NORTON, Mass. -- I will pick the hottest players, the man promised as he was handed the keys to the Ryder Cup cruiser.
He even threatened to take a player from the Nationwide Tour if he'd been performing well enough leading up to the matches, a heretical notion, really.
|Kevin Streelman shoots a 65 on Saturday in the second round of the Deutsche Bank. (AP)|
Azinger will announce his four captain's picks on Tuesday in New York City, and while the list of American candidates seems almost transparently thin based on recent play, a fresh face has fought his way into contention over the past three straight weeks.
So let's be the first to ask, why not
The PGA Tour Rookie of the Year candidate shot 65 on Saturday in the second round of the Deutsche Bank Championship and climbed into a tie for fifth with megastars Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els and Jim Furyk, and is threatening to post his third top-six finish in as many weeks.
Azinger overhauled the Ryder points system, pushed back the selection deadline and doubled the number of captain's picks before taking the post, all in an attempt to find the hottest players available. Well, on a plate full of bland bell peppers, Streelman is the jalapeno.
"I have no idea what he's thinking," Streelman said. "I think he could say, 'Wow, he's really playing well right now.' Or he could be thinking, 'He just doesn't have nearly enough experience.' Hard to say."
As Streelman readily admits, both are defensible positions. But so is the premise that the Duke graduate deserves at least as much consideration, if not more, as the parade of sputtering Yanks seemingly held in higher esteem.
Go ahead, name a more scorching American player. Waiting ... waiting ... waiting.
Outside of veteran Steve Stricker, who is ranked No. 10 in the world and stands as the only player most experts consider to be a mortal lock to make the team as one of the four Tuesday picks, the rest of the perceived candidates have mostly been reaching for life preservers, unable to remotely sustain continuity.
Streelman has made 12 straight cuts, more than any other player who hasn't already cemented a berth on the team and the fifth-best streak on the entire tour. After starting the Wyndham Championship two weeks ago at No. 120 in earnings, in danger of losing his tour card later this year, he has climbed to 81st and topped the $1 million mark.
Since finishing the U.S. Open in June -- where he was tied for the first-round lead, mind you -- Streelman is a streaking 78 under par, including 11 under this week at TPC Boston.