Azinger out to end US drought

By Associated PressSeptember 14, 2008, 4:00 pm
Ryder CupEven without Tiger Woods, the Americans are running out of excuses in the Ryder Cup.
They have one victory against Europe in the last 15 years of this biennial grudge match, and that required a miracle putt from Justin Leonard that only slowed the shift in power. They have not led after any day, any session since that Sunday at Brookline in 1999.
Not that they haven't tried.
Hal Sutton thought he created a juggernaut by pairing Woods and Phil Mickelson in 2004, a move that got torpedoed. They lost both matches, and an inspired European team went on to its most lopsided victory.
Woods tried to get more involved in 2006. He took four rookies out to dinner ' even paid the bill ' and then agreed to fly to Ireland for two days of practice to show this U.S. team was unified. Europe won by the same score, 18 - 9 .
Paul Azinger
U.S. captain Paul Azinger is hoping his team can win back the Ryder Cup. (Getty Images)
Now it's Paul Azinger's turn.
Before he agreed to be the next U.S. captain, he persuaded the PGA of America to overhaul the qualifying system by basing the points on money instead of top 10s, replacing an archaic system that Azinger felt did not deliver the best players. Only results from this year counted, except for the 2007 majors. He doubled his captain's picks to four selections, then pushed back the date for choosing them by three weeks to give him more time to evaluate the hot hands.
Nothing in this blueprint suggested Woods would have season-ending knee surgery after the U.S. Open and not make the trip to Valhalla Golf Club, where Woods won the PGA Championship in 2000.
Even so, Azinger feels the new criteria at least gives the Americans a fighting chance.
'If we win, I'll go down as having the lowest IQ of any genius who ever lived,' Azinger said.
And if they lose?
'I don't think there's more at stake than there has been any other year, because we always want to win so bad,' said Stewart Cink, who has experienced nothing but losing since his first Ryder Cup in 2002. 'The fact we've lost a few ... that's history now. It really doesn't have any bearing on this one. We're tired of losing.'
But the Americans certainly are used to it.
Europe has now captured the Ryder Cup three consecutive times, five out of the last six, eight of the last 11. For the first time, all 12 of its players are among the top 50 in the world, led by British Open and PGA champion Padraig Harrington.
The Americans counter with six rookies, the most on a U.S. team since 1979. And with Woods sitting this one out, the Americans do not have a current major champion on their side for the first since the Ryder Cup began in 1927.
About the only thing they have in their favor is a raucous crowd that awaits in Kentucky when the matches begin Sept. 19.
The trick is to give them something to cheer.
'It will be unique to be in America, on our home soil, as underdogs,' Azinger said. 'But clearly, the European team is strong. I think it's one of the strongest teams I've ever seen them bring across here.'
Europe is so strong that captain Nick Faldo figured he could do without Colin Montgomerie, who has never lost a singles match and has played in every Ryder Cup since 1991; and Darren Clarke, the inspirational figure at The K Club in Ireland two years ago when he went 3-0 in his first competition since his wife died of cancer.
Phil Mickelson, who has not won a singles match in the last three Ryder Cups, was the leading points-earner for the United States. The leader of this team, however, might be Kenny Perry, who went 0-2 in the only Ryder Cup he ever played.
Perry, who grew up about two hours away in tiny Franklin, Ky., considered it a long shot that he could make the team at age 48, especially coming off knee surgery in 2006 and consecutive years without a victory. But he qualified easily with three PGA TOUR victories ' only Woods has won more on the TOUR this year ' despite playing only one round in the four majors.
Perry wasn't eligible for the Masters, withdrew from U.S. Open qualifying, turned down a spot in the British Open when he qualified late, then withdrew from the PGA Championship after the first round with a nagging eye injury.
For a guy who normally tries to avoid attention, Perry sees the Ryder Cup as his defining moment.
'This is the pinnacle of my career,' Perry said. 'I'm either going to be a hero or a goat in the state of Kentucky.'
He will have some Bluegrass company in J.B. Holmes, one of Azinger's four wild-card picks who was selected for his sheer power. Holmes, who twice has won the FBR Open, worked the scoreboard on the 14th hole at Valhalla during the 2000 PGA Championship and has played the course more than anyone at the Ryder Cup.
Other fresh faces for the United States include the explosive Anthony Kim, a two-time winner this year; Steve Stricker, regarded as the best putter on the U.S. team; and Hunter Mahan, chosen despite criticism of the Ryder Cup largesse in a magazine interview this year.
Azinger doesn't see the rookies as a liability.
'I've said this all along ' to me, experience is important, but it also is overrated,' Azinger said. 'Anyone who has played in the last six Ryder Cups has experienced getting their (behinds) beat. I'm not looking for experience. I want players that are playing well.'
What's at stake for Europe?
It typically gets motivation from being classified as a second-rate tour, although it now has more players among the top 30 than the Americans. The European Tour is going global, and next year will introduce the 'Race to Dubai' to counter the FedExCup.
'There's probably not as much at stake for the European team as the U.S. team,' Harrington said. 'There's more pressure on them. I would think for the Ryder Cup, there needs to be a good, tight match. I think the U.S. team needs a win now.'
Along with making putts, Europe has done a remarkable job pulling together with so many personalities from so many countries. This will require extra work this year, particularly with the captain.
Some players were perplexed publicly, disenchanted in private, when Faldo left Clarke off the team in favor of Ian Poulter, who chose to play on the U.S. tour instead of trying to make the team on his own. Clarke has won twice this year, while Poulter only has two top-10s, including a runner-up finish to Harrington at the British Open.
'Some will agree. Some will disagree,' Faldo said. 'I'm the guy that has to live with it, and I can live with my decision.'
As captains, Faldo and Azinger bring their own rivalry.
They were partners in the broadcast booth for ABC Sports, but their relationship dates to the 1987 British Open, when Azinger bogeyed the last two holes to pave the way for the first of Faldo's six majors.
Azinger never lost to Faldo in four Ryder Cup matches, including a famous halve in 1993 at The Belfry in which both fought to the final hole even though the Americans had already clinched the Ryder Cup. Azinger was diagnosed with cancer in his right shoulder shortly after the matches, and played in only one more Ryder Cup.
Ultimately, though, the outcome is out of the captains' hands.
The Ryder Cup is decided by putting, whether it is Leonard making one from 45 feet as he did at Brookline, or Sergio Garcia making everything in sight while building a 14-4-2 record.
Azinger does not know what else he could have done to field a better team. Now, it's up to his players, who are under pressure to win even if they feel they have nothing to lose.
'If you're going to represent the United States, you'd better be ready to win,' Cink said. 'And if you don't win, you'd better be ready to take the heat.'
Related Links:
  • U.S. Report Cards
  • European Report Cards
  • U.S. Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • European Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • Full Coverage - 37th Ryder Cup
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    How to watch The Open on TV and online

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 22, 2018, 8:30 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  

    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; or check the GLE app)

    Monday, July 16

    GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (

    GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (

    GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (

    Tuesday, July 17

    GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

    Wednesday, July 18

    GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

    Thursday, July 19

    GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (

    GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

    GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

    Friday, July 20

    GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

    GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

    Saturday, July 21

    GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

    NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (

    GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (

    Sunday, July 22

    GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

    NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM ( Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (

    GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (

    Getty Images

    Schauffele just fine being the underdog

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

    Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

    Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

    Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

    “All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

    Getty Images

    Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

    Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

    So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

    Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

    Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Jordan Spieth: 7/4

    Xander Schauffele: 5/1

    Kevin Kisner: 11/2

    Tiger Woods: 14/1

    Francesco Molinari: 14/1

    Rory McIlroy: 14/1

    Kevin Chappell: 20/1

    Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

    Alex Noren: 25/1

    Zach Johnson: 30/1

    Justin Rose: 30/1

    Matt Kuchar: 40/1

    Webb Simpson: 50/1

    Adam Scott: 80/1

    Tony Finau: 80/1

    Charley Hoffman: 100/1

    Austin Cook: 100/1

    Getty Images

    Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

    For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

    By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

    But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

    As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

    “This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

    Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

    As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

    After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

    “I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

    But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

    Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

    “I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

    There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

    Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

    And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

    As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

    “We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

    Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

    Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

    The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

    Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

    It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.