Azinger Makes His Picks

September 01, 2008

Azinger's picks have shown some spark the last two weeks. Will it be enough?

NEW YORK (AP) -- Chad Campbell made one last impression on U.S. captain Paul Azinger and was rewarded Tuesday with a spot on the Ryder Cup team, joining Steve Stricker, Hunter Mahan and J.B. Holmes as captain's picks.

Campbell will play on his third straight Ryder Cup team, the first as a wild-card selection. The other three players will be making their Ryder Cup debut, among six rookies for an American team that has not won since 1999.

The Ryder Cup will be played Sept. 19-21 at Valhalla in Louisville, Ky.

European captain Nick Faldo picked Ian Poulter and Paul Casey on Sunday to fill out his 12-man team, overlooking Darren Clarke, who had won twice in the last four months and had played in the Ryder Cup the last five times.

Azinger revamped the criteria, doubled his picks to four, then asked to delay his selections three weeks with hopes of finding someone who could get hot with the matches approaching. None of the Americans auditioning for the team stood out, although Azinger's four picks showed signs of life the last two weeks.

Mahan opened with a 62 at The Barclays, Stricker had the 36-hole lead at the tournament and Holmes closed with a 66. And on Monday at the Deutsche Bank Championship, Campbell closed with a 66 to tie for sixth.

The four picks fill out a team that includes Phil Mickelson, Stewart Cink, Kenny Perry, Anthony Kim, Justin Leonard, Jim Furyk, Ben Curtis and Boo Weekley.

Azinger had been considering Stricker and Holmes all along.

Stricker finished ninth in the standings, losing out on an automatic spot at the PGA Championship when Ben Curtis tied for second to move into the top eight. Stricker is No. 8 in the world ranking, but at age 41, will be playing in his first Ryder Cup.

Holmes is one of the biggest hitters in golf and a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, adding his second title earlier this year in the FBR Open when he birdied the last hole and beat Phil Mickelson in a playoff. The 26-year-old grew up in Kentucky -- he made the high school team in tiny Campbellsville when he was in the third grade -- and knows Valhalla better than any other player in the Ryder Cup.

Mahan had to overcome a magazine interview in which he roiled PGA of America officials by criticizing the extravagance of the Ryder Cup and claiming PGA officials don't care who wins as long as they make money. He apologized to Azinger and the PGA of America last month at Oakland Hills.

If there was a surprise it was Campbell, perhaps because Azinger had no one else that really stood out. Campbell finished at No. 20 in the standings.

Among those left off the team were Scott Verplank. Although he was 33rd in the final standings, Verplank is 4-1-0 in the two Ryder Cups he has played and was a favorite of some players who made the team.

Also bypassed were Woody Austin, Rocco Mediate, Sean O'Hair, D.J. Trahan, Sean O'Hair, Brandt Snedeker and former Masters champion Zach Johnson, who did not make it to the second playoff event for the FedEx Cup.

Austin finished 10th in the standings and would have qualified if Azinger did not have additional picks this year. Mediate, who became an overnight sensation after losing in a 19-hole playoff to Tiger Woods at the U.S. Open, has not finished in the top 15 since then.