Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Azinger alters first two days of Ryder Cup format
By Bob Harig
Special to ESPN.com
Paul Azinger has already introduced sweeping changes to the U.S. Ryder Cup team selection process. Now he has altered the format of the tournament.
The U.S. captain announced Wednesday that the order of the team matches on the first and second days of the competition will be reversed, meaning there will be four foursomes (alternate shot) matches followed by four four-ball (best ball) matches. As usual, the Ryder Cup will conclude with 12 singles matches on Sunday.
In each of the past two Ryder Cups -- routs for the European team -- the four-ball format was used in the morning each day.
"I believe it was 1997, I think Seve (Ballesteros) changed it to best ball in the morning and alternate shot in the afternoon. I felt like the Americans had an edge in alternate shot and I think it's partly responsible for why Europe has gotten off to a pretty hot start," Azinger said at a news conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., where he is competing in this week's FBR Open. "So I've decided to change that back. I hope it's the right decision. We're switching, we're going back to alternate shot in the morning and we'll just see how it plays out."
The matches will be played Sept. 19-21 at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky. As captain of the home team, Azinger has say over the order of the matches and course set up.
"I'll do everything I can to get an edge," he said.
Upon taking the captaincy in 2006, Azinger pushed for changes in the selection process. Instead of top-10 finishes earning Ryder Cup points, anyone who makes a cut this year on the PGA Tour will earn points based on their money winnings. The major championships offer double points and only the majors counted in 2007.
Azinger will also get four at-large selections instead of just two, meaning the top eight in points automatically qualify for the 12-man team.
"The secret is you get the hottest 12 players to show up and hope they play great," Azinger said.