Azinger gets next crack to end slump for U.S. Ryder Cup team

Tuesday, November 7, 2006
Paul Azinger spoke at a news conference Monday at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky. Azinger, after being introduced as the new U.S. Ryder Cup captain.

Paul Azinger took over the U.S. Ryder Cup team in more ways than one, persuading the PGA of America to give him four captain's picks and revamping the criteria so that money and majors determine who makes the team.

"I'm going to get the blame if it doesn't work," Azinger said Monday. "I would like some of the credit if it does."

Azinger, a former PGA champion and cancer survivor, was introduced as the next U.S. captain at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., where the 2008 matches will be played.

The changes were bold, and Azinger feels the Americans have nothing to lose. Europe has captured the Ryder Cup eight of the last 11 times, winning by its largest margin -- 181/2-91/2 -- the last two times.

Azinger wanted a qualifying process that would give him the best players, and it reflects his personality. He has often said during his 20-plus years on the PGA Tour that he got nervous only when cash or prestige were on the line.

"I just felt like it was time for money to be the barometer," Azinger said.

Under the new system, one point will be awarded for every $1,000 a player earns in the 2007 majors, and in regular PGA Tour events in 2008. Two points will be given for every $1,000 earned at the 2008 majors.

The PGA of America took care of one arguments -- tournaments held opposite majors -- by offering only a half-point per $1,000 at those events. Last time, John Rollins nearly made the U.S. team by winning the B.C. Open, which was held the same week as the British Open.

Because the Ryder Cup points system was to begin after the PGA Championship in August, PGA president Roger Warren said players would be awarded one-fourth of a point for every $1,000 earned over the last 11 weeks.

The new system eliminates some glaring problems under the old criteria, when points were based on top-10 finishes.

Several players complained that they could finish 11th at the Masters and get nothing, while someone could finish ninth at the Houston Open and earn points. And with so many international players on the PGA Tour, there were some weeks when only a couple of U.S. players earned points.

Warren said only 58 percent of the Ryder Cup points were distributed last time.

Plus, it distinguishes between strong and weak events on the PGA Tour. Previously, a player earned as much from The Players Championship as he did an opposite-field event.

"The goal is to try to get to the point where Paul feels that he has the players that he needs to come to ... win the Ryder Cup," Warren said.

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