2004: Newsmakers - PGA mulls changes to Ryder Cup selections

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In the aftermath of the so-called Motown Meltdown, the PGA of America has reviewed several aspects of the Ryder Cup, including how the U.S. team is determined and what type of captain should be chosen.

The PGA will decide soon on the 2006 U.S. captain, ideally before its Nov. 2-6 annual meeting, said president M.G. Orender. Orender, vice president Roger Warren, secretary Brian Whitcomb and honorary president Jack Connelly will decide in concert with PGA chief executive officer Jim Awtrey.

The PGA in recent years has picked captains in their mid-to-late 40s who have played in the Ryder Cup and won a major championship. Under those guidelines, Mark O’Meara (47), Paul Azinger (44), Tom Lehman (45) and Corey Pavin (44) would be candidates. Past Ryder captains have recently lobbied for three-time major champion Larry Nelson, 57.

“If there are better options outside our usual parameters, we’re certainly willing to look at those options,” Orender said. “Larry Nelson is someone who has our highest respect and regard. The decision that has to be made (is) ­– is that better than someone within our parameters?”

Azinger has told intimates and the PGA that he would prefer being the captain when he’s 48 at the 2008 matches at Valhalla in Louisville, Ky., but would not turn down the opportunity if offered this time.

The United States’ 181⁄2-91⁄2 loss to Europe has led to a PGA analysis on the best way to select the 12-man team. Currently the top 10 qualify on points, with the most recent year counting most, and two players are captain’s choices. Orender said a decision on changes, if any, would be made by year’s end.

“We do realize we need more emphasis on the points closer to the matches,” he said. “But we don’t want to knee jerk. We’ll probably either leave it as is or slightly adjust it. If we make a change, we want it to be for the long-term.”

Two-time Ryder Cup member Brad Faxon, a PGA Tour policy board member, discussed possible changes with the PGA of America before and after the Ryder Cup. Faxon expressed concern that American players don’t regularly play U.S. Ryder sites such as Oakland Hills, Oak Hill, The Country Club and Valhalla. He also wondered if the PGA’s current parameters were producing the best candidates for captain.

“I think that they have to question themselves and say, ‘I don’t know if it’s necessary that we pick a guy that, say, has won a major,’ ” Faxon said. “Does that necessarily make a guy a better coach than a guy who hasn’t? An example might be if a guy has won one major 20 years ago. Does that make him better than a guy who is still a good player who’s played in three or four Ryder Cups?”

After the Americans in September lost for the fourth time in the last five meetings, the PGA asked Faxon’s advice on player selection.

“I do know that they said that this year, if they used a one-year ranking point system vs. two years, there would have been four guys that wouldn’t have made this year’s team,” Faxon said. “Now that’s a big difference. So what they’re trying to do is find the best system to get the players who are playing the best currently.”

Curtis Strange, the 2002 U.S. captain, said the only change he’d recommend is to involve 10 or 12 players from each team, instead of eight, in the four-ball and foursome sessions.

“The argument forever was that (the Europeans) weren’t as deep as we were,” Strange said. “Now they’re deeper and better than we are. So let’s get it done, let’s play more players.”

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