Zinger Warms to His Awesome Task

By George WhiteNovember 7, 2006, 5:00 pm
Paul Azinger is under absolutely no delusions. Dont call him the American coach ' there already are 12 coaches for each of the U.S. players. He is a captain. And, by no means is he miracle worker.
 
Azinger assumes the captaincy of a boat that is listing badly. The U.S. has lost six of the last seven Ryder Cups. And the U.S. players will not win unless they can play better golf in 2008 than the Europeans. If Vince Lombardi were coaching the last-place team in 1967 instead of the Green Bay Packers, he could not possibly have won the NFL Championship, regardless of how great a coach he was. Ergo Hal Sutton and Tom Lehman, the last two U.S. captains.
 
Paul Azinger
Paul Azinger will lead the U.S. squad at the 2008 Ryder Cup.
Now, with that bit of info out in the open, Azinger says he has some ideas. But one of them does not revolve around lighting a fire under the U.S. players. The idea that the Americans have not wanted the Cup as badly of the Europeans is pure, well, poppycock, he feels.
 
I think the greatest misconception is that the Europeans are more passionate about the Ryder Cup than we are, said Zinger. Clearly, they look like they have more camaraderie, giving each other headlocks and noogies, patting each other on the back and all that.
 
But the reality is, when their team wins the first session in the morning and then wins the first match in the afternoon, then they are going to look that way. I hope America and the press remembers what 1999 was like, that comeback ' if there ever were more passion and more excitement than what was shown in that instance, then youve got to show me where that came from. The American players are passionate, and they are hungry and starving to do well in this event.
 
But the reality is, theyve been behind a lot lately. And (that passion) just doesnt show.
 
And he says that, frankly, the Europeans had the better players the last two matches when they outscored the Americans by convincing 18 - 9 margins.
 
The European Ryder Cup team is fantastic, and they have been for a long time, said Azinger. And its time that we recognize that fact.
 
The PGA of America has set up a new selection process, hopefully to get one or two more hot players on the team. And Azinger has been given two additional selections, making it four wild-card picks selections instead of two. Outside of that, there isnt a whole lot the PGA can do. Its up to the Americans to get better. Zinger will merely take what hes given and try to hash out a win.
 
I think I have the opportunity that no other Ryder Cup captain has had, he said, and I really appreciate that.
 
PGA of America president Roger Warren conceded that at most there might have been one or two different players under the new selection process than there was in the last two Cups. For the losing trend to be reversed, the U.S. will have to rely, first and foremost, on Azingers ability to get four winning players ' plus, of course, an over-all improvement in the American players who are the eight automatic picks.
 
In 2008, of course, the Americans will be having to compete under a rather dubious schedule ' they will be coming off a seven-events-in-eight-weeks stretch that is compliments of the PGA TOURs new FedEx Cup. The TOUR Championship will be the week before the Ryder Cup. It remains to be seen just how much of a hindrance that will be.
 
Very few of the potential Ryder Cup members ever play that concentrated schedule. Will the Americans be a worn-out troupe, playing with lots of heart but little else? Could be.
 
I dont really know how the best players in the world are going to react, confessed Azinger. I dont know how they are going to respond to that type of a schedule. I dont know that, because they feel theyre already qualified, theyll take some time off.
 
Somehow, though, I feel like it is better for us that the American players are going to be playing in the FedEx Cup series leading into the Ryder Cup. It may end up being OK.
 
If it is any consolation, several of the Europeans will be in the same boat, since many of them are members of the U.S. tour. And, two years is a long time into the future ' maybe three or four Americans will come to the fore in that time, maybe the situation wont look nearly as bleak by then.
 
But be assured, says Azinger, the 12 men who will wear the United States colors will be ready to play.
 
I think that America as a whole, the PGA of America as a whole, and the players as a whole are tired of getting beat, he said simply. And I just think they will be very hungry - I really do.
 
Zinger let it go at that. No rash promises of victory. No flag-waving, no barn-burning, no evangelistic fervor. But you can bet your money on the Americans being ready. If Paul Azinger can get them to play the utmost of their capabilities, then he has done everything that a captain can do.
 
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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials phoned Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial. 

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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.