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Page last updated at 21:53 GMT, Monday, 22 September 2008 22:53 UK

Azinger backs beaten rival Faldo

Paul Azinger and Nick Faldo
Azinger believes Faldo is the latest losing Ryder Cup skipper to 'get it'

US Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger has defended European rival Nick Faldo following the Americans' victory at Valhalla, their first since 1999.

"The press will pound him over there but the captains get way too much blame when it doesn't happen," said Azinger.

"You know, somebody's got to win and lose. (But) Faldo will get it."

Faldo remains among contenders to captain the European team in 2010, telling BBC Radio 5 Live: "Do I want to do it again? We shall see. Who knows?"

If the 51-year-old does look to retain the captaincy for the 2010 event, at Celtic Manor in Wales, he may face competition from Jose Maria Olazabal, his assistant at Valhalla.

I want to be playing, that's where I'm at at the moment

Jose Maria Olazabal on 2010
Bookmakers make the Spaniard hot favourite for the captain's job, but Olazabal has said he would rather play in the next contest.

Other contenders include Ian Woosnam, who has said he would be keen to regain the captaincy on home soil, Scots Colin Montgomerie and Sandy Lyle, plus Dane Thomas Bjorn.

Olazabal, 42, recently announced his intention to return to playing following a struggle with rheumatism and fatigue.

"I am still hoping that I will be recovered completely from what I am going through," he said.

"If that's the case I want to be playing. That's where I'm at at the moment.

"Only time will tell how quickly I recover and how well I can play again, but if I'm asked for a decision later this year that might be a little early."

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Faldo unsure if he will captain again

BBC Sport understands the captaincy will first be formally discussed by European officials at a meeting in the United Arab Emirates in January, which may give Olazabal time to decide.

Woosnam has expressed an interest in taking the 2010 job at the Welsh venue if the players want him back, but may once again run into trouble with Bjorn.

The pair famously fell out when Woosnam, 2006 Ryder Cup skipper, refused to hand Bjorn a wildcard pick.

Bjorn is now chairman of the players' committee, which makes a recommendation to the Europe Ryder Cup Board - and could be in a position to scupper Woosnam's chances of captaining the team.

If Woosnam is given the 2010 nod, Olazabal may reasonably expect to lead the team at Medinah, near Chicago, in 2012.

That would leave the way clear for Colin Montgomerie to potentially captain Europe at the 2014 event, to be held at Gleneagles in Scotland.

RYDER CUP BLOG
BBC Sport's Rob Hodgetts
Faldo would not be drawn on the Celtic Manor captaincy, telling the BBC he was "more than happy with the way it all went" in the US.

"This particular week in Valhalla the American guys beat us fair and square," he said.

"Of course it (losing) hurts. It takes away the final icing on the cake but it's still been a great experience for me and the team."

The victorious Azinger insisted Faldo did not deserve criticism after Europe fell to a 16-11 defeat.

"They blamed Tom Kite because Michael Jordan rode in the cart," said Azinger, citing the fate of the losing 1997 US skipper.

"He rode in the cart for one or two holes. Suddenly it was Tom Kite's fault? That was crazy.

"So, Faldo will get it. Mark James got it, (Bernard) Gallacher got it. Everybody gets it."

FUTURE RYDER CUPS
2010: Celtic Manor, Wales
2012: Medinah, near Chicago, US
2014: Gleneagles, Scotland
Azinger also defended Faldo's decision to rest Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood for the Saturday morning foursomes session.

"He only had one guy that went five matches and I only had two guys that went five matches," said Azinger.

"I did the maths - if a guy plays five matches he loses about 75-80% of the time in singles.

"So I tried to avoid that and I give Nick credit for trying to avoid that rather than rip him for taking a chance.

"I may be wrong, I have no idea. I'm not going to justify, as I said all week, anything that he did or didn't do."

With several top players, including Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood, also stepping to Faldo's defence, his chances of reprising the captain's role at Celtic Manor may not be remote.

Wildcard pick Poulter, Europe's leading scorer with four points, said: "Personally I thought Nick was a good captain. Team spirit was great to be honest.

"I thought he did a good job - it's down to the 12 players to go out there and perform."

As soon as the Ryder Cup was announced in Wales, Woosnam was the one that rushed to mind

Tony Jacklin
Tony Jacklin, who captained Europe to their first victory in the United States in 1987, had similar words of encouragement for Faldo.

"I think Nick did nothing wrong," Jacklin told 5 Live.

"I looked at the draw for the singles and honestly, looking at that before they went out, I could see Europe winning.

"He will know he did it his way and it wasn't quite enough. America just came together and on the week, they were the best team."

However, Jacklin admitted both Olazabal and Woosnam had strong claims to the captaincy.

"Olazabal is ripe for it and being at Nick's side this week, he may be the one," he said.

"Woosnam would be more than capable. As soon as the Ryder Cup was announced in Wales, he was the one that rushed to mind."

Whoever takes the captaincy will more than likely have to face Azinger once again.

Leading US players Phil Mickelson and Justin Leonard have backed their skipper to hold on to the role for 2010, but Azinger himself was coy about his future.

"I'm not going to think about it," he said following Sunday's victory.

Ben Hogan was the last US captain to serve consecutive terms, in 1947-49.

Gallacher and Jacklin both served multiple terms as European captain in the 80s and 90s.


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