Former American Captains Throw Fuel on Ryder Cup Fire

A pair of former captains of the USA Ryder Cup team recently gave the European squad some locker room fodder. The first round of the biennial Ryder Cup begins Friday at Medinah Country Club near Chicago.

Curtis Strange, captain of the losing American team in 2002 at The Belfry in England, and Paul Azinger, the leader of the victorious team in 2008 at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, made what some could construe as inflammatory comments in the New York Daily News on Saturday.

"I'm looking at Europe's team and I don't see an intimidating figure other than McIlroy," said Strange. "Between Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Bubba Watson, they fall out of bed and make five birdies a round. Rory, to me, is the only one on their team who looks like he has any of that aura at all."

Azinger made more pointed remarks at the 23-year-old McIlroy, the two-time major champion from Northern Ireland who won two of the four tournaments in the recently completed FedEx Cup Playoffs. "Rory has that youthful enthusiasm, he's going to be the most fun guy in the locker room," he said.

"But he can slump his shoulders. And I just think if you can get him to slump his shoulders, if he loses two matches that first day, that whole dynamic in the European team room changes."

It's not certain whether European captain Jose Maria Olazabal will bring up those remarks to his team. But he most certainly will invoke the spirit of fellow Spaniard, the late Seve Ballesteros. His former Ryder Cup playing partner ignited Europe's recent domination in the matches.