Paul Azinger on Tiger’s Ryder Cup chances: “I think if he continues to play poorly the decision would come very easily.”

August 10, 2010 – 9:30 am by timgunter

With less than two months before the start of the 2010 Ryder Cup, the time is approaching for both the U.S. and Europe teams to announce the rosters for this year’s tournament.  Leading up to the ’08 Ryder Cup, the U.S. had only won three times in 25 years, which is pretty upsetting because golf is considered one of our top sports.  So leading up to the ’08 Ryder Cup at the Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky, U.S. Captain Paul Azinger lobbied with PGA of America to change the way the U.S. selected the Ryder Cup team, resulting in a U.S. victory for the first time since ’99.  The previous selection process involved awarding points based on finishes inside the top-ten at PGA Tour events, so the new system, developed by Azinger and the PGA, awards points based on money earned and heavily weights those points to the year in which the Ryder Cup is played.  Only the top-eight on the points list earn automatic berths on the Ryder Cup team, and the Captain now gets four Captain’s picks instead of the traditional two, and doesn’t have to name them until closer to the date of competition rather than immediately following the PGA Championship.

The PGA Championship will be played this weekend at Whistling Straits, a Wisconsin golf course along the coast of Lake Michigan, and a lot will be on the line for many American players hoping to make the Ryder Cup team, most notably Tiger Woods.  Tiger, who is in the middle of playing the worst golf of his career, must finish in the top-sixteen at Whistling Straits in order for him to be among the top-eight American players.  In addition, the eighth ranked American, Lucas Glover, must have a bad weekend for Tiger to make the team.  The success of the U.S. team doesn’t necessarily depend on whether Tiger makes the team because they did it without him back in ’08 when he was out with a knee injury.  But if the #1 ranked golfer in the world doesn’t make the team that would be a shocker.

Paul Azinger joined WSCR in Chicago to talk about why the process of selecting the Ryder Cup team was changed, whether there is a certain way the Ryder Cup is played that is suited better to certain players, and what would be the right thing to do with Tiger Woods and his poor play as of late in regards to making the Ryder Cup team.

Why the process of selecting the Ryder Cup team was changed:

“Well, we had only won three Ryder Cups in 25 years leading up to 2008 and if you look at that you have got to realize, I think, that there is something wrong in the system in the way that we pick the players.  So I lobbied hard with the PGA of America to change the way the team was picked to get the hottest players to the matches for 2008.  Instead of 10 players qualifying, 8 qualified.  I got to pick 4 players instead of 2.  Instead of picking the Monday after the PGA, this  week, and then waiting five weeks for the matches and the play of the captain now, I pick three weeks after it so I got to watch three more tournaments before I picked two weeks before the matches started.  We were going to get the hottest players there.  Getting four picks means the captain is picking one-third of the team as well.  There is a big responsibility to try to get that right and hopefully somebody jumps off the page for the captain and makes it easy on him.”

Whether there is a certain way the Ryder Cup is played that is suited better to certain players:

“Maybe a little bit.  There are some guys that like playing match play over stroke play, but they are all big boys.  My philosophy going into these matches is that I wasn’t there to hold anybody’s hands.  I told them that they were all big boys; you know that there is no shortcut to success that you can hope for to wish for it, you have to prepare.  What I had done was break the twelve guys into three four-man teams and have them buy into the concept that they were going to prepare together in their four-man groups.”

What would be the right thing to do with Tiger Woods and his poor play as of late in regards to making the Ryder Cup team:

“Well I almost look at Tiger now and say, welcome to our world.  Think about how long we have gone without seeing Tiger Woods ever miss a putt that he had to make, and it looked like the first time I ever saw that was at the PGA Championship a year ago this week against Y.E. Yang on the 71st hole, Tiger missed a putt he had to make and he went 12 years in his career before that happened.  Now we are seeing Tiger Woods play and have an off-week and become painful, average-middle-of-the-pack-type player for the first time in his career, now 13 years into it, so it is pretty remarkably that it has gone this long.  The way the selection process is setup for Corey [Pavin] is, he is going to get to watch Tiger.  This week the points are double the value, and so if Tiger plays well, and so the money is actually doubled in value because it is based on a money system now.  I don’t know how he is going to play at Whistling Straits but then there are three tournaments after that so he has the luxury of waiting.  But the system was changed simply to get the hottest players there and if he continues to play poorly I would choose a hotter player over bigger names, personally I think if he continues to play poorly the decision would come very easy.  If he has some top-10 finishes then it becomes a little bit more difficult.  I think then you have a can of worms if you don’t pick him.”

Whose game he thinks fits the Whistling Straits course as they are playing at this moment:

“I think Whistling Straights is the 8th wonder of the world.  It is a perfectly flat piece of ground that Pete Dye came in there with bulldozer in hand and just created this masterpiece.  It looks like somebody dropped you off in the middle of Scotland or Ireland, and that a man can create that.  If you been to New York City and looked up from the bottom of a skyscraper and looked straight up and wonder how somebody built that.  That is what Whistling Straits was to me, a phenomenal golf course.  There is no way to limp your way around there.  If you are not hitting the ball well you will not play well there, big greens, if the wind comes off the lake I think the place will terrorize the players.  In calm conditions the course can be had just like anywhere else.  Wind is the great defender of these golf courses in this day and age.  It is spectacular and I would almost love for the PGA to say, ‘This is our home, this is where we are going to play every PGA Championship from now on’ and try to establish the same kind of tradition of Augusta has been over years.  But I think Whistling Straits is every bit that good.  It is a bucket list kind of course and everyday people can go play that golf course, you have got to pay a price to do it but it is available for everybody to play.”

Paul Azinger on WSCR in Chicago with Boers and Bernstein

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