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Ryder Cup Selection Quotes from ESPN Golf Analysts Paul Azinger, Curtis Strange

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Quotes from ESPN golf analysts and former Ryder Cup captains Paul Azinger and Curtis Strange on today’s selection of Jim Furyk, Dustin Johnson, Brandt Snedeker and Steve Stricker to the final four spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team by team captain Davis Love III. ESPN will televise the first day of matches in the 2012 Ryder Cup competition from Medinah (Ill.) Country Club on Friday, Sept. 28, from 8 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. ET.

Curtis Strange – played on five Ryder Cup teams (1983, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1995); captain, 2002.

Paul Azinger – played on four Ryder Cup teams (1989, 1991, 1993, 2002); winning captain, 2008.

Your general thoughts on today’s announcement?

CURTIS STRANGE — Davis is in a very enviable position because he had so many solid players to pick from, but also a very difficult position because he had so many solid players to pick from. He’s got to leave somebody off the team. That’s the first thing. As a former captain, you sympathize with those phone calls that he had to make to tell world-class players they’re not on the team, particularly Hunter Mahan at the top of the list. Knowing Davis, this was no easy decision, and knowing Davis, he was thorough in his reasons and he took this very seriously I’m sure. But he has one agenda and that’s to put together the best team he possibly can. I like them. If you ask me would I have done the same thing, Davis is certainly closer than anybody else out there so I don’t think any former captain can question his decisions because like I said, he knows more, he’s been out there and he’s closer to it than anybody else. I like them. I think the main thing, he said more than once, driving home a point, he picked these four players to plug some holes, and that’s exactly what he has to do. He has eight players who qualified that are basically the nucleus of the team and then he has a great opportunity with four picks to plug holes and fill out holes because in his mind, he already has teams made up, so that’s a good position to be in.

PAUL AZINGER — I think Davis was in a strong position yet a difficult position. He had to leave a couple of good players off the team like a Nick Watney, Hunter Mahan. Certainly the popular Rickie Fowler had to be left off the team, and those are difficult choices to make but I think he was in a no-lose situation because of the depth and the strength of the selection process, and he picked four good players. Davis alluded to the fact that he hasn’t slept well, and I can tell you from experience that that lack of sleep is only just now beginning. He’s now going to really obsess over the next 20-odd days before the matches start on his pairings and getting these players to be invested and engaged in this whole process. They’ve got a couple of big tournaments coming up. Choosing who to leave off is a heck of a lot more difficult than choosing who to pick, if that makes any sense. In this case, I think he was really down to he had three guys that were a lock for Davis and I think that was Stricker, Furyk, DJ, and I believe for him it came down to if it was going to be Hunter or Snedeker, and I think Davis as a golfer, this is one of the biggest decisions he can ever make, how he’s going to affect someone’s life, give one the opportunity and deny the other the opportunity to represent the United States of America.

 

Now that the teams are finalized, what are your thoughts on the chances of the U.S. team?

STRANGE — I’m biased. I think they have a very, very strong team. I think they have some good individual teams. As a captain, you immediately look at it and say who’s going to play with who in the foursomes, who’s going to play with who in the fourballs, and the captain has already thought of that, that’s the part of plugging the holes. I don’t know who he’s going to put together, but that’s the enjoyable part of it, he can fill out any holes he has. He has accuracy players, he has length in Bubba, and Bradley, and Tiger – does anybody not hit it a long ways? – Dustin, Mickelson, and then he has the foursomes and it’s important to be able to play a similar game as your partner and be able to put it in the fairway, and you have Dufner who is excellent, Webb Simpson who is excellent, Zach Johnson who’s excellent, Matt Kuchar, Furyk, Snedeker. I just think he’s got a good mix of both foursome and fourball, bottom line. He has 12 players, but the main thing is he has six teams now that he’s solid with, that he can put out there any day. And I know he’s glad this day’s over with. I know I was.

AZINGER — I think both teams and very strong and this should be one of the most compelling Ryder Cups ever. Golf has become a global game but the core strength of the game still comes from America, and the U.S. team and the strength and the depth of the 12 guys that are representing America have a great opportunity to prove that America still is the leading force in the game of golf.

The captains are very insightful and articulate and I believe there will be a lot of strategy, they’re very strategic, and Ryder Cup can become a chess game. The Americans are going to be looking for Rory McIlroy and speculating where he’s going to go off, and I think the Europeans are going to be looking for Tiger, they’re going to be figuring out how to beat Tiger Woods, because if Tiger’s losing, I think it gives the European team a boost and it has a negative effect on the American team. So strategically, each captain will try to be in the other captain’s head a little bit, trying to say where’s Rory going off, who can beat Rory, where’s Tiger going off, who can beat Tiger?

 

Your thoughts on the four players picked today – Dustin Johnson?

STRANGE — I would have picked Dustin Johnson for two reasons. He’s playing very well now and to me, current form is the most important reason to pick someone. It’s top priority. And Dustin Johnson, number two, I would have picked him because of his length. I think he’s a powerful and intimidating fourball player.

AZINGER — He would have made the team had he not been injured so it was almost a formality. Playing well toward the end of the selection process made him a lock pick in my opinion and he should be very effective on a long golf course.

 

Jim Furyk —

STRANGE — I’m not big on a lot of experience. I think enthusiasm overshadows experience, but Jim Furyk, this is eight teams, and he said he picked him for experience. He’s certainly playing well, he’s had two very close encounters with victory this year, one being the U.S. Open, it didn’t come true, but playing well.

AZINGER — Thoroughbred player with terrific mindset that can obviously handle pressure quite well and he’s one of the top two or three Americans the past 10 years so I think he was an obvious pick.

 

Brandt Snedeker —

STRANGE — He said he picked him because of a hot putter. I think if there was a somewhat controversial pick, it would have been Snedeker over Hunter Mahan, but I like the pick. Once again, I am hugely in favor of somebody who comes with a lot of enthusiasm and energy to play, and anybody playing his first Ryder Cup. A couple of naysayers talk about inexperience – well, this guy’s a world-class player; I don’t think there’s any such thing as inexperience, and he’s certainly played very well this year, especially after coming back from injuries. I absolutely like the pick. It took some guts to pick him but I like the pick.

AZINGER – He played his way onto the team the last month or two, he also came off injury. He’s been very hot since the Open Championship and Davis wanted guys who had a reputation for putting well and he’s got that in Brandt.

 

Steve Stricker –

STRANGE — He’s on my team every time I have one. He’s just been a wonderful player for a number of years now. He’s a good partner in any format, which is very important, and he’s a great asset to any part of the team. I think he’s just so solid and has such a good attitude, unflappable, that I like him.

AZINGER — Another terrific putter who’s also been one of the best American players the past 10 years, maybe the top three, and Stricker pairs well with Tiger so I think he was always a lock.

 

Players who didn’t get selected –

STRANGE — Hunter Mahan was tough to bypass, simply because he was ninth on the list, and played well enough to get to No. 9, but I’m assuming it’s because he hasn’t played as well lately.

And Rickie Fowler, who finished 12th, he has played on a Ryder Cup team but I like Dustin Johnson over Rickie Fowler and I like Snedeker over Rickie Fowler because of their length and because of their explosiveness. Certainly Rickie Fowler is a wonderful player and will make many Ryder Cup teams in the future, but here as always somebody’s got to be left out.

Bo Van Pelt had an argument, and a very solid one, played very, very consistently this year, played very well this year, and only Davis has the real reasons. I think he has a very solid team.

AZINGER — I feel really bad for Hunter Mahan, who won twice this year but cooled off toward the end. I’m thinking it’s possible that Hunter put a little too much pressure on himself here lately and just tried too hard. Had Hunter been a pick over Snedeker, I think it would have been a difficult argument to argue Hunter off the team, so I’m really disappointed for him. I think he feels terrible that he’s not there.

Rickie Fowler would have paired beautifully with Bubba Watson and I think Rickie is another player that’s hugely disappointed that he didn’t play better at the very end to put himself more in the hunt for a pick.

Nick Watney just won a couple of weeks ago and is one of the most confident players in the world right now and he would be another player who’s really disappointed he didn’t do better two weeks after he won.

Bo Van Pelt is another who’s played phenomenally well all year long that not many people have mentioned that would have been a terrific choice.

 

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