It's less than one year until the 2008 Ryder Cup Matches, which will be held at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky. This week, captains Paul Azinger of the U.S. and Europe's Nick Faldo got together as Louisville held a special "Captain's Celebration" to kick off the city's preparations for the event.
Azinger and Faldo answered questions from the press. Here's what the pair had to say about a host of topics related to the 37th Ryder Cup Matches, which will be held Sept. 19-21, 2008.
Q. A lot has been made of America's lack of spirit, and both captains have touched on the spirit of the game. We saw so much of the spirit of the Americans at the Presidents Cup recently, so it seems it's doable.
PAUL AZINGER: I'm not sure what you meant by the spirit of the game, if it's the sportsmanship aspect of the game or if it's America's spirit's been broken because we're getting beaten so badly the last few Ryder Cups or not.
Q. Yes, that's exactly what I mean.
PAUL AZINGER: The American emotion and that sort of thing? I think, you know, I've said this all along, but I believe when the United States team gets behind as often as we've got behind at the Ryder Cup, and as early as we get behind, I think it's really difficult to really look enthusiastic and like you're having a great time.
And I think that's been the case with the recent competition in Montréal. America got off to a great start and everybody is happy-go-lucky and they are putting each other in headlocks and Woody Austin is taking nosedives. You know, maybe they were more relaxed going in and that's why they played better, I'm not sure.
But I think that to suggest that, you know, the Americans are not trying and don't want to win and that they don't have the spirit or the energy or enthusiasm to do the best they can possibly do, is just a big misread.
I think you have to take your hat off to Europe and how well they have played. They have gotten us down early in all these matches, and it's difficult to show the kind of enthusiasm you might want to see if you're behind. Hopefully we can turn that around.
Q. First of all, and I hope you won't perceive this as a negative question. How much of an effect, how unpleasant or disappointing an effect, do you think there would be on the popularity of golf if you were the captain of the fourth team in a row to lose this competition?
PAUL AZINGER: Well, how bad can I look? (Laughter). I'm not that worried about it. Really, in the end, it's just one of those things. You either win or you lose. You do the best you can, and you hold your head up high knowing that you tried your best. That's what we are going to try to do.
I'm trying to surround myself with the right people and I think so far I have. I've got Raymond Floyd, Dave Stockton and Olin Browne. I've got people that can help me. I'm not looking for baby-sitters. I'm looking for assistants that hopefully can keep me from making too many mistakes, and I think that's the goal. I think the selection process has been, you know, dramatically changed, and I hope that the selection process gets hotter Americans there and that's what we are banking on and that's what we are hoping for.
Beyond that, there's not a whole lot that we can do. If you want to point fingers and blame, you know, the captains for America's not winning, I think you can, but I'm not sure that it's really the case. The players are trying their hardest to try to do their best, and one team wins and one team loses.
The reality is, Europe has played great, and it's hard to stop a team when they are playing as well as they have. If you go back and look at the tapes and see all of the great shots that have been played by Europe, you just have to really admire how well they have played.
Q. There's been quite a bit made about the schedule next year, how the FedExCup Playoffs run right up to the Ryder Cup. Have you given any thought as to how that might affect the team makeup, or how do you feel about that?
PAUL AZINGER: Well, actually, I just found out that THE TOUR Championship only had three or four Europeans that were Ryder Cup players, so there will be more Americans that will be Ryder Cup players. So scheduling-wise, it would affect us more, it would be more of a chance for burnout or whatever.
I don't know. I don't know what the PGA Tour intends to do. There's some rumor that they may play The Tour Championship the week after the Ryder Cup. The date of the Ryder Cup is written in stone; that's not going to change. We'll see what happens. I haven't heard from Tim Finchem or anybody from the PGA Tour and I don't think the PGA of America knows for sure yet. But we do have more players that would be apt to play more events in a row, so it would affect us differently for sure.
Q. There's been a lot of discussion about Tiger Woods' leadership role on past Ryder Cup teams. Can you talk about what your expectations are for him as a leader on this team?
PAUL AZINGER: Yeah, I wouldn't expect anymore from Tiger than he gives, because he gives 100 percent. I think at this point now, it looks like in Tiger's career, Jim Furyk's career, Phil Mickelson's career, they are going to be kind of like the senior citizens on the Ryder Cup Team.
I think they are all leaders in the end, and I think, you know, we're all in this together.
But I don't expect anymore out of Tiger than he gives. He gives 100 percent.
Q. Do you have any explanation why the Europeans seem to have putted better certainly in the last three or four Ryder Cups?
NICK FALDO: Well, again, match play, putting is unbelievably important. It covers up a multitude of sins. You've got to be a good putter to play match play, and I think you get that from the psychology of match play. You're not worried about or not thinking about the next stroke. There's no lagging, or very rarely. Ninety percent of your golf when you're playing match play, you're trying to get the golf ball in the hole as quickly as possible, so I think that's what leads to that.
I wouldn't have a clue of any reason why, and I certainly wouldn't tell Zinger that, anyway, now why we are holing all the putts and they are missing them all.
Q. This is billed as maybe the most exciting sporting event in the world. For you having experience, what makes it so exciting to be out there in competition?
NICK FALDO: I've seen men lying on the floor of the locker room either laughing or crying, and it's quite amazing what we will put ourselves through for one point, the value of winning a point. There's no prize money this week, or Ryder Cup week. It's very unique in any sport for us to have a team event like this. It's probably - I'm sure it's greater than the Davis Cup in tennis, to have 12 guys playing purely for a point, it's quite something, quite electric. And you will sense from the emotion and the passion and the commitment, everybody takes everything to the max that week. It's quite amazing.
Q. Your captaincy at the Seve Trophy seemed to be kind of up-and-down as it's been documented by some of the questions. Which captain would you like to see perhaps, past captains you were under, would you like to see your captaincy emulated and why would you pick that past captain?
NICK FALDO: I'm not going to pick anybody. I'm me and I will do what I feel is best. I know what I can bring to the team. You know, I served under five different captains, each one of them had great qualities, and I will take little bits of that experience, and as I said, 11 Ryder Cups, so been through some great experiences and great leaders. I will draw those little bits from each one, but bottom line, I'm going to be me. I'll do it the way I feel best.
Transcript provided by ASAP Sports
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