Zinger Warms to His Awesome Task - COPIED
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.
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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Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.
According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.
Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.
Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.
Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.
And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.
Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.
Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:
The Monday morning headline will be …
REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.
RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.
MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.
JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.
Who or what will be the biggest surprise?
HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.
LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.
BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.
COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.
Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?
HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.
LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.
BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.
COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.
What will be the winning score?
HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.
LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.
BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.
COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.
Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty
Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.
Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.
This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):
While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:
Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.
McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.
Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.
“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”
McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.
“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”
He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.