Friday 23 March 2018

Paul Azinger throws his hat in the ring for US captaincy in 2016 Ryder Cup

US captain Paul Azinger celebrates following his side's Ryder Cup victory over Europe at Valhalla in 2008
US captain Paul Azinger celebrates following his side's Ryder Cup victory over Europe at Valhalla in 2008

Paul Hirst

Phil Mickelson could get his wish after Paul Azinger said on Monday he was open to a second spell as US Ryder Cup captain.

Mickelson caused controversy on Sunday when, within two hours of the United States suffering a third straight defeat in the biennial contest, he criticised the approach of captain Tom Watson.

With Watson sitting just a few feet away, Mickelson - who had been left out of a full day's play on Saturday for the first time in 10 Ryder Cup appearances - stated his support for the methods of Azinger, who captained the side to their last win at Valhalla in 2008.

"Unfortunately we have strayed from a winning formula for the last three Ryder Cups and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best," Mickelson said.

Asked if he would captain the side again, Azinger told USA Today: "I'm not going to rule anything out."

The 54-year-old said the United States needed to move away from appointing "lone wolf" captains, instead copying the European model of selecting players who had experience of the Ryder Cup as vice-captains.

"The PGA of America (which appoints the captain) has officers that move up the ranks, getting sage advice along the way, and then many of them stick around and keep offering advice," Azinger said.

"I think the PGA of America should recognize their business model is exactly the same as what Europe uses in selecting a captain."

Of the past 10 US captains, only two had previously been vice-captains.

"There is a razor-thin line between winning and losing these matches," Azinger added. "Europe has the intangible right now. They give themselves the extra one per cent chance to win through its business model and cohesiveness.

"Even if you play blackjack perfectly in a casino, the casino still has a very slight edge against you. Right now Europe is the casino and the US is the guy walking to the blackjack table with a fistful of 50s."

Mickelson's comments, and the timing of them, drew fierce criticism with former PGA Tour player Brandel Chamblee, who now works as an analyst for the Golf Channel, saying: "That was as close to a one-man mutiny as I have ever seen. I think that's a moment that Phil would like to have back.

"If you are looking for a reason why the US continues to lose you just saw it, you saw it in one man, Phil Mickelson.

"Phil Mickelson, along with the best players of that era, have so corrupted the experience of the Ryder Cup for their fellow competitors by not having records anywhere near where they should given their rank in the game."

Azinger's success was based on a "pod" system which involved creating three groups of four players and allowing them to have a major influence on decisions, while Watson appeared to rely almost exclusively on his opinion and that of his vice-captains.

Asked whether he was consulted in any of the decision-making at Gleneagles, Mickelson said: "No. Nobody here was, in any decision."

Watson had said in the build-up that he would use a modified version of Azinger's pod system, but added on Sunday: "I didn't discount it. I just had a different philosophy right off the bat.

"He (Mickelson) has a difference of opinion. That's okay. My management philosophy is different than his."

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