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Paul Azinger believes selection will make the difference

The changes made to the U.S. team’s selection process will make a big difference at the Ryder Cup, captain Paul Azinger said on Wednesday.

He believes the alterations he persuaded the PGA of America to make are more important than anything he will do in the week of the biennial match against holders Europe at Valhalla, Kentucky from Sept. 19-21.

Azinger is to be allowed four captain’s picks instead of two and will be allowed to wait until two weeks before the match to announce his wildcard choices.

“With all my heart I believe the selection process is going to make the big difference,” he told reporters on the eve of the Memorial tournament at Muirfield Village.

“We have averaged six players in each of the last five Ryder Cups who had not won a tournament that year. We have (this time) laid the groundwork to get the hottest, most confident players there.”

Azinger said he would almost certainly select any player who won one of the three PGA Tour events immediately before he finalised his team. He also did not rule out taking an in-form golfer from the secondary Nationwide Tour.

“The great intangible, the thing you look for out here as a player and hope to attain is confidence,” he added.

“Everybody can play but the guys that are the most confident play the best. Anybody who wins after the U.S. PGA Championship (from Aug. 7-10) is probably going to be pretty confident three weeks later.”

Azinger plans to follow the lead of Jack Nicklaus, who successfully captained the past three American Presidents Cup teams.

With much the same players who have been hammered in the last three Ryder Cups, Nicklaus’s side posted two commanding victories and a tie against strong International teams.

Nicklaus employed a hands-off approach, asking his players who they wanted to be paired with before sending them on their way.

“I’m dealing with the 12 best Americans in the world,” said Azinger. “If I go in there thinking we have to hold hands, what chance do we have?

“They’re all big boys. I’m not going to target we’re going to have fun this week or any of that. Guys just hang out and have fun. That’s not something that’s forced.”

May 29, 2008


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