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Lexington Pros pick their team

If Lexington pros have their way, Kenny Perry won't be the only Kentuckian playing for the United States Ryder Cup team at Valhalla.

U.S. captain Paul Azinger will be the one doing the official picking Tuesday when the final four spots are filled for the 12-man team that will take on Europe.

Azinger will reveal his team one day after European captain Nick Faldo announces his squad.

To give Azinger some help, the Herald-Leader polled the head golf professionals in Lexington, asking them which four players they would choose if they were making the selections.

All 10 pros that responded named J.B. Holmes as one of their picks. Holmes, the long-hitting former Kentucky Wildcat from Campbellsville, was 17th on the points list after the PGA Championship, the cutoff for automatic qualifying for the team. That placed Holmes ninth among players who did not qualify.

But that didn't discourage the Lexington pros.

"J.B.'s length will be a key, and he can make a lot of birdies," said Jeff Shelton, the head pro at the Gay Brewer Jr. Course at Picadome. "He has also played for the U.S. in the Walker Cup (the amateur version of the Ryder Cup) and excelled at the format."

The pros also envisioned the 26-year-old Holmes helping to create excitement in Louisville.

"Can you imagine a Holmes-Perry pairing in the first group Friday morning?" said Idle Hour Country Club pro Pete Garvey. "Talk about getting the home crowd fired up!"

Another former Wildcat, Steve Flesch of Union, finished tied for the fourth and final spot in the poll (he was named by three pros), but at No. 22 overall in the points standings, he is a long shot to be chosen by Azinger. Hunter Mahan also received three votes.

The second-most popular pick behind Holmes was Steve Stricker, who got seven votes. Shelton called Stricker, "a great putter," and Don Hobbs, of Griffin Gate Marriott, said, "in match play, great putting is a must. It provides momentum and disheartens the opponent."

The third member of the team, if the local pros were choosing, would be Rocco Mediate (six votes).

Visitors to Kentucky.com were asked their opinion, but they were limited to voting for only one player. Holmes, the native son, easily leads with 44 percent of the vote followed by Mediate (20 percent), Stricker (12) and Flesch and Zach Johnson (7 each).

PGA.com conducted its own survey that catered to a national audience. Voters, who were allowed to make four selections, chose (as of Saturday night) Mediate (17 percent), Stricker (17), Johnson (11) and Woody Austin (10). Holmes was seventh (8) and Flesch was 11th (3).

Azinger has an advantage over those that were polled. He gets to wait until the end of the Deutsche Bank Championship, which concludes Monday.

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