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Paul Azinger's Ryder Cup secrets

Baltimore Sun

Someone forgot to tell Paul Azinger that golf is not a team sport.

The 2008 Ryder Cup captain operated under the crazy notion that 12 hyper-competitive men who spend the rest of the year trying to steal each other's paychecks would hold hands for a three-day event in the name of country pride. So Azinger, all too aware of the Yanks' three-Cup losing streak, created a pod system that divided players into groups of four.

"We put guys together who would sell out for each other, share secrets and share philosophies," Azinger said. "We paired guys based on like personalities, not like games. We wanted guys who got along, who would respond well to each other in pressure-packed situations."

Tiger Woods' knee surgery prevented the world's No. 1 from trying to improve his 10-13-2 Ryder Cup record, but Azinger said Woods would have subbed for Jim Furyk in the "redneck" pod with southerners Kenny Perry, Boo Weekley and J.B. Holmes.

Huh? The Stanford-educated, anti-social (at least among fellow males on the PGA Tour) Woods would have meshed with that crew?

"Everything was about compatibility," Azinger replied. "He would have been a perfect green light. You've got to read the book to understand."

Yes, the book. It's tentatively called "Cracking the Code: The Winning Ryder Cup Strategy" and will hit stores in early May.

Azinger, working with author Steve Eubanks, described it as "an insider's guide" to the Americans' champagne-splashed, 16 1/2 -11 1/2 romp at Valhalla Country Club in Louisville.

Azinger said he "purposely withheld" details and anecdotes from the media for the sake of his book, which he said details "how the players were picked and how we created an environment to build a winning edge."

Azinger on Tuesday visited Medinah Country Club, site of the 2012 Ryder Cup, to entertain nearly 100 corporate types who purchased hospitality tents at either the 2006 PGA Championship at Medinah or the 2008 Ryder Cup.

That stop came just hours after Woods announced he'd be visiting eastern Georgia in three weeks for a little event called the Masters.

Azinger said Woods was smart to pick a venue where fans fear losing their badge but predicted he still would get heckled.

"There's always an idiot," he said. "But Tiger will never acknowledge that he's heard anything. He'll just move on with that stern look of determination. He saw Davis (Love III) come unraveled at the Match Play and won't want that to be him."

At the Match Play Championship in 2004, a fan yelling "No love!" rattled Love. He had the man ejected but lost his 1-up lead to Woods, who collected the $1.2 million top prize.

Azinger's only question surrounding Woods is this: "Who will caddie for him?"

Azinger believes Steve Williams might be off the bag after recent comments that he's "mad" at Woods, who "let down" his wife and young children.

"Guess we just have to wait and see," Azinger said.

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