Finally, after much anticipation, the American team that will take on Europe in the Ryder Cup has been finalized. Paul Azinger, the team captain, picked his four players that will join the eight Americans already part of the squad on Tuesday.
His picks were Steve Stricker, Hunter Mahan, JB Holmes, and Chad Campbell. Azinger, who was awarded four captains picks by the PGA in 2006, has said he wanted the golfers who were playing the best to make up his squad. By his account, he did just that.
Azinger said: "All along, what I said was I felt like it would be difficult to make the team if you didn't win a tournament. And it proved to be the case, except for Ben Curtis, who played terrific at the very end of the year and got a second-place finish at the PGA Championship and finished in the top 10 at the British, double the points, a lot of value there; and Jim Furyk, who has not won this year but plays consistently well every week.
"And so it was almost the two guys that didn't win on the team are actually playing as well as anybody in the world right now well, maybe not as well as Vijay Singh but they are all playing pretty well."
Stricker, who is 41 years old, is the oldest player to be picked by Azinger. The Wisconsin native turned pro in 1990 and has won four different times on the PGA. He has never played in the Ryder Cup before.
After he received the news that he had been picked Stricker said how he felt: "Very excited to be getting that call last night. I was on the other end of a couple calls throughout my career; and to get that one, that's why I asked Paul right away if this was a good call for a bad call. I needed to know, and obviously it was a good call.
"I'm very excited, and I'm very much looking forward to the competition and being part of the team. It has been my No. 1 goal at the start of the season.
"I kind of had a little mishap there in the middle of the season where I didn't play very well but knew that I still was in the running, and I felt like I finished off the selection process, you know, playing well, and very much excited and looking forward to the event."
This will be the first Ryder Cup for the 26-year-old from California. He had a successful amateur career and turned pro in 2003. By August of 2007, Mahan made it into the PGA's top 50 and in March of 2008, he made it into the top 30.
Mahan is especially excited to make it to the team after he had recently made some indifferent comments to a golf magazine.
When he received news that he made the team, he said: "I've got the best feelings in the world right now. I'm on the Ryder Cup team and there's nothing more to say than that, and I wish it started tomorrow.
"I think we are all pretty excited about it, and very much looking forward to it and excited about having it in the States and having so much fan support, so it's going to be a great event.
"I've talked to the PGA of America. I've talked to captain Azinger about those comments, and I think that we have all moved on from those comments, and I think I'm just looking forward to the Ryder Cup.
"I'm so grateful that Captain Azinger has given me this opportunity, and I'm looking forward to starting it up," he added. "I'm looking forward to every minute, every second of it, and I'm going to enjoy every second of it."
JB Holmes: Holmes, also 26, is the only US player to have won an event this year, having taken the US PGA title in Phoenix in February. Holmes, a native Kentuckian, is very familiar with the Valhalla course. He will be looking to impress Azinger and show that he's the right choice for the team.
Campbell is the only player Azinger picked who has Ryder Cup experience. The Texan was part of the team that lost to Europe in the 2004 Ryder Cup. Campbell turned pro in 1996 and has had 20 PGA wins.
When Campbell was asked by reporters how he felt to be included in the team, he said: ""Obviously, very excited. I knew, I felt like I was a little bit on the outside looking in but definitely happy to get the call after I got off the plane from Captain Azinger last night.
"Unfortunately, I wasn't able to talk to him until this morning, but I got in really late last night. But very excited and just looking forward to getting it started."
Azinger said he picked Campbell for his experience.
"Well, I have three guys that have never played Ryder Cup before and I thought Chad had a little bit of experience, and the fact that Chad played really well this past tournament helped him," Azinger said. "Chad also is a terrific ball striker tee to green, and when I narrowed my list down to three or four players, his name came up a lot. That was important to me."
Stricker, Mahan, Holmes, and Campbell complete the 12-man roster for Team USA. They will join fellow Americans Phil Mickelson, Stewart Cink, Kenny Perry, Jim Furyk, Anthony Kim, Justin Leonard, Ben Curtis, and Boo Weekley.
Only six of the Americans on the team have played in the Ryder Cup. They include: Mickelson (1995-97-99-2002-04-06; 9-12-4 overall record), Cink (2002-04-06; 3-5-4), Perry (2004; 0-2-0), Furyk (1997-99-2002-04-06; 6-12-2), Leonard (1997-99; 0-3-5) and Campbell (2004-06; 1-3-2). The other six are all Ryder Cup rookies.
Team USA and Team Europe will meet in the 37th Ryder Cup at the Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky. The Europeans have won the last five of six Ryder Cups. This year, European captain Nick Faldo will take a veteran team to the competition.
The European team includes captains picks Paul Casey (2004-06; 3-1-2) and Ian Poulter (2004; 1-1-0), and automatic qualifiers Sergio Garcia (1999-2002-04-06; 14-4-2), Soren Hansen (debut), Padraig Harrington (1999-2002-04-06; 7-8-2), Miguel Angel Jimenez (1999-04; 1-3-0), Robert Karlsson (2006; 0-1-2), Graeme McDowell (debut), Justin Rose (debut), Henrik Stenson (2006; 1-1-1), Lee Westwood (1997-99-2002-04-06; 14-8-3) and Oliver Wilson (debut).
The Europeans boast a combined 19 Ryder Cup appearances and a 41-27-12 record.
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