Sunday 23 October 2016

Tiger can be a plus: Azinger

Paul Azinger believes Lee Westwood's comments about Tiger Woods could backfire
Paul Azinger believes Lee Westwood's comments about Tiger Woods could backfire

Former Ryder Cup winning captain Paul Azinger has shot down Lee Westwood's claim that US vice-captain Tiger Woods will have a negative effect on the hosts at Hazeltine next week.

Azinger, who skippered the last winning USA team eight years ago, reckons Westwood is stirring the pot with intent, and that it could backfire on the player and on Europe.

The 2008 captain highlighted the intimidation factor surrounding Woods when he was at his peak as a player, but Azinger has no doubt about the ability of the 14-times major champion to turn on the charm for the team.

Woods, who has been out of the game due to back injuries for almost 18 months, eagerly accepted the invitation of USA captain Davis Love 111 to sign up as a vice-captain alongside Jim Furyk, Tom Lehman, and Steve Stricker.

Azinger's first reaction to Westwood's comments was: "I think those are the kind of opinions that land you TV jobs.

"Also, those kind of opinions could motivate the American team as well.

"The times I've been on the same teams as Tiger he was anything but a divisive figure. He was one of the younger players on our Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams when I played with him.

"He didn't say a whole lot but he was terrific to be around. I do see where he might be an intimidating figure, but those comments by Westwood might line him up with a good TV job one day. Those kind of insights get you hired."

That word 'intimidation' required some elaboration from Azinger, who could cut an intimidating figure himself, particularly in Ryder Cup contests.

"Well, it would be like a young basketball player and walking in the room and seeing Michael Jordan sitting there.

"Until you're comfortable with him, you're probably a little intimidated by him, but I think Tiger has this real knack of making people around him uncomfortable if he wants to.


"But he also can be the most fun, and the nicest guy in the world too. I don't see him as an intimidating personality type in the team room, other than his lore and his past as being invincible, really, as a player.

"I think Tiger's going to be terrific in the team room," said Azinger.

Austria's Bernd Wiesberger set the clubhouse target in the weather-affected Porsche European Open.

After the start of play was delayed by three hours and 25 minutes due to fog, Wiesberger carded a superb eight-under-par 63 to claim a two-shot lead over Italy's Renato Paratore, with half the field unable to complete their rounds before darkness fell. Wiesberger held a share of the lead in the same event 12 months ago after an opening 64, but then carded a second round of 76 to amazingly miss the halfway cut.

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