Azinger I poured my heart and soul into it

By Associated PressSeptember 21, 2008, 4:00 pm
Ryder CupLOUISVILLE, Ky. ' About the only place Paul Azinger ever got the better of Nick Faldo was at the Ryder Cup.
 
Although the only time either captain used a club this week was in TV commercials or replays, darned if Azinger didnt find a way to best his European counterpart again.
 
A short par putt conceded to Jim Furyk guaranteed that Sam Ryders gilded trophy would spend the rest of an Indian summer day basking in Kentucky, then linger on this side of the Atlantic for at least the next two years.
 
The first thing Azinger said the moment after was, I poured my heart and soul into it for two years and my players poured their hearts and souls into it for a week. They deserved it.
 
Paul Azinger
U.S. captain Paul Azinger celebrates bringing the Ryder Cup back to the U.S. (Getty Images)
Inflated as that made Azingers contribution sound, it was hardly an overstatement. He lobbied tirelessly to convince the PGA of America to change its qualifying system, using the money list instead of a convoluted point system that didnt always reward players rounding into form, and to give him four captains selections instead of two.
 
Azinger had nothing to do with the knee surgery that sidelined Tiger Woods, turning him into a text-messaging buddy instead of a rallying cause for Europes team, but even that might have worked to his advantage.
 
And when someone asked him what he did to make his dozen players believe they could beat a European side that had won three straight barely breaking a sweat, Azinger replied cagily, Im not going to tell you just yet. Not yet. I came with a plan.
 
However long the rest of us have to wait for the details, a few things were already clear. He did his best to hide a burning desire to beat Faldo, but anybody who turned up at the Louisville airport and watched Azinger cool his heels while the Europeans deplaned to much pomp and circumstance would have picked up a clue.
 
Their rivalry dated to the wet and cold of the 1987 British Open at Muirfield, where Azinger bogeyed the final two holes and watched helplessly as Faldo motored past him with the last of 18 straight pars.
 
Though Azinger would finally grab his major, Faldo would go on to win a half-dozen. Though Azinger beat the Englishman 2-0-2 in their Ryder Cup singles matches, it was Faldo who went on to set a record for both appearances and points won.
 
Though they wound up sharing the broadcast booth to great advantage for a while, it was Azinger, an Air Force brat who learned to scrap for almost everything he got, who usually wound up playing the straight man to Faldos suave, comic persona.
 
And though they made commercials and posed affably for magazine covers and just about anybody else that asked, Azinger was frank when he told Golf Digest in an interview this month, Yeah, Ive felt my accomplishments have been minimized in comparisons with Nicks. I try to brush it off, brush it off, but thats a real feeling. Theres always a little something there.
 
Who better, then, to captain an underdog team than a captain who felt like an underdog his whole life?
 
They brought themselves here, Azinger said about his charges, and if I was the guy that helped organize it, then Im happy to be that.
 
But those guys did it, he added emphatically. They deserve the credit.
 
True enough. Yet much of the credit for the spirit that turned a prairie 20 minutes west of downtown into a mosh pit belongs to Azinger.
 
He had plenty of help from Boo Weekley, a Floridian whose country-boy demeanor made the locals adopt him like one of their own. He got a hand, too, from native son Kenny Perry, who at age 48 rejuvenated his career and won three tournaments to make certain hed qualify.
 
But it was Azingers decision to use a much-criticized captains pick on another Kentucky boy, J.B. Holmes. And besides giving the crowd another rooting interest, Holmes delivered, winning twice and halving his other match.
 
Another of his picks, Hunter Mahan, had ripped the notion of playing in a Ryder Cup as too much ceremony to be worth the bother. Yet Azinger didnt hold that against him and Mahan returned the favor, winning two matches and halving his three others.
 
If Azinger had any doubts that all of his players were similarly prepared to back him up, those were dispelled shortly after the opening ceremonies.
 
Before departing for a pep rally that Azinger had organized for later Thursday night to unveil his 13th man rooting strategy, he told his team to stay behind and rest up for Fridays matches. When he climbed on the bus wearing a T-shirt with the slogan on it, who should already be sitting there but the rest of his team.
 
He just looked at us, Mahan recalled, and said, Good to see my authority is being followed as the captain.'
 
It might have marked the only time all week they didnt follow their captains instructions to the letter.
 

Related Links:
  • U.S. Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • European Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • Full Coverage - 37th Ryder Cup
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    Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

    By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

    Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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    Rahm (62) fires career low round

    By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

    The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

    Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

    What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

    Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

    Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

    Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

    Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

    Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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    Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

    Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

    "Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

    Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

    "That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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    Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

    By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

    There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

    Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

    Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

    Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

    @tommyfleetwood_1

    A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

    The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

    It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.