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September 20, 2008

Paul Azinger


KELLY ELBIN: U.S. Ryder Cup Team Captain Paul Azinger joining us. United States takes a 9 to 7 lead into the singles play tomorrow, the 37th Ryder Cup, first time the United States has held the lead going into singles play since 1995.
Captain Azinger, you have the pairings for tomorrow. I'll just read quickly the highlights: Anthony Kim and Sergio Garcia off at 12:03, first match. The last match of the day, 2:04, Chad Campbell and Padraig Harrington. Comments, please, on the slate of 12 matches.
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: We've got our 12 guys out in the order we wanted them. I don't know what else to say. There was a little bit of discussion about it, and we kind of had a big group huddle. I already had this in my mind that this is how I wanted to do it, and I was just getting a little confirmation. Anyone who tried to make it any different, I just explained to them why I thought they might be wrong (laughter).
No, seriously, this is just what I think is the best way to put our guys out there. It looks like, once again, there's going to be some great matches out there. The first match of the day with Kim and Garcia should be pretty energetic, I would think. I'll look forward to another tough day.

Q. I just wanted to ask you the same question I had asked Ben earlier. Europe came out, they were really firing, they made a lot of birdies today, and yet at the end of the day all the punches they threw, you guys are still standing, still in the lead. Do you feel like you kind of went toe-to-toe with them pretty good and took the blows and gave them back?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: Yeah, we took some blows today. They played great, and we only lost one point today. We're happy about that. You could just tell by the pairings that it was going to be this kind of day.
I felt like the afternoon, another roller coaster just like yesterday. The after none we could have lost 3 to 1, we could have won 3 to 1. Anything could have happened.
The putt Stricker made on the last hole was unbelievable, I mean, absolutely unbelievable. We got lucky there that they didn't make eagle on the last hole in the last match.
You know, I can't explain the emotion, the energy expended just from sitting around in a cart all day, and the guys that went out there and played and did it. Adrenaline is a beautiful thing, and we were feeding off it all day.

Q. It seems like Boo Weekley is built for the Ryder Cup the way he's able to deliver to the crowd. Can you just talk about his impact both on the course, how he plays, and with the crowds?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: I told the PGA of America that he would be maybe the greatest character to ever come from America to play on a Ryder Cup team to represent this country, and so far it seems to be the case. I mean, some of the things that he says are just -- you can't script it. He's really impressive. Plus, he hits it so well.
He's just a terrific player, a terrific man, and we've all really fallen in love with him this week. He's been great to have around.

Q. Since you brought up Boo, when you have a character like that who obviously would fit well into this part of the country, what does that do to a team? Does it give it a total different personality, or how do you look at something like that? I saw you laughing at him. I don't think he tries necessarily to be funny; it's just natural for him. What does he mean to this team?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: I wouldn't single any one individual out, but Boo keeps everybody kind of on edge. Any time Boo says anything, we're all listening because you never know what it could be. He's been fantastic. He's contributed on the golf course and off, and we came in here with kind of a philosophy, and it -- so far it's worked.
We were clearly underdogs. The greatest player in the world is sitting at home watching and text messaging me and Stricker and everybody else he can find. So we come in here without the best player and Europe comes in here with this just unbelievable team. And for us to be two points ahead I think is really good.
The crowd has been a big part of it, but these guys are all gamers, and they've done great. We'll just try to keep them on point tomorrow and embrace the crowd and just love where they are. They're in a good place right now mentally, we're happy to be in a position we're in, but there's a long, long way to go, and we know that.

Q. Just one last thing about Boo: Was there any consideration to sending him out first? And secondly, if you look at the pairings, it looks like -- I could be wrong, you sort of stacked your team up front tying to, if you can win it, get it done as soon as possible, because they're closing with a three-time major winner and obviously a great Ryder Cup player in Lee Westwood. Not that you knew that, but did you purposely say, I'm going to get my hottest players out front as best I can?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: I think the first four guys are pretty aggressive personalities. And they're all -- they're the kind of guys I wanted to go first.
The second bunch looks like all the way down to 12, you know, they're -- well, you've got kind of the Kentucky boys in there and all those personalities are sort of the same. So I guess you could sort of say that.

Q. Did you consider Boo first?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: No. I never considered Boo first, not one time.

Q. I assume you will address the team as a whole before they go out tomorrow; and if so, what do you say?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: I'm not going to talk to them too much in the morning. I mean, I'll probably say something to each individual tomorrow before they go.
But just a reminder, we're on message for the most part. I came in here with a philosophy that they're all big boys and I didn't need to hold anybody's hand. I didn't come here to teach anyone how to play golf. I've had a lot of help from my three assistants. They've been fantastic. They really helped me in the practice rounds, understand how players were playing and -- it's just been -- everything has been so far, so good.
Tomorrow is a big day. There's a lot up for grabs tomorrow. We know that, and we're not there yet. Not a lot of messaging, no videos or anything like that tonight. We're just going to go eat, and we get to sleep late finally.

Q. You mentioned the Kentucky boys just a minute ago. A good day for them, their pairings both won matches today. Could you first specifically talk about Kenny's day, and also comment on how it seems like both of these guys are not letting the nerves get to them, and they performed very well for you guys so far?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: I felt like they would both be the most nervous because they're local boys, and there's been a lot been made about that. Kenny is on the cover of the magazine and on the hood of his car or whatever.
I've tried to just message them in a way to embrace the people of their state and show off for them and just enjoy it. I think they've done it. J.B.'s adrenaline was pumping so hard yesterday; he was a little off. He was a lot better today.
But they've been great. They've contributed, and that's important for them. They both have contributed in a big way, and they know it going into tomorrow. So one more day to go.

Q. Your thoughts on Hunter's play and keeping him in the lineup all the way through, and maybe something you've learned about him over the last couple of days?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: Hunter is a pretty quiet guy, but he loves to laugh, and he's played amazingly well. I don't think he's lost a point. He's just been fantastic, and he's loving being here. Putting he and Justin Leonard together turned out to be a right thing to do. I debated Phil and Justin. I debated Phil and Mahan. But in the end, I thought Phil and Kim, and Mahan and Leonard would be great.
Justin said he had gas in the tank, he could go in the afternoon today, but he didn't know how much gas. And Anthony's hip was bugging him a little bit, and as much as I would have loved to have put him out, I talked to Phil about it, and Phil was real confident. He said he felt great.
You know, one of my goals was to not play anybody 36 holes if I could help it. Anyway, I'm happy the way it turned out. Phil and Hunter Mahan were great. Hunter has just been a gamer all week. And he came in here with a little heat on him, as well. I think he really embraced the crowd, and he's just been fantastic.

Q. Did the greatest player in the world text you today, and what was the message?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: He texted me ten times yesterday, at least. He likes to heckle (laughter). He does. I kind of told him he needed to step up his heckling skills a little bit, and he brought it today. I didn't know he could take it to such a high level, so I give him credit. He's been great.
KELLY ELBIN: U.S. Ryder Cup Team Captain Paul Azinger.

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