Paul Azinger, the firebrand who injected life and energy into this years matches with everything from his team pod theory to his emotionally charged cheerleading from his captains cart, ended all the will he, wont he? hype this week when he told Golf World magazine that he will not return to captain the 2010 squad.
The PGA is said to have pegged Corey Pavin to lead the American side at Celtic Manor in Wales. Its a pick thats been brewing for some time.
We spotted Pavin and a PGA executive having dinner at the 2007 Honda Classic and it was a meal peppered with Cup talk. Pavin was given a special exemption into the 2007 PGA Championship and was on the grounds this year at Oakland Hills glad-handing sponsors and officials.
Whether Pavin ' a three-time Cup participant with an 8-5-0 record ' will be a good choice to lead the United States is best left to the fortunes of history. He will, however, have a tough act to follow. Imagine the marquee getting flopped and The King Curtis Band having to go on after The Beatles at Madison Square Garden.
Azinger was coy when pressed last week at the Father-Son tournament near Orlando, Fla., about the subject. I dont want to jump the gun and try to get the message out ahead of when they want the message out, Azinger said.
Less than a week later, Azinger got the message and it was likely not the one he had hoped for. But it may be the best move, if not for the U.S. team then at least for Azinger.
Be it his decision or the PGAs, Azinger will now always be remembered as Captain America. He will forever be the guy who used grit and an ingenious game plan to stem Americas sliding fortunes in the biennial meet-and-greet.
Azingers players, led by Phil Mickelsons chants of Azinger in 2010 at the post-match press conference, wanted him back and theres a good chance he was intrigued by the chance to win one on European soil. But at what cost?
Would Azingers legacy have been enhanced by an American repeat at Celtic Manor in 2010? Maybe. What is not debatable is what impact a loss, particularly another 18 -9 walkover, would do to Azingers place in the history books.
It may not be of his own making, but Azinger will enjoy the simplicity of Seinfelds wisdom. The image of him charging his Club Car down Valhallas 17th fairway, whipping the Kentucky fateful into a frenzy will now be burned into the iconic slideshow of great Ryder Cup moments.
The PGA may have been calling the shots, but it was fate that wielded the ultimate haymaker for Azinger. Had the golf world not lost Payne Stewart there is a good chance America could be riding a 2-0 Ryder Cup wave heading into Wales.
Stewart, one of Azingers closest friends, who was cut from the same win-at-all-cost mold, would have probably captained the 2006 U.S. team in Ireland. Its not a stretch to envision, particularly after Azingers dynamic leadership, how Stewart could have swung Americas Cup fortunes at The K Club. It would have made the passing of the captains hat to Pavin in 2010 easier to swallow.
The PGA may have pulled the plug on Azinger, but it was a surgeons scalpel that cost him his ultimate Ryder Cup experience. When Tiger Woods season ended shortly after his historic U.S. Open victory at Torrey Pines it robbed Azinger of his chance to captain a team that included the world No. 1.
Its one of those things Im going to miss the most. Not being able to spend time with the likes of Tiger Woods . . . its unfortunate, Azinger said before the matches.
For the man who didnt leave a blade of Kentucky bluegrass undisturbed in his quest for Ryder Cup gold, the PGAs decision and Woods season-ending injury are particularly painful rubs on an otherwise agreeable green.
The good news for Azinger is that like Seinfeld he left us wanting more.
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