U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger said Sunday that there will not be a feud between himself and Nick Faldo, the European captain, no matter how hard the media tries to stir things up.
A feature in the Daily Mail, a British tabloid, included quotes from Azinger that were critical of Faldo, but Azinger said the comments were distorted and inaccurate. In fact, he and Faldo, former partners in the broadcast booth and rivals on the course, have already had a phone conversation and a good laugh about the story.
"Neither of us is surprised that stuff like this has come out," Azinger said. "Nick and I are friends now and will remain friends long after the matches are over. This writer is trying to turn the Ryder Cup into Nick vs. Paul, and we're not going to let that happen. We're not going to let the Ryder Cup turn ugly. We want to enjoy the event."
In the controversial article, Azinger was quoted as saying, "Nick Faldo has tried to redefine himself. I'd say he is both who he is and who he was. Some people have bought it. Some have not. But if you're going to be a pr--k and everyone hates you, why do you think that just because you're trying to be cute and funny on air now that the same people are all going to start to like you? The bottom line is that the players from his generation and mine really don't want to have anything to do with him. He did what he did as a player and there are relational consequences."
Azinger said he phoned Faldo after he first read the story and left a humorous message to needle his friend. "I said, 'Nick, this is Zinger,'" Azinger said. "I said, 'Well, it's already started. I don't know if you've seen it, but one of those papers said I called you a pr--k and that everyone from your generation hates you. Even though you pretty much are and everyone pretty much does, I have more diplomacy than to say that.' He called back and said, 'Zinger, I read this whole article and, you don't like Monty more than me, do you?'"
The article also painted Azinger as being critical of Faldo's approach when they recently walked together around Valhalla, the site of the Ryder Cup. The Daily Mail quoted Azinger as saying, "Faldo and I both played Valhalla recently, and I watched him making notes from start to finish. He reckons he's going to play in the Ryder Cup. Well, he's not, and neither am I. Telling the players what to do will just piss them off."
Azinger responded: "I talked about how Nick redefined his whole career, and the writer turned that into an ugly thing. As for Faldo walking around like he's competing in the event, Nick is just different. What I said was, he's so much more thorough than I am. He's going to lead way differently. The writer asked about having three assistants. I said, the assistants are there for me, not to babysit the players. I wanted them there because I like those guys and I like idea that my players will get to know three guys from a different generation.
"Nick was a little concerned that everyone was going to read the story and believe it. I told him, I don't think so. It's the Daily Mail. Even the people who read the Daily Mail pretty much don't believe what's in it. Nick may be a little more upset than I am, but I think he knows I'm not going to say stupid stuff like that."