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
  • Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

    By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

    Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

    Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

    Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

    Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

    It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

    The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

    Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

    By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

    Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

    ''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

    They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

    ''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

    Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

    ''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

    Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

    Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

    Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

    Getty Images

    Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

    Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

    Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

    Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

    Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

    The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

    Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

    By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

    JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

    Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

    Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.