It’s a glib Hallmark sentiment to note that 155 men departed the 104th PGA Championship disappointed and only one didn’t. A handful of the 20 club professionals competing surely had no real expectation of making the cut and were happy to make folks proud at the club back home. Same for a few ex-champions content to enjoy a 36-hole stroll down memory lane. Disappointment is a burden particular to those with expectations, and within that there are tiers.
Dispirited. Dejected. Despondent. Distressed. Whatever box a player checks isn’t necessarily related to his departure time. A man who packs up Friday evening might be deflated, but he’s hardly feeling worse than one who gets into contention and comes up painfully short.
The criteria for selecting U.S. Ryder Cup captains often has seemed to magnify qualities that are barely relevant to the task, emphasizing personal achievements of an individual over personality attributes that might galvanize a team.
Twenty-eight men have led America into competition since Walter Hagen commanded the first team in Massachusetts in 1927. Every single one of those 28 captains won a major championship during his career. A winning record as a Ryder Cup player once mattered too, but that was when points were easier to come by for Americans. It’s not so important these days since the U.S. record over the last three decades has impoverished the résumés of most candidates for the captaincy.
In an era when relationships among the world’s best golfers lean more toward hugs than hostility, Paul Azinger is an unapologetic throwback to a time when Tour pros would think twice about even giving each other a Heimlich.
He doesn’t play much these days, but Azinger’s love of competition – the honor of it, as much as the thrill – remains undimmed. If only some of today’s players felt as competitive as the guy in the booth at the 118th U.S. Open Championships.
It should come as no surprise that the Fox Sports lead analyst is openly hostile to backstopping, the controversial “helping hand” practice that has been the subject of heated debate on the grounds at Shinnecock Hills.