One year from nowU.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger will make his captain's selections tofinalize the team that'll battle the Europeans at Valhalla in Louisville. Willthe U.S. win its first Ryder Cup since 1999? Not likely, at least if youbelieve British oddsmakers, who put the U.S. chances of victory at1.8¬†to¬†1.
So what will ittake for the U.S. to turn around this dismal outlook over the next12¬†months? Perhaps nothing will help, but I'm not that negative. CaptainAzinger can put some zing into his charges and whip the Yanks into shape, butit won't be easy. He'll need to give Tiger & Co. a major dose of humble pieto instill some desire and make them really care about winning. To do that, hemust radically change the team's modus operandi. Goodbye Richie Rich pampering,hello Parris Island boot camp. Here's what Azinger should overhaul.
TransportationDeep-six the chartered jets and stretch limos. Give each player a $500 travelallowance and tell him to book his own flight to Louisville. If somebody owns ajet, he can't use it for the event. To get to the hotel, players should take ataxi from the airport or use TARC (Transit Authority of River City), which hasnice air-conditioned buses that cost only $1.25 a ride, exact change required.If a player is bringing his wife or significant other, throw in an another$500.
AccommodationsSayonara Four Seasons and any other $600-a-night joint. There's a dandyMicrotel Inn only 3.9¬†miles from Valhalla. At a rate of $79 a night, thePGA of America could reserve all 99 rooms at the Microtel and spend less forthe entire week than it spent for one night in 2006, when the team stayed atthe K Club.
Apparel Clothesdon't have much effect on the matches, but during the last few Cups theAmericans have looked worse than Woody Austin. That can't help team morale.Azinger should go to a Ralph Lauren factory outlet and get chinos and poloshirts (all solids--red, white or blue). That'll make the boys look good andsave Azinger from wasting time color-coordinating outerwear when he could becontemplating pairing sheets.
Practice Tiger'sdinner with the Ryder rookies in 2006 was a pathetic attempt at team bonding.Azinger needs mandatory monthly team training sessions at Valhalla, and thefirst session should take place next month. By then, everyone in contention tomake the team will be done for the season and sitting around counting his FedExCup money. Players must pay their own way to the sessions and use Valhallacaddies. If someone misses even one session, he's no longer eligible for theteam.
New Rules Toreinforce the previous suggestion, and to give Azinger the authority he needs,the PGA should make a rule that allows the captain to expel a member of theteam at any time and for any reason, no explanation necessary.
If these measuresdon't help and the U.S. gets trounced again, there's only one hope: Merge theRyder Cup with the Presidents Cup, with Internationals joining forces with theAmericans. That team would definitely have a fighting chance.¬±
Golf Plus willnext appear in the Oct. 8 Sports Illustrated.
Super amateur Colt Knost, 22, is expected to turn prothis week
BYRON CUT + PUBLINKS WIN + U.S. AMATEUR WIN + WALKERCUP WIN - AUGUSTA INVITE = NEWEST PRO
by DICK FRIEDMAN
Dottie Pepper should captain the choking dogs on theU.S. Ryder Cup team.
WIN MCNAMEE/REUTERS (AZINGER)
Azinger could impart some urgency by cutting the frills.
DAVID WALBERG (NELSON); JIM BRYANT/AP (PUBLINKS TROPHY); FRED VUICH (AMATEUR TROPHY, KNOST); KIMBERLEE HEWITT/WHITE HOUSE/GETTY IMAGES (WALKER CUP); ANDREW REDINGTON/GETTY IMAGES/AP (GREEN JACKET)