most disappointing Sunday number in Paul Azinger's ideal scenario of American players playing their way onto the Ryder Cup team. J.B. Holmes (81).

But forget how the youth movement finished in the marathon last Sunday in Michigan. Although none of the four twentysomethings showed any closing power, those four players represent the future of American golf and Azinger should consider adding them to his Ryder Cup team.

With Tiger Woods injured and unable to play the Ryder Cup for the first time since he turned pro, this year's matches set up to be either the biggest blowout or biggest upset in Ryder Cup history, and as the United States is coming off back-to-back nine-point losses, it's hard to believe it can get any worse. With Woods laid up, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Stewart Cink and Kenny Perry represent the veteran leadership leading Zinger's team into Louisville against what will be a heavily favored European team.

The game has never been more global. The only American flags on the first page of the PGA Championship leaderboard were next to the names of Ben Curtis (third), Steve Flesch (sixth) and Mickelson (T-7). Curtis, along with Furyk, Steve Stricker and Anthony Kim were Azinger's only top-10 finishers at Royal Birkdale.

Keep going down the list of PGA scores: Ken Duke (T-13) and David Toms (T-15) are the only other Americans in the top-20. Aside from Stricker, who was bumped from the team at the last minute when Curtis leaped past him to seventh on the final Cup standings, there aren't many choices with Ryder Cup experience that can help his team.

When Azinger makes his picks on Sept. 2, he shouldn't pick a player who is more than 30 years old. Snedeker, O'Hair, Trahan and Holmes should experience the pressure of international team competition before they reach that milestone birthday. And what better place than a good, old Southern city that will get itself worked up when Zinger throws them out against Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia and those beer-swilling renegades from Europe who have come to our country and stolen Samuel Ryder's trophy.

Here are some other reasons for Azinger to add the four youngsters to his team.

  1. He wants winners. O'Hair (PODS Championship), Trahan (Bob Hope Chrysler Classic) and Holmes (FBR Open) have won in 2008.

  2. He wants good putters: While Snedeker has struggled a little the second half of the season, nobody is better at rolling the rock than the Tennessean, who almost ran down Trevor Immelman at the Masters.

  3. He wants the crowd behind him. Snedeker (Vanderbilt), Trahan (Clemson) and Holmes (Kentucky) are southern born and played college golf in the south and would negate any support the European contingent would bring to Louisville.

  4. He wants to be daring. Zinger said he would pick a player off the Nationwide Tour if he thought it would help his team. After losing five of the last six Cups, he has nothing to lose. A changing of the guard might be the answer.

  5. He wants to put pressure on Nick Faldo and the Europeans. There's no better way than to have your opponent think you are building for the future when in fact you're laying a trap for this year. These kids can play.

If Azinger doesn't like one of the previously mentioned foursome, he still has choices. Hunter Mahan, who didn't make the cut at the PGA, but who gained international experience at last year's Presidents Cup. Or Jeff Quinney, one of the best putters on tour. Or if he's looking for a hot hand, he can select Parker McLaughlin, the winner at Reno.

Azinger has said experience means nothing. Now it's time for the future of American golf to gain some.