Captains of the 37th Ryder Cup Matches

Prior to the Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills in 2004, Rick Reilly, the noted author and columnist, wrote for Sports Illustrated web site ( that the biennial Ryder Cup matches were “golf’s hell week.” He alluded to the rude fans, the European player “no-names”, and golf’s superstars beating each others brains out in the matches for free. After attending four Ryder Cups, I could not disagree with Mr. Reilly more. In his pre – Ryder Cup press conference yesterday, Johnny Miller, NBC’s golfing guru made much more sense of the competition by stating that “Ryder Cup match play really exposes the players character; who you are and how much will to win you have in your heart”. Now I will buy that philosophy.

This years matches are captained by two outgoing golf champions that played much of their careers on the Tour in the latter half of the 20th century; Paul Azinger (46) for the United States and Nick Faldo (51) for Team Europe. Azinger played on four U.S. teams and never lost a singles match. He won the 1993 PGA championship and is a survivor of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer. Paul will be aided by assistant captains Olin Browne, Raymond Floyd and Dave Stockton. The latter two assistants have ten Ryder Cups between them and both have served as Ryder Cup captains for the United States team. In Azinger’s press conference today, he stated that “he told the players that course strategy is a learning experience, but don’t take too long, and that the matches are a marathon-not a sprint.”

Azinger’s golfing resume pales when compared to this year’s European captain, Nick Faldo. Over a twenty year period starting in 1977, he accumulated 39 international golfing titles that included six majors; three green Masters jackets and three British Open Championships (1987-90-92). His Ryder Cup playing record can only be described as incredible. Faldo was on 11 Ryder Cup teams and played 46 matches; for a total of 25 points–more than anyone else in Ryder Cup history. Faldo’s only half in a singles match was against his opponent captain for these matches. He and Azinger’s half was part of the American teams victory at the Belfrey, England in 1993.

Captain Faldo will be ably assisted by Jose Maria Olazabal, the brilliant Spanish golfer who has seven Ryder Cups to his credit. He was mentored and paired with the fiery Spaniard Seve Ballesteros early in his career and in 2006, he was the mentor and combined with Sergio Garcia to win both fourball matches at the K-Club in Ireland. Olazabal, like Faldo also has two green Masters coats; 1994 and 1999. Faldo’s press conference today was spiced with queries from the European press regarding photos of “supposed” pairings for the first round of play on Friday that appeared in his hand. He countered by telling them that it was the team lunch list. He did say that all the European players must play with a sense of passion; but also play with patience. He especially applied that logic in the case of Segio Garcia. He said that the team is tight and having a good time.

There is no question that the captains of the 37th Ryder Cup matches have pedigree, talent,championships and Ryder Cup experience to share with their respective teams. By Sunday night we can assess how much the captain’s role plays in the team pairings,performance, wins and losses.

Jim Judge
GAM Correspondent