History indicates Azinger won't be U.S. captain again

Paul Azinger executed a plan to bring the Ryder Cup back to the United States. It worked. So how about two more years on the job? Our experts debate the future prospects of the conquering captain in this week's edition of Fact Or Fiction.

Originally Published: September 24, 2008
ESPN.com/GolfWorld

Paul Azinger has been hailed far and wide for being a key cog (if not the main reason) the Americans earned a victory at the 37th Ryder Cup. So should he get a second shot in the captain's chair, assuming he even wants the job?

History tells us no one in nearly 60 years has had a repeat performance as captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team, but the PGA of America drastically changed its system for Azinger, so breaking precedent isn't out of the question.

Our experts ponder Azinger's future as they share their opinions in this week's edition of Fact or Fiction.

FACT OR FICTION?


Paul Azinger should be named the U.S. Ryder Cup captain for the 2010 matches.

Bob Harig, golf writer, ESPN.com: FACT.
Why not? The PGA of America adjusted its thinking when it first approached Paul Azinger two years ago, granting his wish for a new selection process and more captain's selections. For the first time in nine years, the United State was victorious. Why not stick with a winning formula?

Azinger brought a nice energy to the captaincy, and he had an interesting plan, one that grouped his players in three separate foursomes from which he determined he would not deviate. Those groups of players practiced together, and were never going to be broken up. The plan worked, and it might work again in Wales in 2010.

There are roadblocks to this, of course. Azinger simply might want to get on with his life. The PGA of America has not had a player captain the team a second time since Jack Nicklaus in 1987, and back then, he did not do it twice in a row. And there are other deserving candidates, including players such as Corey Pavin and Davis Love III who have been mentioned for future captaincy positions.

Still, if Azinger wants to try again, why not?

Jason Sobel, golf writer, ESPN.com: FICTION.
Azinger did a masterful job as the captain of this year's U.S. Ryder Cup team. Every move he made -- from the restructured points system to Valhalla's course setup to his four captain's picks to his three team-within-a-team foursomes -- worked to perfection, as the guys in red, white and blue took home their first victory since 1999.

And that's exactly why he should quit while he's ahead.

When asked about such a prospect just hours after his team clinched Sunday, Azinger rolled his eyes while players such as Phil Mickelson and Justin Leonard led an abbreviated chant of, "Zinger in '10! 'Zinger in '10!" But the captain knows that's not how these things work. No U.S. skipper has gone back-to-back since Ben Hogan in 1947-49 -- and the job didn't entail nearly as much back then.

But this isn't just about history. It's about starting anew, letting another underdog have his day, building on the victory but not trying to recreate it. There's a reason why presidents are limited to two terms and it's the same concept for Ryder Cup captains. Unlimited absolute power can be a dangerous thing.

Besides, look at it from Azinger's point of view: He's a conquering hero, the first winning captain since Ben Crenshaw. Why mess with success? Even if the PGA of America knocks twice, he should turn 'em down, continuing to bask in the glory of this one while providing insight for Corey Pavin or Mark O'Meara or Davis Love III or whomever does take over in 2010.

John Antonini, senior editor, Golf World: FACT.
There are two questions that need to be answered here. The first -- should Paul Azinger return to the U.S. captaincy in 2010 -- must be met with a resounding affirmative vote. Not only did Azinger lead the U.S. team to victory at Valhalla, he spent the last two years tweaking the selection system, thus making sure his players would be the ones the most well-prepared for the event.

Azinger also saw to it that he would get the most of those players once the tournament began by virtue of his much-discussed pod system. It's hard to argue that he wasn't the best U.S. captain of the last generation and should he want the job, he should be given the opportunity to come back.

The second question, however, is more important. Does Azinger want to come back? I think it's too early for him to answer this question, but remember that he spent the better part of the last two years working on his captaincy, making more trips to Kentucky than Kenny Perry.

The next Ryder Cup is in Wales. As the road team, he wouldn't be required to spend as much time at that site as he did in the build-up to Valhalla, but the travel burden on the U.S. captain has increased dramatically in the last several years and you have to wonder if Azinger wants to go through that again.

Yes, he should return as captain, but let Azinger make the decision.

Ron Sirak, executive editor, Golf World: FACT.
Not only did Zinger win for the first time since 1999, he brought energy to the American side -- something that has been missing for a lot longer than that. Paul seems to have a real feel for his players and he seemed to be able to convey to them that one of the reasons the Europeans have done so well in the Ryder Cup is because they embrace the atmosphere instead of wasting energy complaining about it.

But here is my condition: Bring back both Azinger and Faldo as captains. Part of what made Valhalla an unqualified success is the fact there is real chemistry -- and competition -- between those two guys.

The fact the U.S. team will being going to Wales in 2010 in possession of the Cup will make the atmosphere intense. But to be able to bill it as a rematch between Paul the Yank and Our Nick would really amp up the atmosphere. Adding to the intensity will be how much it will tick off the British media to invite Faldo back. That's worth the price of admission alone.