On This Day in 2006: Paul Azinger appointed United States Ryder Cup captain

Paul Azinger

Paul Azinger was named United States Ryder Cup captain for the 2008 event at Valhalla in Louisville, Kentucky, on this day in 2006.

Azinger, who won the 1993 PGA Championship at Inverness, had competed at four previous Ryder Cups, including the winning 1991 and 1993 US teams.

Azinger said of his appointment: “It’s the greatest honour you can bestow on a professional golfer.”

Golf – 37th Ryder Cup – USA v Europe – Practice Day Three – Valhalla Golf Club
Paul Azinger with Muhammad Ali during practice at Valhalla (PA Images/Nick Potts)

He faced a difficult task in 2008, following USA’s record-equalling defeat in Ireland in 2006 under previous captain Tom Lehman, a third successive Ryder Cup loss, but he led them to a first victory over the European squad since 1999.

Their 16.5-11.5 success was achieved with four matches left on the course despite America being without world number one Tiger Woods through injury.

Azinger also changed the qualifying system for the tournament, having four wild card picks instead of two, and delayed his final team selection to allow players to find form.

Golf – 37th Ryder Cup – USA v Europe – Day Three – Valhalla Golf Club
Azinger celebrates with his team after their Ryder Cup victory (PA Images/Rui Vierira)

That innovative strategy was outlined in his book, Cracking the Code: The Winning Ryder Cup Strategy: Make it Work for You, which was released in May 2010.

The book was co-authored with Ron Braund, a corporate team builder and psychologist, who consulted Azinger throughout the Ryder Cup.

It was Azinger’s second book after he wrote about his battle with cancer. In December 1993, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in his right shoulder and his treatment included six months of chemotherapy and five weeks of radiation in California.

Azinger fought back to secure a PGA Tour title in Hawaii seven years later.