News & ToursSeptember 15, 2008

Azinger Shoots Down Faldo's Dig About Vice Captains

Nick Faldo and Paul Azinger are at it again, officially christening Ryder Cup week a day early with a mini-controversy. It's over the teams' vice captains, so how major could it be?

In Sunday's edition of The Scotsman, Faldo was quoted as saying that Azinger had some misgivings about inviting past Ryder Cup captains Dave Stockton and Raymond Floyd to be his eyes and ears behind the scenes for the United States team. Azinger fired back in an interview with Golf World Monday, setting the record straight and setting the tone for the week as both teams arrived in Louisville.

The pull-out quote in a story that was headlined: "Faldo lands a low blow" addresses several issues that have been percolating in the European press recently. Reading between the lines of Faldo's words, it sounds like Azinger confided in his old TV partner and ended up getting burned:

"I think he (Azinger] already regrets--not sure if regret is the right word--but if he did it again, I don't think those guys have brought to his team what he wanted. He's a bit like me. He feels that you've got to make the decisions yourself. Maybe those captains are from an old era and this is a new era in the Ryder Cup. He thinks he has (gone for the wrong guys]."

Faldo also made reference to Azinger having "too many cooks."

Azinger dismissed it but was not happy, calling Faldo's contention, "a total fabrication," that "had no truth to it." He claimed constant communication with Stockton, Floyd and Olin Browne over the last three weeks.

"They're there to help me observe players, give feedback," Azinger said. "They're there for me. This is not a baby-sitting service. I've got a handful of experienced people with me to reach out to."

This could be Faldo trying to deflect criticism he has received in Europe not only for his omission of Darren Clarke from his captain's picks, but also for naming only Jose Maria Olazabal as his vice captain. One of his critics is former captain Bernhard Langer.

Stockton and Floyd are also hot-button figures to the Europeans, with Stockton orchestrating the "War By the Shore" victory in 1991 that included Desert Storm camouflage worn by the U.S. team, and Floyd, who played on that team, famous for his cold stare. So by bringing up these old memories, Faldo could be accused of orchestrating a diversion; the suspicious might even say that through their relationship in the ABC booth, Azinger and Faldo plotted this.

Faldo was asked again last week about Azinger's quote in the Daily Mail earlier this year in which he said of his Ryder Cup counterpart: "I'd say he is both who he is and who he was. Some people have bought it. Some have not. But if you're going to be a p---k and everyone hates you, why do you think that just because you're trying to be cute and funny on air now that the same people are all going to start to like you? The bottom line is that the players from his generation and mine really don't want to have anything to do with him. He did what he did as a player, and there are relational consequences."

Faldo's response leaves hints that this latest shot across Azinger's bow is all just part of the game.

"We talked afterwards," said Faldo. "I might swing low once, somewhere, and then say, 'OK, we're even' . . . I don't know if I'm going to do anything tricky to get Zinger going this time. I've been moving the other way recently and believing I need my energy 100 percent focused on my team. Then I start thinking, 'Well, with Zinger it would be nice to throw him a curve ball.' "

--Tim Rosaforte

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