LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — 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 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 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.”
J.B. Holmes stood on the 13th tee at Valhalla, listened to the urging from the crowd and pulled out the driver.
One big swing and 338 yards later, the ball settled 15 feet from the cup.
No wonder Kenny Perry wants to play with him.
The two Kentuckians and U.S. Ryder Cup teammates put on a show in front of their homestate fans during practice on Tuesday, providing a glimpse of what their gallery would look like if they get paired together when the Cup starts on Friday.
The politicking from Perry has already begun.
“I thought it would be special for two Kentuckians to lead the charge out here to try to win the Cup back,” Perry said. “I guess it could backfire if we don’t play well and they kick us pretty bad. It could also have a reverse role too. I just think with the energy and the excitement, I just think it’s going to put a lot of pressure on the Europeans.”
U.S. captain Paul Azinger said he’s thought about sending Perry and Holmes out first to “get this crowd rocking” and Perry said he’d prefer them playing in the alternate shot format, where Holmes’ length could set up Perry’s precision.
“He’s such a dominant force,” Perry said of Holmes. “The whole world loves power, if it’s who can throw the baseball the fastest or who can hit the ball the farthest. If he can get guys like that hot and get them into the game, they’re going to be tough to beat.”
Holmes, a Ryder Cup rookie, said he’s hoping to play with Perry but will defer to Azinger.
“He’s the captain and he’s going to do what he thinks is right, and if that’s sending us off first on Friday, that’s great with me,” Holmes said. “I’d love to go out there and start it off with a bang. That would be awesome.”
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.
U.S. WINS (JUNIOR) RYDER CUP
The Americans can only hope to follow the example set by their junior team.
The U.S. romped to a 22-2 victory over Europe in the Junior Ryder Cup on Tuesday, winning at The Club at Olde Stone in Bowling Green.
The Americans built on their opening-day success in the foursome and mixed four-ball matches, winning 11 of the 12 singles points and earning a halve in the final match.
Cory Whitsett of Houston won his match 6-and-5 over Matteo Manassero of Italy, and Jeffrey Kang of Fullerton, Calif., defeated Moritz Lampert of Germany 4-and-3.
“We wanted to play like the matches were zero-to-zero and just go out there and win as many matches as possible,” Whitsett said.
Jeffrey Kang’s singles point secured the victory for the U.S.
“We really didn’t feel any pressure out there today,” Kang said. “We were able to have fun and play our game.”
The American’s only other victory came in 1997, when the it was known as the Junior Match and was not a PGA of America sanctioned event. The teams will play a nine-hole “friendship” match on Wednesday at Valhalla, site of the 2008 Ryder Cup.