Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Azinger -- "I did it my way ..."

Frank Sinatra would be proud of Paul Azinger. He made his captain’s picks for the U.S. Ryder Cup team and should they should go down in flames at Valhalla, he can always say “I did it my way.”

One of the major criticisms of American teams of recent vintage has been the overall lack of clutch putting. So, with this in mind, Azinger opted for Hunter Mahan, JB Holmes, Chad Campbell and Steve Stricker. As he named his picks he qualified them as tremendous ball strikers; never was there a mention of their putting prowess. With the exception of Stricker, there was a reason for this. They are, ahem, tremendous ball strikers.

Now, in fairness, it must be said that Mahan can get white hot and shoot 62 in any given round. However, don’t ask him to back it up in the next round. He’s recently shown a proclivity to be consistently inconsistent. I don’t think this is what ‘Zinger wants. It’s certainly not what he needs.

Is it just me, or do a lot of people question the putting prowess of anyone who uses a belly putter, ala Holmes. Sure, he’ll hit the ball to places no other human can reach, although at times he’ll put his ball in places no one wants to reach. This may intimidate one or two players, but he’ll have a tough time getting any opponent to concede him a putt once he takes that bad boy out of the bag. No one and I mean no one uses an elongated putter as a first choice. It makes the bag because of an affliction. I can’t see the pressure cooker that is the Ryder Cup smoothing out any putting strokes.

I would think the aforementioned Stricker will give a good accounting of himself. Although he’s a Ryder Cup rookie, he has acquitted himself well in a couple of President Cups, aka Ryder Cup Light. He has the all around game to bring the consistency that’s needed for success.

The real wild card in the mix is Campbell. He finished 20th on the points list. He has Ryder Cup experience; however it’s been on teams that have lost by record margins. He has a pair of top ten finishes in his last four tournaments, but he hasn’t challenged for the lead. It’s usually the early Sunday morning 66 that gives him his T7 finish. At this stage in his career, the word “underachiever” is used more and more when describing Campbell. He hasn’t reached Davis Love III proportions yet, but he’s farther along that trail than he should be. He’s finding that being born under the sign of Potential isn’t always the easiest way to go through life.

When you look at the 12-man lineup Azinger will bring to Kentucky, you can almost see the remake of the movie Dirty Dozen unfolding. There’s not a superstar in the bunch, save for perhaps Phil Mickelson. It has a B movie feel to it, but with solid actors capable of giving a solid performance.

In order for this blue collar bunch to succeed at least three players are going to have to have to play totally out of their gourds and I don’t know if there are three capable of stepping out of the shadows and into the limelight. I could be wrong, but I really don’t think so.

Bartender, a bourbon and branch water if you please and make sure it’s Kentucky bourbon of course,

See you on the first tee.


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