The Loop

Azinger Changes Ryder Cup Format

January 30, 2008

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.--At the behest of U.S. captain Paul Azinger, the Ryder Cup format will be altered during this September's matches against Europe with foursomes preceding four-balls on each of the first two days. The last time this order was in effect was 1999, when the U.S. rallied to win 14 1/2 to 13 1/2 at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., although the turnaround was generated by strong play during the Sunday singles, allowing the Americans to rally from a 10-6 deficit.

"I'm not saying we're better than Europe at foursomes or alternate shot than Europe is," Azinger said. "I just want to make a change. We've made some huge changes elsewhere, like with the selection process. Why not the format too? They've killed us the last two Ryder Cups playing four-balls before foursomes, for whatever reason. Why not try something different?"

Since 1973, when the Ryder Cup first featured morning foursomes followed by afternoon four-balls, the Americans have a 3-2-1 record.

The format of foursomes preceding four-balls has been used during several recent Ryder Cups, an exception being in 1997 when Europe's captain Seve Ballesteros requested a change shortly before the event began. However, in the last two Ryder Cups, each a rout by Europe, the four-balls have been played in the morning on Friday and Saturday, followed by the foursomes in the afternoon.

Earlier this month, Azinger revealed that he will make his four Captain's picks on Sept. 2, three weeks after the normal post-PGA Championship announcement. During that time period, two of the three FedEx Cup events--the Barclays and the Deutsche Bank Championship--will be contested. "Why not wait until the last possible moment?" Azinger said. "If a guy who doesn't make the top eight on points happens to win either of those tournaments, you have to like his chances of being a captain's pick. That's the whole idea, to have guys on our team who are in form and playing well at the time." The Sept. 2 press conference will take place in New York, and, according to Azinger, the PGA of America has been supportive of all his suggestions. "They've pretty much given me free reign," he said. "They want to win the Ryder Cup back as much as I do, and we're trying to do everything we can to make it possible."

The 37th Ryder Cup will be staged Sept. 19-21 at Valhalla G.C. in Louisville. Shortly after he was named captain, Azinger instituted a significant change in team selection whereby he will be afforded four picks, instead of two, to fill out his 12-man team. Azinger is to discuss the format change later Wednesday at a press conference.

-- Bob Verdi