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Paul Azinger chooses assistants and selection policy

US Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger is willing to trade some experience on his 2008 squad to have players who are on form for the matches, especially given the US team's bad recent experiences.

"My belief is you want guys that are hot, not necessarily guys that have experience," Azinger said here Wednesday. "Any American who has had any kind of experience has been a bad experience anyway so what do you want me to do?"

Americans want Azinger to bring home the trophy next year after US squads have lost five of the past six Ryder Cups, falling last year 18 1/2-9 1/2 in Ireland after losing on home soil by the same margin two years earlier.

"I don't think it's a downturn in American golf. I think it's Europe has had a better process of getting players on their team and European players have really gotten that much better," Azinger said.

"You've got to look for guys who are playing their best."

Azinger will guide the US squad, which leads the Cup rivalry 24-10 with two drawn, against a European team captained by England's Nick Faldo in September of next year at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky.

"Mentally it has kind of consumed me, especially at night," Azinger said. "There are a lot of choices to be made."

Azinger will rely upon a new selection process that give him four captain's picks and stresses money won next year when determining US roster spots.

"I'm hoping we have a selection process that will give us the hottest American players and we will get off to a hotter start. It's important not to get behind," Azinger said.

"But there is no denying those guys in Europe are all best friends. It's a cultural issue. They love each other and will run through a wall for each other. And there's no denying our guys go their separate ways.

"I think often too much is made of these guys being best friends and that whole thing. We don't have time to bond at this level. And believe it or not actually the American team gets along quite well when the bell rings."

Another change could involve drug testing as the sport's governing bodies ponder doping rules that could be in place at Valhalla, especially after Gary Player's comments at the British Open that he knew of doping among top players.

"It's possible. Gary Player put the umbrella of suspicion on everyone when he made those comments," Azinger said.

"In the end I don't think it's going to be that big of a deal. We all know testing is coming. I don't think anybody would have a problem with it.

"We've probably come to that time in American society and sports in general where something needs to be done so here we are."

Azinger named Raymond Floyd, 64, Dave Stockton, 65, and friend Olin Browne, 48, as US Cup assistant captains here Wednesday. Floyd and Stockton guided US Cup-winning teams.

"They bring a winning mentality and we lost the last three," said US veteran Stewart Cink. "They bring something we haven't been part of for the last three Ryder Cups - winning."

Stockton won the 1970 and 1976 PGA Championship. Floyd won the 1969 and 1982 PGA Championship, 1976 Masters and 1986 US Open. Browne has three titles in 15 years on the US PGA Tour.

"I'm just trying to surround myself with the best people who can help us bring this thing back to America. I'm going to learn on them to help me figure out who is playing well and to help me make the picks," Azinger said.

One pairing golf fans are unlikely to see next year is world number one Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, who made an icy and ineffective 2004 twosome.

"I just want to try to mesh the right personalities together," Azinger said. "I doubt I would put those two together. I won't rule anything out. Who knows? Maybe we will have such a huge lead that I'll put them together just for fun.

 

 




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