Azinger in a quandary over America's Ryder Cup wild cards
Tuesday 12 August 2008
The America captain, Paul Azinger, yesterday welcomed Boo Weekley's qualification for his Ryder Cup team to face Europe in Kentucky next month and the unashamed redneck immediately revealed his intentions by warning Padraig Harrington, the Open and USPGA champion, "you have a target on your back".
Together with Ben Curtis, Weekley staged a late rally on Sunday to make the top eight who have earned their spots at Valhalla automatically and Azinger now has three weeks in which to select four wild cards. "I'm really happy about that as if I had to name them as of now I wouldn't know what do," he said. Azinger already has three rookies and must now decide whether he can risk more. Yesterday he indicated that he probably would.
The problem he faces is the poor form of his prospective candidates. Curtis's tie for second at Oakland Hills hauled him from 20th to seventh, and Weekley's final-round 66 sealed his place. But otherwise there was only mediocrity. Marry that to the commendable European challenge at a major that was always considered not to suit them – three players in the top four, four in the top 10 – and it is easy to see why Azinger is so willing to label his opponents the favourites.
With Sergio Garcia rising up the list to knock out the out-of-form Martin Kaymer, and Justin Rose all but cementing his berth, Nick Faldo will now be hoping that Ian Poulter returns to Europe to try to earn the points he needs to leapfrog Soren Hansen in 10th place.
There are three counting tournaments remaining before Faldo's team is decided on 31 August. Paul Casey has all but thrown himself at his captain's mercy by opting to stay in America; He is now the favourite for a wild card.
Race for a place: How they stand
European Ryder Cup team (as they currently stand in points order; GB unless stated):
P Harrington (Irl), L Westwood, S Garcia (Sp), H Stenson (Swe), R Karlsson (Swe), MA Jimenez (Sp), G McDowell (N Irl), J Rose, O Wilson, S Hansen (Den).
Plus two wild-card picks to be made by the European captain Nick Faldo.
US Ryder Cup team:
1. T Woods*, 2. P Mickelson, 3. S Cink, 4. K Perry, 5. J Furyk, 6. A Kim, 7. J Leonard, 8. B Curtis, 9. B Weekley.
Top eight available players qualify automatically for team. US captain Paul Azinger will also select four wild cards.
* Woods is injured so player in ninth takes his place.
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