Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Mahan to play despite Ryder Cup 'slaves' jibe

While there was widespread astonishment at Nick Faldo's choices for his Ryder Cup wild cards, there was but a sympathetic shrug at the Americans who Paul Azinger felt compelled to pick yesterday.

One of them happened to be Hunter Mahan, the young man who but four weeks ago declared that the competitors at the biennial extravaganza were used as "slaves" and hinted at possible boycotts in the future because all the fun had been sucked from the event.

At the morning team announcement in New York, Mahan described how he had talked to the PGA of America – the organisers of the match in Kentucky in two weeks' time – and then to Azinger and how "they have all moved on from those comments". While many wrote off his chances in the wake of that explosive, and some felt divisive, interview, Mahan sensed from his heart-to-heart that he still had a chance. "I told Captain Azinger it didn't reflect my true feelings and that I really, really wanted to play," said the 26-year-old.

Indeed, Azinger may just have fancied taking a player to Louisville with a point to prove and another factor that undoubtedly worked in Mahan's favour was the lack of alternative options. When he agreed to take over the role two years ago, Azinger did so on the proviso he could overhaul the selection process. He insisted on doubling the number of wild cards to four and also asked for his wild card deadline to be extended by three weeks so that he could choose players in form. In the event, there were barely any Americans in form.

At least he had one sure thing in Steve Stricker, the world No 8. But Azinger's wish that three others come to the fore in the last few weeks has palpably not happened. Of the last nine US Tour events the only two American winners were the little-known pair Chez Reavie and Parker McLachlin. "Unfortunately the last three weeks have seen three foreign winners and nobody really jumped off the page," admitted Azinger.

So he was forced to go with players not so much "hot" as "slightly tepid". Mahan opened with a 62 at The Barclays two weeks ago , Stricker had the 36-hole lead at the tournament and J B Holmes closed with a 66. And on Monday at the Deutsche Bank Championship, Chad Campbell closed with a 66 to tie for sixth.

While Holmes's inclusion was anticipated due to the big-hitter growing up in Kentucky and having intimate knowledge of the Valhalla venue, Campbell's call-up was a surprise, despite him adding some experience to a team containing six rookies. The Texan has played in the last two Ryder Cups, but has recorded just one victory from six games. Before this latest result in Boston, Campbell's last two placings were 65th and a missed cut. He is currently outside the world's top 50.

Furthermore, it would understandable if his focus is wavering as his wife is about to give birth. In fact, as yesterday's press conference was taking place Campbell listening in and answering questions on his mobile phone from the car park of a maternity hospital. His wife was inside discovering whether the baby was on its way. The cigar might just have been lit early.

Meanwhile, the Faldo rumpus rumbles on with Darren Clarke yesterday all but accusing the captain of going back on his promise to select on form. The Ulsterman also made a plea for the critics to lay-off Poulter. "I think Poults has been dragged into a situation which was caused not by his own doing, but because Nick has changed his mind and gone back on it," said Clarke. "I think Poults has maybe been caught taking the brunt of a lot of things which is not his fault.

"Earlier in the year, Nick had stated that he wanted his players to be on form, he wasn't going to pay particular attention to the rankings. I thought I was on good form, my record this year has been a couple of good wins and lots of top 10s, but unfortunately he changed his mind."

New name spares this Long John's blushes

The prodigious length of John Holmes has never been in doubt, but his identity was when he first set out on Tour two years ago. Neighbours in his tiny hometown of Campbellsville in Kentucky, the state that hosts this month's Ryder Cup, did not know that the J B Holmes who became the quickest professional ever to win a $1m (£560,000) was "Long John" from down their street. The reason for his name change soon became apparent, not to mention understandable.

"I didn't know who the porn star John Holmes was, but I figured it out quick when I was playing high-school golf," said Holmes, referring to the legendary adult entertainment actor, whose main claim to fame was his 15-inch penis. "I got tired of all the stuff – I heard it my whole life. My agent had a friend who's good friends with [the television commentator] Gary McCord, so he set it up for me to play with him. "On the eighth hole he said: 'I'm just going to call you J B.' Fortunately, it stuck."



American Ryder Cup team 2008



Phil Mickelson



Age 38. World ranking 2. Caps 6. Ryder Cup record: W9 L12 H4



Stewart Cink



Age 35. WR 9. Caps 3. Record W3 L5 H4



Kenny Perry



Age 47. WR 9. Caps: 1. Record: W0 L2 H0



Jim Furyk



Age: 38. WR: 13. Caps: 5. Record: W6 L12 H2



Anthony Kim



Age: 23. Record: Debut



Justin Leonard



Age: 36. WR: 23. Caps: 2. Record: W0 L3 H5



Ben Curtis



Age: 31. WR: 33. Record: Debut



Boo Weekley



Age: 35. WR: 35. Record: Debut



Steve Stricker



Age: 41. WR: 8. Record: Debut



Hunter Mahan



Age: 26. WR: 37. Record: Debut



J B Holmes



Age: 26. WR: 55. Record: Debut.



Chad Campbell



Age: 34. WR: 53. Caps: 2. Record: W1 L3 H2

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