Holmes named to Ryder Cup team

NEW YORK — Chad Campbell lingered in the parking lot of a Dallas hospital as his wife waited inside to get the latest report on their first child, due to be born later this week.

He wanted a clear signal on his cell phone to hear the good news: Campbell is going to the Ryder Cup.

Paul Azinger completed his American team Tuesday with captain's picks, adding Campbell, Steve Stricker, Hunter Mahan and Kentucky native J.B. Holmes to a team that will have six Ryder Cup rookies and no Tiger Woods.

"I think that we have rounded off this team with the best possible players at this time," Azinger said.

Stricker was at the top of his list all along, the No. 8 player in the world ranking and among the best putters in golf who would have qualified for the team if the points counted over the last two weeks.

Azinger also favored Holmes, a "bomber" off the tee who is sure to get local support when the Ryder Cup is played Sept. 19-21 at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville.

"I really like J.B. Holmes' personality. I think he fits match play, and he knows Valhalla like the back of his hand. So maybe that will help. I hope it does. I'm really excited to have J.B. on the team. He was extremely excited. Hunter Mahan was excited. They really, really wanted to be on the team"

Mahan opened his eyes with a 62 at Ridgewood Country Club in the first round of The Barclays.

The final piece was Campbell, who played on the last two Ryder Cup teams but was barely mentioned as speculation increased over the last few weeks. Thwe quiet Texan made one last impression by finishing 69-66 at the TPC Boston.

"I knew I was on the outside looking in, but I felt like I played pretty well over the last couple months, other than a couple of tournaments," Campbell said. "I was just hoping that he saw that. I feel like I'm playing as well as I ever have right now. I'm honored to be picked."

The final choice was between Campbell and Scott Verplank, who was 33rd in the Ryder Cup standings but is a rarity among Americans with a winning record this decade. Verplank is 4-1 in his two Ryder Cups, beating Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington in singles, while playing on teams beaten by a combined 12 points.

Also bypassed were Woody Austin, who finished at No. 10 in the standings when only the top eight earned spots this year; Rocco Mediate, who lost a 19-hole playoff to Woods in the U.S. Open; and Tampa winner Sean O'Hair.

"It's hard for me to justify why the guys didn't make the team," Azinger said. "I can just tell you why I picked the guys that I did pick. There's a lot of guys that deserve to be on this team, and there's a lot of guys that were really close to making it."

The eight players who qualified were Phil Mickelson, Stewart Cink, Kenny Perry, Jim Furyk, Anthony Kim, Justin Leonard, Ben Curtis and Boo Weekley. Along with the four picks, they face a big chore.

The United States has not won the Ryder Cup since 1999, when Leonard holed a 45-foot birdie putt at The Country Club to complete the biggest comeback in history. Europe has captured the cup eight of the last 11 times dating to 1985.

Azinger thinks this European squad is the strongest ever.

"I like the team that we have and I'm really confident with who we have," Azinger said. "We are going to be underdogs in this event, and I think it's OK to be the underdog."

European captain Nick Faldo picked Ian Poulter and Paul Casey on Sunday to fill out his 12-man team.

Azinger revamped the criteria, doubled his picks to four, then asked to delay his selections three weeks with hopes of finding someone who could get hot with the matches approaching.

Holmes is a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, adding another title at the FBR Open this year when he birdied the last hole and then beat Mickelson in a playoff.

Along with his Kentucky heritage, Holmes knows Valhalla as well as anyone.

"To be able to play a course that you've played a lot and being in your home state, that's just unbelievable," Holmes said.

Of his team, Azinger said, "All I can tell you is that the four guys that I have, those were the four guys that became very obvious to me. And I'm happy with those four guys."