America will today usher in Paul Azinger as their new Ryder Cup captain, and with him a wide-ranging reform of the qualifying system. The US team will attempt to win for the first time this century in Kentucky in two years' time.
Azinger was first offered the job in 2004, and the changes he has agreed with the PGA of America to ensure that the best dozen players are present at Valhalla are no surprise. Since his country's humiliation at the K Club in September - the third defeat in a row - Azinger has been one of the most vocal critics of the selection procedure.
He is known to favour scrapping the rule which states that only top-10 finishes count when earning Ryder Cup points, and wants to place more emphasis on players who are in form coming into the match. The 1993 USPGA champion once said that the only thing that ever made him nervous on a golf course was "cash and prestige", and he wants every dollar to count in the run-in.
Yesterday, Ian Woosnam said he would welcome any alterations. "I admit there were times at the K Club I did feel a little sorry for my US counterpart, Tom Lehman," he said. "Tom did everything he possibly could but the way his team was chosen for him didn't make it a level playing field. Their system is ridiculous. Good on Paul, if he has indeed got the job and he's got them to rip it all up."
Azinger's captaincy will be greeted by his players, even Tiger Woods, who is not enamoured with players becoming critical television analysts. Ironically, Azinger has made an acerbic broadcast reputation alongside Nick Faldo, who will now line up against him as the European captain.Reuse content