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Curtis Strange picks Verplank & Azinger

United States Ryder Cup captain Curtis Strange announced on Monday that Scott Verplank and Paul Azinger were added to the U.S. Ryder Cup team as captain's selections.

Verplank finished 14th on the U.S. points list after a tie for seventh Sunday at the PGA Championship. This will be the first Ryder Cup appearance for the 37-year-old.

"I had a pretty good idea what was going happen before I left Atlanta last night," said Verplank, who became the first Ryder Cup rookie ever selected to a U.S. squad as a captains's pick. "I was pretty excited. I knew he was interested in how I played."

"I picked Scott for a lot of reasons," said Strange. "One is his game. He is a very straight hitter off the tee. He has no shortcomings at all in his entire game."

Verplank posted five top-10 finishes this season after returning to the winner's circle at the 2000 Reno-Tahoe Open. He lost a playoff to Robert Damron at this year's Byron Nelson Classic.

Azinger returns to the Ryder Cup after an eight-year absence. He has participated in three previous Ryder Cups and has collected a 5-7-2 record, including a 2-0-1 record in Sunday singles play.

"There's a lot of good players I'm being picked ahead of," said Azinger, who finished 22nd in the final standings. "I understand that. I didn't want to lobby. I wanted to let my clubs do the talking. In the end, I have played a lot better in the last two years."

"Motivator, he'll be good in the locker room," said Strange. "He still can play and can play with some of these guys. He fits with about everybody on this team."

Azinger was known in his Ryder Cup days as a fiery competitor who bested the likes of Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal in contests that were not always friendly.

The U.S. Ryder Cup team was finalized after the PGA Championship with the top-10 automatically qualifying.

David Toms won his first major championship on Sunday and earned his first Ryder Cup berth, finishing fifth.

Tiger Woods will play in his third consecutive Ryder Cup, finishing first in points for the American side.

Phil Mickelson missed out on his first major championship Sunday but will represent his country for a fourth consecutive time in September.

David Duval makes his second straight appearance at a Ryder Cup after breaking through with a win at the British Open.

Rounding out the U.S. team were: Mark Calcavecchia (fourth appearance), Davis Love III (fifth appearance), Scott Hoch (second appearance), Jim Furyk (third appearance), Hal Sutton (fourth appearance) and Stewart Cink, the team's second rookie.

The European team will not be finalized until after the BMW International next month.

Tom Lehman was 10th on the points list but slipped out of the top-10 after he missed the cut at the PGA Championship. He has played on the last three teams and is undefeated in singles matches, including his opening 3 & 2 victory over Lee Westwood in 1999 that sparked the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history.

"That was the toughest call I had to make," said Strange. "Bottom line, he just hasn't played well."

Chris DiMarco, Joe Durant and two-time Ryder Cupper Brad Faxon were players that were thought to be under consideration for captain's picks but were not selected.

The Ryder Cup matches are scheduled for September 28-30 at the Belfry in Sutton, England.


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