U.S., European Ryder Cup teams party together after matches

ATLANTA (AP) - Just as captain Paul Azinger promised, the
Americans partied into the morning hours after winning the Ryder
Cup.
Egged on by his teammates, Boo Weekley told the story of the
time he was a teenager in the Florida Panhandle and paid $5 on
10-to-1 odds that he could land a punch against an orangutan.
Weekley finally regain consciousness in the back of a pickup truck.
"That was hilarious," Anthony Kim said. "I could hear that
story 100 times and keep laughing."
Keeping to tradition and class, Team Europe joined the Americans
in the team room, and the Americans paid their victims tribute by
singing "Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole," the European soccer song they had
heard while losing the previous three times.
They celebrated as a team of 12 following a week in which they
were three teams of four.
It was an intriguing concept that Azinger spent nearly two years
cooking up. He built his team by doing personality profiles of
three dozen potential players and grouping them accordingly.
The aggressive personalities were Kim, Phil Mickelson, Justin
Leonard and Hunter Mahan. The "Kentucky" group featured Kenny
Perry, J.B. Holmes and Weekley (a southerner) along with Jim Furyk,
the misfit of the group who provided leadership. The emotionally
quiet featured Steve Stricker, Ben Curtis, Stewart Cink and Chad
Campbell.
They stuck together for three days of practice. Pairings came
only from inside their "pod."
Azinger gave them ownership of their group, building team spirit
within small groups. But it went beyond the players. He also
assigned an assistant captain to each group - Raymond Floyd got the
aggressive bunch, Olin Browne had the Southern group and Dave
Stockton was with the other pod.
Azinger rarely saw any of them hit a shot, relying entirely on
his assistants for updates on how they were playing, and who might
need a lift. The captain zipped over to the seventh fairway when
hearing Cink and Campbell dunk shots in the water during the
opening session.
"I told them there's good news and bad news," Azinger said.
"The bad news is you just made a 10. The good news is you only
lost one hole. Now they have everything to lose, and you have
everything to gain. Play the next shot. And they came back and
won."
There was a feeling the Americans were more of a team without
Tiger Woods, the dominant figure in golf. Looking back on how
Azinger built his team, one suspects Woods could have easily fit
into this concept.
Assuming Campbell would not have been on the team, Woods likely
would have been part of the Kentucky group, providing leadership
and experience. He probably would have been paired with Weekley,
leaving Perry and Holmes together. Furyk would have moved into the
quiet, unflappable group.
Azinger shed a little light on his concept during the closing
press conference, but still gave credit where it was due.
"In the end, the players did it," he said.
---
PAYNE STEWART AWARD: Davis Love III keeps his trophies from the
PGA Championship and The Players Championship separate from his 16
other victories on the PGA Tour. But he's about to add another one
to the elite collection.
Love was honored Tuesday with the Payne Stewart Award, given to
a PGA Tour player who reflects Stewart's respect for tradition,
charity and presentation through dress and conduct.
The award has been presented each year at the Tour Championship
since 2000, a year after Stewart perished in a plane crash on his
way to the PGA Tour's season finale.
"Payne was a great competitor and a great friend of mine, and
to have my name on the trophy is going to be quite an honor," Love
said.
He recalled the last time they played together, in the opening
session of the 1999 Ryder Cup at Brookline.
"Before we went out there, he goes, 'I want something a little
more out of you than I've been seeing in the past,"' Love said.
On the 17th hole, Love hit a poor shot into a bunker.
"We were walking up to the green and I said, 'Payne, you get it
on the green and I'll make it,"' Love said. "He hit it out and I
had about a 15-footer. He came over and I said, 'I've got it."'
Love holed the putt, and he said Stewart ran over and jabbed him
repeatedly in the chest saying, "That's what I'm talking about."
"He challenged me, he inspired me and pushed me," Love said.
---
RYDER CUP PERKS: Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger was so
emotionally spent after the U.S. victory over Europe that he turned
down offers to be on the TV late shows.
But there is one appearance Azinger would love to make.
"I want to throw out the first pitch at a Rays game," he said.
Azinger grew up south of Tampa, Fla., and still makes his home
there.
---
NO LOVE: Davis Love III, a former PGA champion who has played on
six Ryder Cup teams, is a lock to be the U.S. captain one of these
years. But it doesn't sound like 2010 will be it.
"I would consider myself too young and too interested in still
playing," said the 44-year-old Love.
Azinger said he has not thought about being captain again, even
if he is asked. The heavy favorite would be Corey Pavin, because
Fred Couples will be the Presidents Cup captain next year and most
other candidates are on the Champions Tour or too young.
That's not to say Love is not interested. He said if PGA of
America CEO Joe Steranka called with an offer, "We'd have a
conversation."
"I'd love to be considered," he said. "But I'd love to play,
too."
---
DIVOTS: Among the text messages Tiger Woods sent Paul Azinger at
the Ryder Cup: "You will win tomorrow because only Americans win
on that course." Valhalla previously hosted the PGA Championship
in 1996, won by Mark Brooks, and in 2000, won by Woods. ... David
Duval tied for 22nd last week at the Viking Classic, his best
finish on the PGA Tour since a tie for 16th in the 2006 U.S. Open.
... Davis Love III plans to play five out of six Fall Series
events. ... The PGA Tour is wrapping up its 2009 schedule, still
uncertain whether to play four consecutive weeks next year in the
FedEx Cup.


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