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September 19, 2008

Paul Azinger


KELLY ELBIN: U.S. Ryder Cup Team Captain, Paul Azinger, joining us after the Friday foursomes session here at the 37th Ryder Cup, the United States with a 3-1 lead in points at this point.
Paul, talk a little bit, please, about this morning, your impressions, and your hopes for this afternoon and beyond.
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: We had a couple of great comebacks today. Stewart Cink's match was 3-down after seven. Mahan and Justin Leonard were 2-down after two holes. I was real proud of them for the way they hung in there and scratched and clawed and were able to finish. You know, I mean, it's early, but I feel like we're in a pretty good place mentally right now, and I just want to keep everybody on point.
You know, it's a nice start. I guess we haven't been ahead a long time in the morning, and can only be happy about it.
KELLY ELBIN: First time since 1991 that the U.S. has led after the morning session.

Q. Paul, I wonder if you could clear up the remark you made last night at the rally, about, I think your words were, that it was all right to cheer missed putts. There's probably an explanation, but I wonder if we could have it.
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: Oh, let's say, I think I said, "You can cheer when they miss. You can cheer when they miss."
Essentially, you know, when we go over there, they cheer when we miss. I don't think that the American fans are really into what The Ryder Cup is all about in the fact that, you know, there is that other element. And it wasn't meant to be malicious and I'm really proud that the fans have been absolutely perfectly behaved this morning.
But that really is all that was. It was kind of an education almost, and enlightening to kind of that's what goes on over there. If we lose a hole or we miss a putt, they cheer. I don't think the American fans get that part. Golf is, everybody oohs and aahs, but the European fans, they get it. The American fans, they don't, and they are not used to that.
I was just making sure that if they understood that if we win a hole, they can cheer, and even if somebody misses a putt for us to win a hole. So that's really all that was. And again, I'll reiterate, I think you'll find that so far, the great fans of Kentucky have not done anything to let us down or embarrass us. They have been -- I don't know if you could ever find a more enthusiastic group of fans anywhere in the world than what we had here this morning and they were all properly behaved. So I'm really proud of that fact.

Q. What about getting into guys' ears; I saw you talk to Jim Furyk after the missed putt on 9. Are you more apt to go talk to one of the younger guys or one of the seasoned vets who can take some encouragement?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: I really have just been flying by the seat of my pants for the most part. I feel like I want to stay out of their way. They all know how to play golf. I can't teach them how to play. I just knew that that putt broke more than I thought it broke. I told him, wow, how much that broke, and he told me he thought he might have pushed it, but it definitely broke more than he thought.
Just a word here or there. I'm definitely not -- Jim Furyk knows how to play. He knew he pushed it just a little bit.

Q. The 5-iron Chad hit on 18, was it a pretty money shot; and secondly, the beginning of the day looked very similar to the way this thing has gone for a long time. They won the first hole and three of the four matches, and I'm wondering if you could allow yourself at all to go, man, I've heard this song before, or were you able to sort of keep a chipper attitude, regardless?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: Well, Chad's 5-iron was amazing. Part of the reason I picked Chad is because I feel like he's got the heart of a champion. You know, Chad did not hit it great off the tee today. He always hits his irons well. For whatever reason, he didn't drive it well today. He'll have an opportunity to practice this afternoon, but he manned up when he had to. He's a gamer. He hit that terrific wedge on 17 and he hit that terrific 5-iron today on the last hole. I put my arms around him and could not be any more proud of him, and I told him that's the reason he's here.
And the start, I've got to tell you, every five minutes was just this emotional roller coaster today that as a player, you're not on, but as an observer, you're living and dying. I felt like after they teed off, I really just wanted to go back to the hotel and get under the covers and just wake up around 11:30 and see how we were doing (laughter). I really didn't want to watch. It was painful for me. Even towards the end, just watching it, you're so wrapped up in it, but with no control at this point really.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about the pressure on Kenny Perry today and the way the round finished for him?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: Well, I'm sure he said, you know, he had an opportunity to hand Sergio his first defeat. But I told him when he got done, I said, "I know you're disappointed, but I tell you, the guy who is unbeaten and untied and you're the first guy to get a blemish on his record, and you may feel down about it right now, but trust me, you're the first guy to putt a blemish on his record, and congratulations for that and you played great all day." And he did.
Kenny Perry had an opportunity, and he did, and I'm sure he'll be down a little bit, but that's golf. We should be proud of Kenny Perry. He was free-wheeling and relaxed all day long and I'm really proud of the way he played.

Q. What did you want out of green speed, and how close to what you wanted did you get?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: I wanted whatever the greens were Thursday to be the rest of the week. We were shooting for 11. The greens have been really slow all week, and I asked the superintendent if whatever they are on Thursday, just keep them there, and I think he's going to do that, or as best he can.
Hold on one second (receiving communication from golf course.)
No, we just ran out of foosballs in the team room -- no, I'm kidding, I swear, I swear (laughter). Kerry Haigh was just calling me to tell me the tee times for the afternoon.

Q. Were you surprised No. 7 was such a swing hole? A lot of balls in the water there on 7.
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: Oh, no, we knew what 7 was going to be like. What a cool hole. I cut the grass on the left, I felt like for that reason, and it turned out -- Kenny Perry hit an unbelievable second shot there after a good drive by Furyk to put it on the green, and the Americans won that hole and it kind of got them going. 7 is one of those holes.

Q. Did you change your pairings this afternoon from what you had last night? And secondly, did you ever think about how you would handle the team room and what you would do on Friday night, and has it changed with what's gone on so far today?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: Well, I don't know how the day is going to end. I have no messaging in mind. I think under-messaging is better than over-messaging. I don't have anything in mind.
So I'm not -- I don't know. I mean, a lot of things I already have written in stone in my mind but that's not one of them. This afternoon's pairings are exactly as I had planned. There was a chance that I might make one little switch, but for me, it was always Stewart and Chad would sit and Jim Furyk and Kenny Perry would sit in the afternoon. And it was always going to be Boo Weekley and J.B. Holmes in the afternoon. It was always going to be Curtis and Stricker.
The only switching around was going to be where would I position them. Mickelson and Kim wanted to go first, and so I told Curtis and Stricker that they would either go first or second, depending on Phil's match and where it laid.
And I told J.B. and Boo, they would either go third or fourth, depending on what was going on during the day. And as the day progressed, I just made the decision to put Boo and J.B. to anchor, similar to what Kenny did today, being out there last. I think that's cool. And I like Phil out there first, so the other two guys fell where they did. Mahan and Leonard were happy to go back out, so that's how it played out.
I always wanted Phil and Anthony to play 36 today and I wanted hunter and June Justin to play 36 today. If I had any question at all on what I would do, I might put Mickelson and Kim together with Mahan and Leonard this afternoon, that was the only decision I made and I think I made the right decision to keep them together, because that's what they want.

Q. Just wondered about your thoughts on the first match of the day, the come back they made, particularly Phil Mickelson's play.
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: Well, Mickelson and Kim actually played terrific. I think when you look at that match, you have to actually take your hat off to Padraig Harrington who was just remarkable on the greens. He made one key putt after another after another. He missed the one on 18 I guess, which I didn't see. But the putt on 16 was unbelievable. He just kept doing it all day long. That's who Padraig is. He's turned into a remarkable player and he just keeps making clutch putts, like he did on the last hole of the PGA Championship.
How about the putt he made on 6 today? That was huge. They drove it into the creek to the right, Padraig hacked it out, what's his name -- Westwood? Is that who he played with? Karlsson? Sorry, I'm all confused. He hit it to 18 feet to and made the putt to win the hole. Same thing on 7, they duck-hooked it way into the junk on 7 into the hazard, so two holes in a row they hit it in the hazard and they came out of those holes 1-up. Can't say enough about Padraig Harrington. He really kept us from winning that match.

Q. If somebody told you before the matches you would be 3-1 go into the afternoon, would you have taken it?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: Absolutely I would have taken that. I would have taken that an hour before we finished. I had no idea how the Cink/Campbell match was going to ends. Just didn't know. Happy to have a lead for the first time in a while. That's important but it's not the only thing. We're just going to try to stay on point this week and we know we have an unbelievably difficult team in The European Team. Not enough can be said. Every pairing they put out there looks unbeatable to me.
We are just trying to recognize who we are playing and doing the best we possibly can.

Q. You said this is such a different feeling than being as a player. If you were forced to find a moment as a player that you were churning as much inside as you were this morning, what would that moment in your career be?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: In my career or in my Ryder Cup career?

Q. Just career in general.
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: Well, probably would be Ryder Cup anyway. I just remember on the 15th hole at The Belfry in 2002, I was 2-down to Niclas Fasth and the match that was going to be pivotal, whether my match was going to be the match where the clinching point could fall was Mickelson's match, and he was behind and when he got to 15 he was behind and lost another hole and I looked at my caddie and said, "It's coming down to us." And I knew the point was going to be decided on my match and turns out it would have been, and I was got out of the bunker on 15, but made a nice putt on 17, as well. But I can remember on 15, that feeling, of oh, my gosh, and it was a terrible feeling.
You know, I spun it for myself and I wasn't nervous the last three holes and I had a little talk to myself. But that was the moment, the 15th fairway, recognizing that this thing was going to come down to my match.
KELLY ELBIN: Captain Azinger, thank you very much.

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