US Ryder Cup chief Paul Azinger is left to make four captain’s picks after the top eight players in the US Ryder Cup standings earned a spot on the team after the conclusion of the US PGA Championship on Sunday.
As of now, Azinger knows he will go to Valhalla and try and win back the Ryder Cup with Phil Mickelson, Stewart Cink, Kenny Perry, Jim Furyk, Anthony Kim, Justin Leonard, Ben Curtis and Boo Weekley.
On September 2, Azinger will announce the four players he has chosen to round out the team and he was grateful that he did not have to make the decision Monday at Oakland Hills.
“I’m really happy that I don’t have to pick four players this morning, I can tell you that,” Azinger said.
“It would have been very difficult to know what to do.
“I think the selection process has worked so far. I’m really excited about who we have on the team. The next three weeks are going to be really important for the remainder of the PGA Tour because as I look at it right now anybody can get on this team.”
Azinger will consider anybody because almost nobody from the pool of prospective American players distinguished themselves this week except for Curtis, who finished tied for second behind Padraig Harrington.
Curtis jumped into the seventh spot in the standings with his performance to earn an automatic spot on the team. The 2003 Open champion, Curtis held the 54-hole lead and was in the hunt down the stretch on Sunday, something that caught Azinger’s attention.
“I’ve had my eye on Ben Curtis for a long time and I really believe that Ben Curtis is going to add a lot to this team. So I could not be more excited for him,” Azinger said.
“I have not talked to him yet, and it’s going to be kind of like a consolation prize a little bit for him. He played terrific this week. He didn’t lose the PGA, Padraig Harrington went out and won it and Ben played terrific all the way to the end.”
Aside from Curtis, most American players had a rough go of it this week. Only Mickelson and Steve Flesch finished in the top 10 and a number of potential candidates for the captain’s picks imploded, especially on Sunday.
JB Holmes was the 36-hole leader but shot an 81 in the fourth round to tumble out of contention.
Rocco Mediate gave his candidacy a push with a stirring performance at the US Open, where he pushed Tiger Woods in a play-off that went 19 holes, but he shot 85 in the fourth round and finished next to last among all players to make the cut.
Azinger made the cut this week as well, so he got to see how brutal Oakland Hills was first hand. After playing the course for four rounds, Azinger said he would not hold this week against anyone and that the three events between now and the selections would be key.
“This is a hard golf course. I played it. I made the cut and endured four days of this golf course, so I think we are all licking our wounds a little bit,” Azinger said.
“And I’m not going to put a whole lot of weight on what happened yesterday or what happened the first two days.
“You know, a couple guys who are, let’s say Woody Austin and Hunter Mahan played terrible the first two days, but I can throw that away if they play decent any of the next three weeks, I’ll have my eyes on them, as well as anybody else.”