LOUISVILLE -- Muhammad Ali was seen sitting in a golf cart on the 10th tee at Valhalla GC Thursday, posing for photos with the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Paul Azinger needs his players to hit shots that float like butterflies and sting like bees, but right now the captain wants to get in the ring with NBC's Johnny Miller.
Much has been made of a conference call earlier this week, when Miller questioned Azinger's picks, singling out the selection of Kentucky's own, J.B. Holmes, saying he liked straight-ball hitter Scott Verplank over the bomber. "I certainly wouldn't have gone with J.B Holmes, I tell you that," Miller said, giving Azinger instant bulletin-board material in the team room.
Azinger refuses to give the broadcaster credit for firing up Holmes, or his team, although he did make some read-between-the-lines remarks during the Gala Dinner Wednesday night. "I guess if Johnny Miller was the captain, the team would look different," Azinger said.
Miller's criticism of Holmes looked spot-on during practice Thursday when J.B. needed three tee balls to find the fairway at the 10th, pulling his first shot 60 yards off line and his second into the trees. (With an alternate-shot format Friday morning, it's questionable whether the Bluegrass State paring of Holmes and Kenny Perry will be kept until the afternoon four-balls. Pairings will be announced at 5:30 p.m. today.) But the reality is Miller wasn't taking a cheap shot a Holmes. He was just saying he would have picked someone else. Below you can find the complete transcript of Miller's quote. In fact, at the end of his comments, Miller admits Zinger may have made the right picks for the kind of team he wants to have. (Remember, too, that Miller was against Justin Leonard in 1999. Although Leonard wasn't a captain's pick, Miller suggested U.S. captain Ben Crenshaw would have been better off leaving Leonard home. By Sunday, Leonard emerged as a hero, holing the most-famous putt in this event's history, clinching the only American victory in the last 15 years.)
Johnny Miller: "[Azinger's] picks, if you ask me, were OK. I personally would have gone with a couple other players. I surely wouldn't have gone with J.B. Holmes, I can tell you that. I surely wouldn't have gone with Chad Campbell. I probably would have gone for [Scott] Verplank because he can win under pressure. And if I didn't go for Verplank, I'd go with Rocco [Mediate] and [Brandt] Snedeker because they're great team guys with a lot of energy. I surely would have put Zach Johnson ahead of Holmes and Campbell. As far as his picks, he might be a genius, but if I were doing it, it's sort of like Baskin-Robbins and arguing about flavors. But, these are the flavors that I liked. As far as Azinger, he has only got one kind of camaraderie, and that's like Al Davis, and that's just win. I guarantee you that. So this is a little bit like going back to '91, when they tore up the War by the Shore. I think this is the most since '91, which the closest to that great Ryder Cup, which is probably the greatest televised event in the history of golf. I think we're at that point where we're fairly desperate on these rough sides, and they're going to scratch and claw, and they got the right captain to do it."
-- Tim Rosaforte