Ryder Cup Captain Azinger Makes Cut

Padraig Harrington rallies from three shots down with a final-round 66 to win the PGA Championship, his second consecutive major title.
By Leonard Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 10, 2008

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich., Aug. 9 -- Paul Azinger became the first standing captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team to make the cut in the PGA Championship since Tom Kite finished fifth in the event in 1997. After a third-round 76 Saturday, he's out of contention at 14-over-par 224, but his mind is very much on the matches against Europe; the event will be at Valhalla near Louisville in mid-September.

Specifically, he's pondering how he wants the course to be set up next month, whether it ought to be extremely difficult -- much like Oakland Hills this week -- or far more forgiving. Europe has retained the Cup in five of the past six competitions, including the last three.

"I also talked to Charles Howell today about whether it set up really, really easy or really, really hard," Azinger said after he completed his third round before storms halted play this afternoon. "There's a little something inside me that says either one could work. When you look at the board and you look at the history of the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, the more difficult it is, the more Americans [play well].

"But at the same time, I think when you've got a bunch of guys coming in and playing well, you want to give them a chance to play golf. It's kind of a catch-22. What's better -- really, really hard and hope for the best, or you set it up a little easier and say, 'My guys are playing well; I'm going to let them play golf?' "

A Family Affair

Nicholas Thompson's little sister, Alexis, has been in his gallery all week, even after she lost in the first round of the U.S. Women's Amateur in Eugene, Ore., on Wednesday, the day before the PGA Championship started.

Alexis, 13, of Coral Springs, Fla., won the U.S. Junior Girls Championship last month and was the youngest player ever to qualify for the U.S. Women's Open last year at age 12. After her loss in the Amateur, she and her father, Scott, hopped on a red-eye flight that arrived in Detroit early enough Thursday for them to get to their hotel, shower and change and make it to the first tee to see Nicholas hit his opening drive in his first PGA Championship.

Austin Misses Goal

Woody Austin was beside himself after shooting 79 in each of the first two rounds of the tournament, missing the cut and making it impossible for him to get into the top eight on the Ryder Cup points list for an automatic berth on the U.S. team. Nevertheless, Austin still could be among Azinger's four wild-card selections to be announced Sept. 2, particularly if he plays well in the next three tournaments. But Austin said: "My whole intention of the year was to make the team. I didn't make the team."

Azinger said he was going to call Austin's wife, Shannon, and "tell her to take all the sharp objects away from Woody for a day or two and let him know he's got three more tournaments to go" before the captain's picks.

Club Pros Miss Cut

None of the 20 club professionals in the field made the cut, with New Jersey's Frank Esposito coming closest. He had a double bogey on his final hole Friday and posted 9-over 149. The cut was 8-over 148 . . .

Fairfax native Steve Marino had a stretch of three consecutive back-nine bogeys on his way to a 75 Saturday, his worst round of the week, and is now at 12-over 222 after 54 holes.

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