Wednesday, January 30, 2008


United States Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger has made the first move in what he hopes will be a victory over the trophy-holding Europeans at Valhalla in this year's match from September 19 to 2-1.
As is his right as the home skipper, Azinger has decided that the opening matches will be foursomes or alternate-shot play as they like to call it in the States.
This will be the first time since 1999 that foursomes play has teed off a Ryder Cup match.
So why is Azinger, pictured above, doing this?
"I felt like the Americans had an edge in alternate-shot play. Because we have not started with it for a number of years, I think it's partly responsible for why Europe has gotten off to a pretty hot start."
For years the Europeans were traditionally thought to be better at foursomes play because they are more used to it as amateurs. But now Azinger is saying the reverse.
Foursomes have been used in the first sessions every year since 1981 until European captain Seve Ballesteros opened with better-ball (four-balls) in 1997 at Valderrama.
U.S. captain Ben Crenshaw switched back to alternate shot in 1999 at Brookline, but the last three Ryder Cup matches have started with better ball.
Europe has won the past three Ryder Cup matches, and five of the past six. The Americans have not led after the first of five sessions since 1991 at Kiawah Island.
Azinger said he also would work with the Valhalla superintendent on setting up the golf course. He credited Europe in recent years, particularly at The Belfry in 2002, for setting up the course that made fairways extremely narrow beyond 290 yards, which negated some of the power of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and other big hitters.
He said the PGA of America has given him freedom to set the course up however it fits his team.
"Maybe if everybody hits it as straight as Jim Furyk ... I don't know if I can narrow the fairways, but I can sure have the rough deep," Azinger said. "But if I have a bunch of Bubba Watsons, J.B. Holmes, Pat Perez, Phil Mickelson, guys that crank it and bomb it, maybe there won't be rough. I don't know yet. We'll see."
Azinger already has made one drastic change to the selection process, taking only the top eight players and basing the points entirely on money, with most of the points earned in 2008. Only money earned at the majors counted in 2007.
One of the criticisms of the last defeated American team - in Ireland two years ago - is that the line-up did not have too many in-form players in it because those in the line-up had earned their places in the year previous to the match.



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