Faldo Azinger bring long rivalry to Ryder Cup

By Associated PressSeptember 15, 2008, 4:00 pm
Ryder CupThey first played together two decades ago on a links course in Scotland, two players nothing alike in personality or performance.
Nick Faldo sought perfection through mechanics, even as a boy. Given a bicycle for his 12th birthday, he took it apart and put it back together to see how it worked, and to make sure it was built properly. Likewise, he rebuilt a golf swing early in his career that allowed him to become England's most decorated champion.
Paul Azinger was an overachiever who relied on feel and a homemade swing. He could not regularly break 70 until the year before he joined the PGA Tour, yet he went on to win 14 times, including a major, and he beat cancer in the prime of his career.
Paul Azinger, Nick Faldo
Ryder Cup captains Paul Azinger and Nick Faldo. (Getty Images)
As for that first meeting?
It was the final round of the 1987 British Open. Faldo made 18 pars for a one-shot victory when Azinger bogeyed the final two holes. And so began a rivalry that gave way to a relationship, which has taken them from the golf course to the broadcast booth to the Ryder Cup, where the captains could be as entertaining as the matches Sept. 19-21 at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky.

'I don't think Nick felt much of a rivalry against me,' Azinger said. 'I probably felt a little more rivalry for him.'
They genuinely miss working with each other in the booth ' now only once a year at the British Open because ABC Sports did not bid on the PGA Tour's latest TV contract ' and understand each other enough that even the British press couldn't start a war of words.
Azinger was quoted as saying that Faldo has redefined himself from aloof as a major champion to engaging as a broadcaster.
'But if you're going to be a (expletive) and everyone hates you, why do you think that just because you're trying to be cute and funny on the air now that the same people are all going to start to like you?' Azinger said in The Daily Mail.
Azinger said he left Faldo this message on his cell phone:
'Well, it's already started. I don't know if you've seen it, but one of those papers said I called you a (expletive) and that everyone from your generation hates you. Even though you pretty much are and everyone pretty much does, I have more diplomacy than to say that.'
It was nothing the British papers had not already reported.
Faldo was so insular as a player that Steve Pate once said playing golf with him was like playing alone, except it took an hour longer. Upon winning the British Open, Faldo once said to the press, 'I'd like to thank you from the heart of my bottom.'
But he has been glib and revealing as a TV analyst, and he remains an icon to a younger generation that grew up watching him win three British Opens, three Masters and more Ryder Cup points than anyone in history.
Azinger is more emotional and expressive, and that hasn't changed.
He is famous for stretching out his arms when he holed a bunker shot to win the Memorial, for rolling up his pant legs to make them look like knickers during a poignant tribute to the late Payne Stewart at a memorial service. He so riled Seve Ballesteros that the five-time major champion said, 'The American team has 11 nice guys ... and Paul Azinger.'
And while Faldo had a Hall of Fame career, Azinger usually got the best of him in the Ryder Cup.
They faced each other four times ' only once in singles ' and the best Faldo could do against Azinger was a halve. It was their final match that was the most riveting, even though it didn't matter.
The Americans already had clinched the Ryder Cup in 1993 when Faldo and Azinger continued to sweat over every shot in the 12th and final singles match. Faldo had a hole-in-one on the 14th, Azinger bounced back with a birdie.
The matched ended in a draw.
What had been Azinger's best year turned into his most terrifying. He had been feeling discomfort in his right shoulder, and it hurt so badly at the Ryder Cup that he couldn't place a scorecard in his back pocket.
A biopsy revealed lymphoma, and Azinger played in only one more Ryder Cup. Two years later, Azinger was in the booth for NBC Sports when it showed highlights of that gritty match with Faldo.
'Look at that,' Azinger said from the booth. 'I had cancer and he still couldn't beat me.'
The stakes are high for their next competition, even though neither will be hitting a shot.
Faldo already has had a few run-ins with players and the press, dating to the Seve Trophy (Britain & Ireland against continental Europe) when he didn't choose an Irishman even though the event was held in Ireland. Paul McGinley stepped down as a vice captain, and Faldo will have only one assistant -- Jose Maria Olazabal -- at Valhalla.
He also turned the conspiracy theorists loose in Britain by picking Paul Casey and Ian Poulter to round out his team, ahead of the wildly popular (and two-time winner) Darren Clarke.
Azinger has a team that does not include Tiger Woods, who is out for the year after knee surgery. Azinger shoots from the lip, but has been particularly guarded with his comments, particular with the European media.
Twenty years later, they still could not be any more different.
But they're still after the same prize.
Related Links:
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  • Full Coverage - 37th Ryder Cup
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    Lincicome grouped with two rookies in Barbasol

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 17, 2018, 9:54 pm

    Brittany Lincicome will tee it up with a pair of rookies when she makes her first start in a PGA Tour event Thursday at the Barbasol Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

    Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, is scheduled to go off the 10th tee at 9:59 a.m. ET in the first round with Sam Ryder, 28, and Conrad Shindler, 29. They’re off the first tee Friday at 2:59 p.m. ET

    Lincicome will become just the sixth woman to play in a PGA Tour event, joining Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie.

    “The first three or four holes, I’ll be a nervous wreck, for sure,” Linicome said.



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    Lincicome thrilled by reception from male pros

    By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 8:31 pm

    Brittany Lincicome wondered how PGA Tour pros would greet her when she arrived to play the Barbasol Championship this week.

    She wondered if there would be resentment.

    She also wondered how fans at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky., would receive her, and if a social media mob would take up pitchforks.

    “I can’t stop smiling,” Lincicome said Tuesday after her first practice round upon arriving. “Everyone has been coming up to me and wishing me luck. That means a lot.”

    PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, husband of LPGA pro Gerina Piller, welcomed her immediately.

    Other pros sought her out on the practice putting green.

    She said she was also welcomed joining pros at a table in player dining.

    Fans have been stopping her for autographs.

    “It has been an awesome reception,” said Dewald Gouws, her husband, a former long-drive competitor. “I think it’s put her much more at ease, seeing the reception she is getting. There’s a lot of mutual respect.”

    Lincicome, 32, wasn’t sure if she would be playing a practice round alone Tuesday morning, but when she made her way to the first tee, Domenico Geminiani was there, just about to go off.

    He waved Lincicome over.

    “He said, `Hey, Brittany, do you want to join me?’” Gouws said. “Come to find out, Dom’s a pretty cool guy.”

    Geminiani made it into the field as a Monday qualifier.

    “The two of us were both trying to figure things out together,” Lincicome said.

    Keene Trace will play to 7,328 yards on the scorecard. That’s more than 800 yards longer than Highland Meadows, where Lincicome finished second at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic last weekend. Keene Trace was playing even longer than its listed yardage Tuesday, with recent rains softening it.

    Nicknamed “Bam Bam,” Lincicome is one of the longest hitters in the women’s game. Her 269.5 yard average drive is 10th in the LPGA ranks. It would likely be dead last on the PGA Tour, where Brian Stuard (278.2) is the last player on the stats list at No. 201.

    “I think if I keep it in the fairway, I’ll be all right,” Lincicome said.

    Lincicome is an eight-time LPGA winner, with two major championships among those titles. She is just the sixth woman to compete in a PGA Tour event, the first in a decade, since Michelle Wie played the Reno-Tahoe Open, the last of her eight starts against the men.

    Lincicome will join Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Wie in the elite ranks.

    Zaharias, by the way, is the only woman to make a 36-hole cut in PGA Tour history, making it at the 1945 L.A. Open before missing a 54-hole cut on the weekend.

    What are Lincicome’s expectations?

    She would love to make the cut, but . . .

    “Just going to roll with it and see what happens,” she said. “This is once in a lifetime, probably a one-and-done opportunity. I’m just going to enjoy it.”

    Lincicome grew up playing for the boys’ golf team at Seminole High on the west coast of Florida. She won a couple city championships.

    “I always thought it would be cool to compete against the guys on the PGA Tour,” Lincicome said. “I tend to play more with the guys than women at home. I never would have gone out and told my agent, `Let’s go try to play in a PGA Tour event,’ but when Tom Murray called with this opportunity, I was really blown away and excited by it. I never in a million years thought I would have this opportunity.”

    Tom Murray, the president of Perio, the parent company of Barbasol and Pure Silk, invited Lincicome to accept one of the tournament’s sponsor exemptions. Lincicome represents Pure Silk.

    Lincicome said her desire to play a PGA Tour event is all about satisfying her curiosity, wanting to know how she would stack up at this level. She also wants to see if the experience can help take her to the next level in the women’s game.

    As a girl growing up, she played Little League with the boys, instead of softball with the girls. She said playing the boys in golf at Seminole High helped her get where she is today.

    “The guys were better, and it pushed me to want to be better,” Lincicome said. “I think playing with the guys [on the PGA Tour], I will learn something to take to LPGA events, and it will help my game, for sure.”

    Lincicome has been pleased that her fellow LPGA pros are so supportive. LPGA winner Kris Tamulis is flying into Kentucky as moral support. Other LPGA pros may also be coming in to support her.

    The warm fan reception Lincicome is already getting at Keene Trace matters, too.

    “She’s already picked up some new fans this week, and hopefully she will pick up some more,” Gouws said. “I don’t think she’s putting too much expectation on herself. I think she really does just want to have fun.”

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    Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown

    By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 4:00 pm

    There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.

    Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.

    She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.

    It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.

    Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.

    "It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”

    Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.

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    Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

    By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

    Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

    “I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

    “It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

    The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

    “All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”