Paul Azinger, one of the most passionate Ryder Cuppers of all time, promises he will not stop at anything in his search to turn momentum around and win back the Cup from the Europeans. In a firey and emotional press conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma (where the final major of the year is taking place) Azinger admitted that he had already canvassed opinion from many players, past captains and even 26-handicappers on what America has been doing wrong in recent years.
“I’m not sure I should really tell you guys,” he said, “because there are some Euros present, but I can promise you no stone is going to remain unturned. We are going to get the fine detail right.” Asked to state specifically what some of the suggestions were, he said: “Most of them said we should try to have more fun and that maybe in practise we should play for our own money. Things along those lines. We all know the Europeans are all great friends, and that they would walk through walls for each other, but I’m not sure that’s a huge factor, because that was the case years ago when we were beating them every time. The New York Yankees won, what was it, 25 world championships, and they were having fist fights in the dug out with each other.
Azinger has already overhauled the US selection procedure, and for the first time ever he will have four wild card pics, which he strongly believes will enable him to pick ‘players who are hot’. Both captains will also have four assistants this time around, and Azinger announced three of them as being Raymond Floyd, Dave Stockton and Olin Browne. The fourth he is likely to announce in a couple of months. (So far, the European captain has just announced that his two vice-captains will be Paul McGinley and Jose Maria Olazabal.)
Asked if he thought captains could make the difference between winning and losing, Azinger said: “The captain is always going to have take the brunt of criticism if his team lose and vice versa, but at the end of the day so much of it is up to the players. Are you going to tell me that Bernard Gallagher got it all wrong the first two times he was captain, and then suddenly got it all right, when he won at Oak Hill? To tell me that Tony Jacklin worked out all the right answers in the mid ’80s to turn all this around is to not give enough credit to some of the players.”
Despite all Azinger’s obvious fire and passion, one was left with the very distinct impression that here was yet another, in a long line of American captains, desperately searching for something which just isn’t there. We still have over 12 months to go before the next matches take place in Valhalla, Kentucky, and already this captain is suggesting he can’t sleep at night because he lies awake thinking about it all. What he is going to be like in a year’s time doesn’t bear thinking about.