Sports Outside the Beltway

Paul Azinger named as 2008 US Ryder Cup Captain

From AP-

Paul Azinger, a former PGA champion and cancer survivor, was introduced as Ryder Cup captain Monday for a U.S. team that has lost a record three straight times.

His first order of business was to revamp the selection process, announcing a criteria that essentially goes off the PGA Tour money list. One point will be awarded for every $1,000 earned at the four majors in 2007 and tour events in 2008, with double points for the 2008 majors.

Opposite-field events will be worth only a half-point for every $1,000.

The other major change is that Azinger will get four captain’s picks instead of two. But it was unclear when he would make those picks.

The qualifying process will end at the ’08 PGA Championship, before the FedExCup playoff series on the PGA Tour that features three big events leading to the Tour Championship.

His only desire was to get the best players, and he figured the best way to measure that was money. Azinger is famous for saying he has only choked over cash and prestige during his 20 years on tour.

“We are always rewarded based on our earnings,” Azinger said at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., where the 2008 matches will be played Sept. 19-21. “I think it’s the best way.”

The Associated Press first reported Azinger’s selection last Wednesday.

Azinger played on four U.S. teams, never losing to Europe during the prime of his career. His had a 5-7-3 record, but was unbeaten in singles (2-0-2), often taking on Europe’s best players.

The PGA of America had asked Azinger to be captain of the ’06 team, a job that likely would have gone to his close friend, the late Payne Stewart, but he declined. This time, he wasn’t about to turn it down.

Note= A week ago Ferguson reported it was the 2004 Ryder Cup Captaincy that Azinger was offered and declined. Can this loony AP writer ever get his facts straight?

Now can I ask- Has the PGA of America lost its mind? A 1993 Washington Post article

One of the best golfers on the PGA Tour today is a renowned cheater. This is not the opinion of an eagle-eyed member of his gallery or of some vigilant living room detective who pores over the television broadcasts with a rule book and a jeweler’s loupe. It is the view of enough of his comrades to constitute a quorum. On their short lists of the untrustworthy, he is invariably featured. Some international players tend to lead the register with his name. Of course it is a sealed indictment.

At this level, cheating is a subtle thing. It can be as ephemeral as the weight of pressure a player uses to tamp down the rough as he or she places the club head behind the ball at address. It can revolve around a blemish on the green that an amateur wouldn’t even notice, and the taking of a microscopic liberty in what should be the punctilious process of marking one’s ball.

Years ago at a U.S. Open, a beefy Californian named Lon Hinkle stood over a budding young star throughout their round, calling to mind a schoolmaster proctoring an exam. “He’s going to have to learn how to mark his ball like a pro,” Hinkle explained afterward.

This was the issue in the LPGA’s Jane Blalock incident of two decades ago which seemed to suggest that male and female golfers are made of the same clay. Suspended by her peers, Blalock was reinstated on anti-trust grounds. A judge ruled Blalock’s direct competitors were not entitled to judge her.

The modern golfer in question has won millions of dollars since the early ’80s. But he thrashed about for a few earlier summers, lost his playing card once and had to return several times to the merciless cauldron of the Tour’s qualifying school.

There is no steamier pressure in golf than coming down the Q School stretch on the edge of employment, literally playing for a livelihood. It’s an eerie event, a tournament without leaderboards in which the contestants instinctively know exactly where they stand.

At the 15th hole of the sixth and final round, all of the members of his threesome knew they couldn’t be more than one stroke to the good. Each was desperate for another birdie. The other two were fairly far from the hole and felt relieved to two-putt. He had a six- footer for birdie that grazed the cup but stayed on its lip. With a bolt of anger, he went to swat it in too hard and, decelerating abruptly, missed the ball entirely. Stepping back for an instant, he tapped it in. According to one of the playing partners, his face was as white as gypsum.

Neither of his companions could believe what he had just seen. Did that really happen? Before their spinning heads could fully process the information, he had stomped past them to the 16th tee, propped up his ball and blasted it into the sky. If he still claimed the honor, that meant he must have taken a par. They looked at each other confusedly but said nothing.

All three got their cards: two by a meager stroke; the third, the cheater, by two. Nobody in the field was denied a job by the dishonesty at the 15th.

Into the night, two of them drank to their success. However, when the exultation wore off before the liquor did, the potential injustice hit them full force. The smaller man, who was a handy player but a short hitter and, as it turned out, did not make it on tour, went to the telephone and woke up the cheater.

After identifying himself, he said, “I just want you to know that I saw what you did at 15 today. It’s too late for anyone to do anything about it, but I want you to understand you have to live with that the rest of your life. Do you get me? Is that clear?”

“Yeah,” the cheater said, and hung up.

He could become a historic player, but he will be a cheater his whole life.

The player in question is Paul Azinger. Tom Callahan’s article was written only 2 months before Azinger won his only major, the 1993 PGA Championship. I’ve had this verified by Palm Beach Post golf writer Craig Dolch. The article contains several clues, Azinger went through Q school three times between 1981-84 before finally establishing himself on tour.

Should a known cheat be the Captain of a team representing the United States? Or does it not matter at all? For the US team is likely to lose and what difference is it who is the Captain of any Ryder Cup team.

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