I had a good feeling about the Americans going into this
year’s Ryder Cup, mainly because of the man who’s leading them. I
coached U.S. captain Paul Azinger in college, and I can tell you that
he is a match-play genius. You saw that genius at work yesterday with
his pairings: Mickelson and Kim, Campbell and Cink, and especially
Mahan and Leonard. He knows who will play well together. I’ve known this about Paul ever
since he won a pair of shoes almost 30 years ago. Let me tell you that
Paul came to my golf team at Brevard Community College in Cocoa, Fla., from
Sarasota. Paul has always been a very competitive person and is
definitely a winner, but when I had him in college, he was just another
player. His scores always seemed to be about 75 or 76. At the time, he was
about the No. 10 man on our team.But I
knew he had a competitive streak, so I organized a match-play
tournament. I offered a pair of shoes to the winner. Guess who won?
Yes, that’s right, Paul won the tournament (and those shoes).
I think that’s one of the moments when he started to gain confidence in himself and become the
great player he is.
Paul’s personality allows him to relate to all kinds of people. He
can read people, their needs, their desires and their personalities. Players are very comfortable around him, something that is clear in the way the U.S. team is playing this year. They are cohesive and they have personality. A great team needs
chemistry, and Paul has definitely brought this team together. Jim Suttie, Ph.D., is director of instruction at the Jim Suttie Golf Academy at Twineagles in Naples, Fla. (Photo: Kohjiro Kinno/SI)