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In form golfers the priority for Paul Azinger

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger does not believe fresh faces are necessary for the Americans to end a run of three successive defeats by Europe in the biennial team competition.

Azinger, a veteran of four Ryder Cups as a player, says his main priority is to assemble a 12-man squad of in-form golfers for this year’s matches in Louisville, Kentucky.

“New blood is fine if it shows up but I can’t say anything other than that,” the 48-year-old told reporters on Wednesday during preparation for this week’s Tampa Bay Championship.

“If it’s the same guys, I’m more than happy. I’m not looking for different faces. But if different faces show up, then that’s going to be great.

“If it’s the same guys, then I think they are the right guys because it would be difficult to make this team and not have a really good year.

“If it’s all the same guys, I think they will want it really bad,” added Azinger, who won his only major title in the 1993 PGA Championship.

“I know that they don’t like the results. I will take whoever it is. Everybody wants to change the outcome. They got a taste of it. Tasting defeat the way they tasted it, is just a bad feeling.”

Immediately after being named U.S. captain in November 2006, Azinger announced a revamped selection process aimed at giving him the hottest players for the September 19-21 matches at Valhalla Golf Club.

He will get four captain’s picks instead of two for this year’s encounter with eight automatic berths on his 12-man team tied to money earned in events leading up to the Cup.

“I wanted to try to formulate something that would get hotter players on the team,” he said. “Money is the barometer for everything that we do so I felt like money was the way to do it, and what we’ve done is convert money to points.

“Every $1,000 is one point, and the majors are double the money. I like the way that it’s breaking down so far.”

Azinger has nothing but praise for Europe who have won five of the last six Ryder Cups, the last two by record-equaling margins of 18- points to 9-1/2.

“You have to give Europe a lot of credit,” he said. “Those guys rise to the occasion and play fantastic during the matches, for whatever reason.

“They’re representing their Tour, maybe that’s what it is. And they make every putt they look like at. Why do they do that? I don’t know. Maybe somebody will give the secret away.”

Although Azinger has spent little time looking at the likely make-up of the European team, he would love to see Colin Montgomerie at Valhalla in September. At the moment, the Briton is well short of automatic selection.

“I just like his intensity,” Azinger said of the 44-year-old Scot, a veteran of eight Ryder Cups. “I think that he is another dynamic that is added to the event. I hope he makes the team. I’ve always liked that guy.”


March 6, 2008

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