Archive

Miller unhappy with Azinger’s picks

• Click here for Golfweek's complete Ryder Cup coverage

ASSOCIATED PRESS

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Johnny Miller still thinks the U.S. will snap its losing streak to the Europeans, but the outspoken former PGA Tour star turned commentator isn’t a fan of Paul Azinger’s four captain’s picks.

Miller called Azinger’s selections of Holmes, Hunter Mahan, Steve Stricker and Chad Campbell “OK,” but would have traded Holmes for a more veteran player like Scott Verplank.

“I certainly wouldn’t have gone with J.B. Holmes, I’ll tell you that,” Miller said.

Miller said he would have chosen Verplank, Rocco Mediate, Brandt Snedeker and 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson over Holmes and Campbell, but allowed his views are like arguing over favorite ice cream flavors.

Besides, for all the risk involved with picking lightly experienced players, Miller said the U.S. team’s problems over the last 13 years have started at the top with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

“The great play by (Jim) Furyk, Tiger and Phil has not been there,” Miller said. “It’s why the U.S. has done so poorly. Those three players have really played poorly in Ryder Cup play.”

The trio has a combined record of 25-37-8, though Woods will be watching this year’s Cup from home while he rehabs his surgically repaired left knee. That may be a good thing in Miller’s eyes.

“Without Tiger there, it surely isn’t going to be easy, but if you’re a gambler or a statistician, you think, ‘How can Europe keep making all these putts?’” Miller said. “It’s time for the U.S. If you’re a betting man odds are putting is going to flip flop in the U.S.’s direction.”

• • •

MISSING THE GREATEST: The man was missing, but the message was not.

The U.S. team visited the Muhammad Ali Center on Monday night, but a meeting with the former heavyweight champion and Louisville native had to be rescheduled when weather prevented Ali and his wife Lonnie from making the trip from Michigan.

Instead the team toured the center, which opened in 2005 and traces Ali’s life, boxing career and humanitarian efforts. The tour begins with a brief video about Ali’s legacy based on the Rudyard Kipling poem “If.”

“It’s about ‘What if?’ and dreams,” Azinger said. “That was an important message. That’s such an important perspective on his life, and it’s so vast; it reaches beyond sports and athletics. The players loved it. They loved being in there. I just thought it was a great place to start the week.”

It’s not the first time a captain has turned to an American icon to give the team a little boost. Future president George W. Bush read a note written at The Alamo to the 1999 team before it rallied to knock off the Europeans at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.

Justin Leonard called the visit “inspiring,” but doesn’t think the U.S. needs to look outside for encouragement. The team’s lackluster play – losing five of the last six Cups, including some in embarrassing fashion – is plenty enough.

“I don’t think that we as players need that for further motivation,” Leonard said. “The motivation is already there. But it just adds some memories to the week.”

Azinger remains hopeful the team will get a chance to meet Ali later in the week, and Ali isn’t the only luminary Azinger hopes can bring a little juice to the team. Azinger invited former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz to dine with the team on Tuesday.

“He’ll probably say a few words. It’s hard to get him not to,” Azinger said.

STORY COMMENTS
Show Hide