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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    Vegas helicopters in to Carnoustie, without clubs

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 9:33 am

    Jhonattan Vegas did some range work, putted a little and strolled to the first tee for his 5:31 a.m. ET start in the 147th Open Championship.

    Everything before that, however, was far from routine.



    Vegas' visa to travel to Scotland expired and the process to renew it got delayed - and it looked like his overseas' flight might suffer the same fate. Vegas, upon getting his visa updated, traveled from Houston, Texas to Toronto, Canada to Glasgow, Scotland, and then took a helicopter to Carnoustie.

    He arrived in time on Thursday morning, but his clubs did not. Mizuno put together some irons for him and TaylorMade got him his preferred metal woods. He hit the clubs for the first time on the range, less than 90 minutes before his start.

    "I'm going to go out there and play with freedom," Vegas told Golf Channel's Todd Lewis.

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    How to watch The Open on TV and online

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:40 am

    You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

    Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

    In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.  

    Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

    (All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)

    Monday, July 16

    GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

    GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

    GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


    Tuesday, July 17

    GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


    Wednesday, July 18

    GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


    Thursday, July 19

    GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

    GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

    GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

    GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

    GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

    GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


    Friday, July 20

    GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

    GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

    GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

    GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

    GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


    Saturday, July 21

    GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

    NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

    GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

    GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

    GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

    GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


    Sunday, July 22

    GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

    NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

    GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

    GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

    GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

    GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

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    The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:30 am

    Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

    What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

    What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

    How old is it?

    It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

    Where is it played?

    There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

    Where will it be played this year?

    At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

    Who has won The Open on that course?

    Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

    Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

    Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

    Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

    This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

    Who has won this event the most?

    Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

    What about the Morrises?

    Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

    Have players from any particular country dominated?

    In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

    Who is this year's defending champion?

    That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

    What is the trophy called?

    The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

    Which Opens have been the most memorable?

    Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

    When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

    Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.