No easy Ryder for the U.S. in Wales, says Azinger
Los Angeles: The United States will need meticulous preparation and an "extraordinary" team to win their first Ryder Cup victory on European soil since 1993, former U.S. captain Paul Azinger said on Wednesday.
Under the innovative Azinger, the Americans ended a run of three successive defeats when they beat Europe in Louisville, Kentucky in 2008, but this year he believes they face a much more daunting task in their bid to retain the trophy.
Speaking to Reuters about the Oct 1-3 contest at Celtic Manor, Wales, Azinger said an unfamiliar course, time change, weather and a pro-European crowd are among the challenges the Americans will have to contend with.
"Generally the Europeans have always had the advantage of playing the Ryder Cup on courses they are very familiar with and the Americans have to come over and figure it out in a very short time," said Azinger.
"They have always been able to capitalise, whether it was to neutralise our strengths or to exploit theirs. We have to go over there with an extraordinary team in order to win this time," added Azinger, who revamped the U.S. selection system for the 2008 matches by doubling his number of wildcard picks to four.
Corey Pavin will captain the U.S. team at Celtic Manor and Azinger feels detailed preparation and an attempt to alleviate the huge level of expectation will be his primary roles.
"The trick is to be able to drill the idea of preparation into the players` minds," Azinger said. "My philosophy was to create the best environment for our guys to be successful, and that environment had nothing to do with winning and losing."
Perhaps Azinger`s most remarkable achievement in 2008 was infusing the U.S. team with a level of unity and ease under pressure that had not been seen in recent American line-ups.
Many of his predecessors failed to find the ideal blend between the journeyman player and the leading lights, but Azinger succeeded with a strategy he modelled on the military.
Azinger, whose book on the subject called "Cracking the Code" will be published next month, split the 12 players into four groups and used an outside-the-box, Navy SEALS approach.
"I got them sold-out for each other within their team, and sold-out with the idea that they would prepare together. I would never take them out of their group unless there was an injury or an illness," said Azinger.
"There was no short-cut to success. You couldn`t hope for it or wish for it. It was all down to preparation, and you would prepare in your small groups."
The Europeans have generally held the upper hand over their opponents when it comes to team unity at the Ryder Cup.
Azinger said he questioned in his book whether Europeans have that unity built in, adding that Spaniards play together and the Irish play together.
"Europe naturally has that bond whereas with the Americans, it`s not like the Texans play together and the Floridians play together. It`s different," said Azinger.
"Somehow the Ryder Cup for Europe, it`s in their blood, it`s in the heart. In America, it`s in our mind. We want to win. In Europe, it`s in your heart. You bleed it."