Azinger names captain's picks

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The Independent Online

Paul Azinger completed the American Ryder Cup team today by handing wild cards to Steve Stricker, Hunter Mahan, JB Holmes and Chad Campbell.

They join Phil Mickelson, Stewart Cink, Kenny Perry, Jim Furyk, Ben Curtis, Justin Leonard, Anthony Kim and Boo Weekley in trying to prevent Europe making it an unprecedented fourth successive win at Valhalla on 19-21 September.

Three of Azinger's quartet - Stricker, Mahan and Holmes - are rookies like Curtis, Kim and Weekley.

For Campbell it is a third successive appearance, but he has only ever won one match and has dropped to 53rd in the world.

Stricker, though, was an obvious choice.

At eighth in the world Tiger Woods and Mickelson are the only Americans above him - and Woods, of course, misses the match because of injury.

The 41-year-old former World Match Play champion was in position to qualify until Curtis finished joint second at the US PGA three weeks ago.

It will be his first Ryder Cup cap, but he played in the Presidents Cup last year and back in 1996, the season in which he also won the Dunhill Cup at St Andrews with Mickelson and Mark O'Meara.

Azinger presumably spent no time deciding on Stricker, but his hope that three others might come flying to the fore in the last few weeks - he asked for extra time to consider things so that he could choose players in form - simply has not happened.

Of the last nine US Tour events the only two American winners were the little-known pair Chez Reavie and Parker McLachlin. Vijay Singh won three, Padraig Harrington the last two majors and Sweden's Richard Johnson and Carl Pettersson one each.

Holmes is known for his big-hitting, but what was also in his favour is that, like Kenny Perry, he is from Kentucky and will have home state support.

While he ranks third in driving distance on the US Tour this year, however, he ranks 199th in driving accuracy.

Mahan is the player who only a month ago in a magazine article talked about Ryder Cup players being used as "slaves" and hinted at possible boycotts in the future because the fun had been sucked out of it.