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Paul Azinger open to Ryder Cup return

September 30, 2014

Paul Azinger said he would consider a second spell as captain of the United States' Ryder Cup team after his leadership skills were praised by Phil Mickelson in a thinly-veiled attack on this year's losing skipper Tom Watson.

Within hours of Europe completing a convincing 16 1/2 points to 11 1/2 victory in the biennial clash with the US at Scotland's Glenegales course on Sunday -- their third straight Ryder Cup win and eighth in the last 10 editions -- Mickelson contrasted Watson's approach unfavourably with that of Azinger, the last victorious American captain back in 2008.

Mickelson, at a press conference also featuring Watson, said: "Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups."

Asked whether he was consulted in any of the decisions the 65-year-old Watson took at Gleneagles, Mickelson -- dubbed "a one-mutiny" by former US PGA Tour player Brandel Chamblee, added: "No. Nobody here (any of the US players) was, in any decision."

Five-time major winner Mickelson, controversially benched by Watson on Saturday's second day, cited Azinger's Pod system, allowing groups of players to bond together, as central to the Americans' victory in 2008.

The 54-year-old Azinger, asked if he would captain the team again, told USA Today on Monday: "I'm not going to rule anything out."

Azinger added the US needed to learn from the European model of selecting captains who had gained experience as vice-captains, rather than continuing with their "lone wolf" policy.

"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 percent 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 (fifty dollar notes)."

Earlier on Monday, English golf great Nick Faldo, the losing skipper in 2008, said Mickelson was wrong in being so openly critical, so soon, of eight-times major winner Watson.

"For him to sit there and throw the captain under the bus, that was a tough one," Faldo, himself a six-times major winner told BBC Radio Five.

"At least my lot waited a couple of years."

Watson said Monday: "The issue between Phil and myself is basically a difference of opinion. So that's the controversy.

"The European team is very strong. When you (the Europeans) have four of the top five players in the world, you (the US) better be firing on all cylinders and we weren't."

Watson previously said: "I had a different philosophy than Paul. It takes 12 players to win. It's not pods. It's 12 players."

That the US have such a poor recent Ryder Cup record is largely down to American great Jack Nicklaus.

In 1977, Nicklaus -- golf's record 18-time major champion -- was so concerned by the then Great Britain and Ireland side losing nine of the previous 10 Ryder Cups, he suggested the team that played the US be expanded to include players from continental Europe.

That paved the way for Spain's Seve Ballesteros, Jose Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia, as well as the German pair of Bernhard Langer and, more recently, Martin Kaymer to become key Ryder Cup players.

Sunday saw Nicklaus's role in reviving the Ryder Cup acknowledged with an honorary lifetime membership of the European Tour.

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