Azinger a True American But What if

By George WhiteAugust 20, 2001, 4:00 pm
There was a time, not too long ago, when Paul Azinger was thin as a 1-iron, long-haired, wearing white shoes, dark slacks and a shirt that was some shade of red. It was less than a decade ago, and Azinger was just a kid, a kid who happened to be pretty good at golf.
Today, he isnt so skinny. He isnt so long-haired. And he isnt as good. But at age 41, this Floridian is back on the Ryder Cup team after an eight-year absence. He still is a kid, but an older, wiser kid. At the end of 1993, he was diagnosed with cancer in his shoulder and underwent the debilitating effects of chemotherapy. Forced for a period of time to stare death right in the face, he struggled and eventually won that battle. The fight to regain a semblance of a professional golf game took longer.
In 1996, Paul and I did a story for an English magazine in which he delved into his feelings for his country, among other things. During his three years as a Ryder Cupper, Azinger was the most rabid of competitors, bleeding red-white-and-blue all over. His confrontations with Seve Ballesteros, Europes most ardent Ryder Cupper, are legendary now. But when Curtis Strange selected Azinger as a member of the 2001 team, you knew patriotism had re-entered the Ryder Cup, I mean old-fashioned, red-blooded, salute-the-flag and hold-your-heart patriotism.
Azingers father was an Air Force officer, which must be where it came from. Paul was a normal high school boy with all the high-jinks that come to boys of that age. He caroused and played numerous pranks and sneaked a beer and generally was a bit mischievous, but nothing to suggest he would become a flag-waver.
The magazine story was quite revealing, though. What did he want the Europeans to know about him?
That Im just a typical red-blooded American boy who takes his golf pretty seriously, with no offense to anyone, he began. I just feel like Im as competitive as anybody theyd ever want to know, and everything I do, I do with malice towards no one.
I love life, I love living, Im fun to be around and the biggest kid they would ever know.
Azinger, it must be remembered, was the most disliked of any American by the European fans. But if he had been born, say, in England, he says he would have been just as drawn to that countrys flag as he is Americas.
Yes, Im sure I would, he said. I would be exactly the same in that regard.
I think love of country is a wonderful thing. I respect and admire anybody who feels that for his country. Had I been raised in England, I would be just as fiercely proud of England as I am about the USA.
Azinger can rhapsodize about some things British, proving that he isnt blinded to all things from the island. What does he most like about the United Kingdom? He loves the quietness, the majesty that is Great Britain.
The beauty, he says simply. The countryside. Incredible. The scenery. Just the overwhelming beauty of the nature of Great Britain. Its such a beautiful place.
If he could change it, there is but one thing he would dare tinker with ' 'the weather. Thats pretty simple ' just the weather. Everything else, why would anyone want to change it?
He sat beside Strange at the Monday media conference and was, well, reclusive, in a way. He politely and thoughtfully answered questions. But he knows plenty well that he wont be the focal point of the team this year. That role belongs to Woods and Duval and Mickelson and all those guys in the 20s and 30s.
But it will be a long time before we forget about Azinger and Ballesteros, both trying to achieve what they could through all means legal ' and some that were rather shady. Strange played a hunch in picking Paul, and Azinger is in no condition to guarantee Strange points for the American side. But he will give the American lads a reason to stand up to the flag, if nothing else.
Im not sure Azinger was the right pick in this age of political correctness ' after all, the situation is about as fragile as it can get, considering the ugly mood still lingering following the events at Brookline in 1999. But Paul is, if nothing else, patriotic. And if he had been born in the UK, he would have been just as British as Prince Charles. He loves his golf, but even more, he loves his flag.
Full Coverage of the 34th Ryder Cup Matches
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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.