x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Azinger elated at early US lead

US Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger is elated about his team grabbing a three-point lead over Europe but knows there is much more work to be done.

United States team captain Paul Azinger checks his notes on the 17th fairway during the opening round of the Ryder Cup golf tournament at the Valhalla Golf Club, in Louisville on Sept 19 2008.
United States team captain Paul Azinger checks his notes on the 17th fairway during the opening round of the Ryder Cup golf tournament at the Valhalla Golf Club, in Louisville on Sept 19 2008.

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY // US Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger was elated about his team grabbing a three-point lead over Europe late yesterday, but knows there is much more work to be done to end the visitors' hold on the trophy. "We're in a happy spot," Azinger said after the Americans, striving to snap Europe's streak of three successive triumphs, claimed a 5½ to 2½ points lead for their first lead after an opening day since 1995.

"It's better than it being the other way, that's for sure. But we're not even to the halfway point yet. It's not a sprint, it's a marathon. "We've got a long, long way to go and we know how good they are." Azinger picked up two points from the pairing of Justin Leonard and Hunter Mahan, who won their foursomes and fourball matches. Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim, a rookie like Mahan, combined to halve their foursomes and win their fourball match.

The rookie pairing of Boo Weekley and JB Holmes halved their fourball contest against Soren Hansen and Lee Westwood, playing in his sixth Ryder Cup. "The main thing is that these guys stayed focused on the task at hand today and they did a great job of it," Azinger said. "I'm sure everybody was nervous." Azinger, who organised a pep rally on the eve of the tournament and said he wanted to make the crowd the "13th man" of the US Ryder Cup squad, was pleased by the fan support.

"These guys are going to embrace this crowd, they're going to embrace the energy and they're going to embrace the pressure. That's the whole message. I'm real proud of them. "But I'll reiterate that I'm sure the European team is going to come out free-wheeling with everything to gain tomorrow. We've got to be ready. We've got to do it again." *Reuters