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May 4, 2006

Paul Azinger


JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Paul, for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center at the Wachovia Championship. It's definitely playing pretty tough out there. Why don't you just talk about the conditions and how hard the course is playing a little bit.

PAUL AZINGER: Well, the course is playing obviously very hard, but the conditions were perfect. If no good scores come out of the morning, then I think that's a real indication of how hard the golf course is. No wind, the greens still held a lot of moisture. You know, it was as easy as it's going to get and the scores were still high. You factor in some conditions, a little weather, it's like a U.S. Open.

Q. You said I think outside that of the 12 rounds or so you've played, this was not one of your better ball striking rounds, but the score was good?

PAUL AZINGER: I actually started hitting the ball decently eight weeks ago, and the last four tournaments, three or four tournaments, I hit the ball pretty well, Hilton Head, Houston, and last week in New Orleans. I mean, I finished 20 something at Hilton Head, but Houston and New Orleans I didn't get anything out of it. My short game wasn't great, my wedges were marginal at best. I didn't score, but I hit it terrific and it was nice to hit it well for those stretches, but it was frustrating because I couldn't score.

Today actually I didn't really hit it as well as I did any round in Houston or New Orleans, but I was able to score. I hit some nice chip shots when I missed. I missed a few more fairways than I have in the last few weeks. But the fairways are harder to hit here. All in all, I'm going the right direction.

Q. How do you like this kind of setup or this kind of course compared to a Bob Hope birdie fest type of course? Do you think this type of course is better for you?

PAUL AZINGER: I don't know, I think you need both. It's nice to have a birdie fest, it's nice to have a real hard test. There's a tendency for courses to be so one dimensional for us; the rough is the same length every week, the fairways are the same width every week and the greens are the same texture every week.

I think it's nice to see fairways that roll for a change instead of the soft fairways. That I think is the biggest complaint from the players is that the fairways are too soft. I'd like to see faster fairways week in and week out and give everybody more of a chance if a guy hits a low ball he can chase it around the golf course, and if he hits high bombs if it's plugging it's going to kill you.

Q. You talked yesterday about wanting to feel like your back is against the wall and it's going to force you to play good golf and work on your game. How does that manifest itself? How much more time on the range are you spending this year as opposed to last year when you knew TV was part of your immediate future?

PAUL AZINGER: The big difference for me now, in the last year for sure, my whole career I never really used video too much, and I'm not saying that I missed out back early in my career because I think a lot of people used video but didn't necessarily know what the heck they were looking at and they overused it somehow. I always avoided it, and anyone who's ever taught me never really used it. I didn't really have a master's degree in what my swing looked like and how unorthodox it was and whatever.

I've really been looking at my swing a lot. I've got a bar to kind of go by, so I looked at a lot of videotape from when I was playing my best, and I haven't been anywhere near that. I'm trying to get back closer to where I was.

I don't think I could ask really to hit it much better than I have the last month. I am where I am, and this is my game. It's not spectacular, but if my short game is good, I can still get it around. I've made some big improvements in my swing, my technique, now I've got to just go play. But I have worked hard for the first time in my life looking at my swing.

JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: We'll go through the two birdies on your card starting with 14.

PAUL AZINGER: Two birdies, in the pressroom (laughter).

I started on the back nine. 14 is that little tiny hole. I hit a 5 wood off the tee, I had 93 yards, hit it about 15 or 18 feet past the hole, something like that, and made that.

And then I birdied the par 5, 7th hole. I hit a pretty good drive. I purposely tried to lay up short left with a 4 iron, and I tugged it a little bit, got all the way to pin high into that bunker left of the green, hit a great bunker shot, made about a 10 or 11 footer, something like that.

Q. When you watched yourself on video recently compared to video in the '90s, how big of a gap was there from where you are and where you're trying to get? How big is that gap?

PAUL AZINGER: I was much, much further from the ball well, much further from the ball now than I was then, and my shaft was much more around me then than it is now. Now the shaft stands up more, and I want the shaft to go more around me. I believe it's more of a direct path to the ball. From up here, I was too steep coming down and I had to drive my legs to shallow the shaft. That's really been difficult, believe me.

The hardest thing to change was my setup, to stand closer to it. I mean, it's brutal. When you're far away it's comfortable, and when you get closer you feel like you have no room to do anything. I still struggle with my distance from the ball at setup, and laying the shaft down after Hilton Head, I flew home, which is Sarasota, drove two hours to Naples Monday morning, worked with my coach down there for six hours trying to lay the club down. Went to Houston, hit it great. Went to New Orleans. Sunday night of New Orleans flew home, drove down to Naples Monday, worked on my swing again. I was only intending to be there a couple hours; I was there from 11:00 to 7:00, drove back home and then flew up here. I'm not taking any time off. I'm getting after it.

But I was making these monumental moves thinking it was going to lay down over here, and I watched it on video and it hasn't moved.

Q. Is that just a by product of practicing and playing one way for so long that it sort of becomes muscle memory?

PAUL AZINGER: Well, honestly, after I got sick, I just started trying to stand the club up. I thought, stand it up, stand it up, whatever. I just got too upright. It was just too vertical. It used to go way around me like you saw it. Everybody was talking about how flat my swing was. I'd get halfway back and the club head was over there more. Now I get halfway back and it's up here.

Probably that much I'm trying to move the shaft (indicating 18 inches).

Q. Revisit why you're not trying to qualify for the U.S. Open.

PAUL AZINGER: Why I'm not trying to qualify? Actually I called my agent because I saw some forms sitting there in New Orleans, and I thought is it too late for me to get my form in. He emailed me that the deadline had passed. But I wasn't enthusiastic about it for a lot of reasons. I'm playing a lot of golf, four in a row, then one week off, at least three in a row, and to throw in a 36 hole qualifier in between, I just didn't feel like doing it.

I played Winged Foot last year, and granted I was stinking it up last year when I played it, but it just seemed to hard for me. It's so long.

Q. Could you change your mind? Has the deadline passed?

PAUL AZINGER: Yes. I'll look forward to that week off (smiling). I know this for a fact; only one guy is going to have fun, and he won't have fun until Sunday night.

Q. Where are you with I guess your other endeavors, mostly TV, and is there an immediate future with that or a long term future with that?

PAUL AZINGER: My immediate future with TV is I have an obligation to ABC at this point, but ABC is out of golf for next year, and there's really I don't think there's any room for me anywhere really. I'm not going to pursue it. I'm going to play golf. If I don't play good enough to stick around, then I'll figure out something. But I'm not pursuing television. I'm not closing the door, but

Q. How does Winged Foot compare with this?

PAUL AZINGER: It's just way longer. It's 250 yards longer no, it's not. It's probably a little longer (laughter). It's par 70. The greens are I don't know, it's similar, really, I guess. Winged Foot is harder.

Q. You talk about going back to golf and leaving TV, but can you see yourself getting back to TV at some point down the road, five, ten years, whatever it may be?

PAUL AZINGER: Well, I didn't choose to leave TV. TV kind of left me. I think if the higher ups decided to stick around, I think I'd still have a job there at ABC. But now you've gone from three networks and three cables to two networks and one cable, so there's a lot less jobs.

When you're in the 18th tower and you have a key role, I don't think you want to take any less than that. At least I don't.

JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Paul.

End of FastScripts.

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