Azinger revolutionises Ryder Cup selection system

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The Independent Online

America have proved just how desperate they are to reclaim the Ryder Cup by granting their new captain unprecedented powers. Paul Azinger was introduced at Valhalla Country Club yesterday - the venue for the biennial match in two years' time - and immediately revealed he had ripped up the selection system.

Azinger's most revolutionary change will be in the number of captain's picks he will have, raising it to four. This is double what Tom Lehman enjoyed at the K Club humiliation in September and double what his European counterpart, Nick Faldo, will have in Kentucky.

But before accepting the "honour" of trying to prevent a fourth defeat in a row, Azinger insisted on the dramatic increase. "We have lost six out of the last seven and it's fair to say that this nation is tired of getting beaten," he said.

"I want players who are the hottest and the best - if I can find them."

Azinger has not stopped there. He has also radically altered the procedure to determine the top eight automatic spots by deciding that qualifying points will be based on money earned rather than top-10 finishes.

Furthermore, to ensure that his side will be as in-form as possible, Azinger has ruled that the only events earning points next season will be the four majors, and that he will wait until as late as possible to name his dozen. The 46-year-old was political enough to maintain that the reforms were instigated in tandem with the PGA of America, although he did confess: "I would have been reluctant to accept the role without them."

In truth, it is understood that when he was first approached a few weeks ago he outlined his blueprint and said, "Take it or leave me". On being introduced in Louisville yesterday, Azinger was keen to point out that "I will be a captain and not a coach" and that the biggest influence he can exert on the result "is probably with this new selection formula".

He declared that he is looking forward to squaring up to Faldo again, who was his sworn enemy on the fairways in their many Ryder Cup confrontations, but is now a close friend in the broadcast booths as a co-analyst.

Minutes before Azinger was unveiled yesterday, Faldo sent him a text message. "Congratulations," it read. "What a shock!" His appointment was not. But the extent of his powers just might have been.

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