Pride and passion drive Faldo toward Valhalla

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Nick Faldo and Paul Azinger shared a stage in Major Championships down the years before going on to share a commentary booth as television analysts. At both disciplines they have been extraordinarily successful. Fierce rivals they may have been in their playing days, but the Englishman and the American have always shared one more thing in common ... an intense passion for The Ryder Cup.

Faldo, Europe's Captain for The 2008 Ryder Cup, has already spoken to his opposite number, Azinger, to ensure the next match at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, from September 19-21, 2008, is played in the same laudable spirit as the last three contests.

"I know Paul Azinger shares the passion (for The Ryder Cup) which is great," said Faldo, speaking at his first official press conference as Captain ahead of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club in Surrey, England.

"We flew back on a flight together at the end of our ABC career together and started talking Ryder Cup. It's very important to both of us that we are furiously competitive on the golf course, but off the course, we want to all be standing around together at a barbeque at the end of it, saying what an experience that was. Obviously there's going to be a winning team and a losing team but my goal as I just want it to be an experience that we'll remember for the rest of our lives."

Faldo will be looking to continue the team ethos that has been at the cornerstone of Europe's success since the tide began to turn in the early 1980s.

"A lot of credit goes to Tony Jacklin and Seve (Ballesteros)," said Faldo. "I was there in the transition, which was a wonderful period. For example, 1983 was an incredible Ryder Cup. It was that moment when Seve walked in and said, 'let's celebrate.' We had just lost by a point and we were all feeling pretty down. But you can imagine when Seve says, 'This is a victory for us; that was an incredible turnaround for us.'

"And then Tony took the bull by the horns again and again. That period was fantastic. When we first went to Muirfield Village, he said we are going to live, sleep and breathe golf together that week. I think that was the foundation of what we have now in our team. It is very special in the way that guys come in and lay their hearts on their sleeves and their emotions and we're all part of that week."

Faldo, renowned for being single-minded in his pursuit of excellence as a player, is determined to be equally thorough as a Captain. He is already cementing relationships among the current crop of players. Having his new Vice Captains Designate, Paul McGinley and Jose Maria Olazabal on board will be hugely beneficial, but Faldo is also already forging a strong rapport with the players.

"I have already met with Paul and that was good to get a great insight on what the current golfers are all about. I intend to be absolutely hands-on. I've got a great opportunity at the Seve Trophy in September where it will be pretty close in those two teams to having everybody from The Ryder Cup Team. That's going to be a great opportunity for me to get to know them, and them get to know me. I've already started spending time with players, I spent a little time with Henrik Stenson already. I intend to really get to know the guys over this. I need to know their characters as best I can and as we finally get down to the countdown, we will be assessing games and potentials which will be part of the fun of it."

Much talk will be over who will make the team, particularly as the qualification nears its end and how far down the list Faldo could go on his wild card selections.

"I currently believe the current form would have a little more of my vote," conceded Faldo. "If somebody stormed through the last four months, and he's obviously playing extremely well and you can see the look in their face and their eyes that their intention to be there, maybe rather than the guy has just gone steady. If somebody makes a very late move, he's the guy on form and depending on his personality, that will be a great call to make."