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February 1, 2007

Paul Azinger


JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Paul, for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center at the FBR Open. Nice start to your round, 32 on the back. You're the first guy we've had in from the afternoon. Talk about the conditions when you started and now and then what you did well out there today.
PAUL AZINGER: Well, the course changed a bunch. At the beginning it was -- I shouldn't say the course, the conditions changed a lot. At the very beginning it was brutal, it was cold and windy. You know, to me I felt like if I could just get off to a reasonable start, then you had the downwind holes coming in. Actually as I was warming up there was a little bit of wind helping on the driving range, and by the time I got to No. 11 it was clocking into our face pretty good.
I thought it played pretty hard the first three or four holes, and then once I got downwind I eagled 15. I just made a lot of putts. I didn't really hit the ball that well today. I didn't drive it very good at all personally, but the greens were receptive right now, thanks to the rain, and the rough is not as bad as I've seen it. I'm surprised there's not a lower score. I didn't -- when he asked me to come to the pressroom at 6-under I was really surprised. I never really saw a board and I didn't really know where I was.

Q. When Billy Mayfair discovered he had cancer last year did you have a chance to talk to him and maybe offer some advice based on your past experiences?
PAUL AZINGER: His situation was over and done before I even found out about it. He did a pretty good job of keeping that a secret. I've talked to him a little bit, but I don't think I've done anything to inspire him. I think he did that on his own. He's a great story, though. Didn't he win Comeback Player of the Year a couple years ago? If he didn't, he should have.

Q. Did you get your driving problem solved?
PAUL AZINGER: I don't know. The driver I had today probably had a little bit too much loft is all I can figure. Using pretty much the same driver but just less loft. Into the wind, I just was trying to flight it and control the trajectory so much because I was afraid it was going to spin. I hit a terrible tee shot on 11, and it just kind of like -- I didn't know what to do the rest of the day. I was a little nervous. I played three holes with that driver on Tuesday. I played 1, 2 and 3, hit 3-wood on 1 -- 1, 2, 3, went onto the fairway on 9 and those are the only holes I played, and then didn't get to practice at all yesterday.
I mean, I didn't really get to put that driver to the test. Once it got under the gun, it just I think had a little too much loft.

Q. You've played this tournament for 21 straight years. Does this course change quickly in terms of how it plays?
PAUL AZINGER: The greens can dry out really fast, and they can change quickly, yes. I thought they were pretty firm just the couple holes I played on Tuesday, and I asked a couple guys about what the greens were like, and they said they were really firm. They usually can come back pretty quickly. If they want to roll the greens if they're not happy with the scores, there's always a few tricks up the superintendent's sleeve.

Q. Talk about some of your commentary for ABC. Did that make you want to go back full-time or are you going to ease into some starts or were you going to go full schedule? What was going to happen?
PAUL AZINGER: I knew that ABC wasn't going to be doing golf before last year started. I used my top 50 all-time money, one-time deal where you can play the Tour exempt, which is what I did last year, and I pulled double duty. But the network was real good about letting me out of some of my commitments there towards the end so I could try to keep my card because I was pretty close to keeping my card. I didn't pursue TV at all. As far as I was concerned there really was nothing available to me on the two major networks. I didn't want to be in competition with Nick Faldo looking for a job. I figured he pretty much put his clubs down.
I was just committed to trying to keep my card last year and do the broadcast, and I was able to do both and keep my card. I'm happy about that. I'm exempt this year, and I plan on playing a full schedule. I played more tournaments last year than I have in years and years just to try to keep my card.

Q. Would you have done more TV had that avenue still been there or would you have had a semi-retirement?
PAUL AZINGER: I probably wouldn't have kept my card last year and would have had to use exemptions and probably would have just gone away, getting ready for the promise land, the Senior Tour.

Q. From being in the booth did you learn anything about playing better?
PAUL AZINGER: Well, I mean, I played the Tour for 23 years, two years in the booth did nothing for me (laughter).

Q. People talk about the chemistry that you and Faldo have, and so far they haven't really talked a lot about the chemistry between Faldo and Kelly Tilghman.
PAUL AZINGER: She's in a host role and he and I were both analysts so there was a lot more banter between the two of us. It would be unfair to compare chemistry between Kelly Tilghman and Faldo. It's really going to be on Faldo whether people like him as much without me sitting next to him. Really that's the comparison, not him and Kelly Tilghman.
I think Nick does a great job personally. The only two things that I think he struggles really is he can talk a little louder and he mumbles a little bit. But his content I think is good.

Q. How much did you enjoy your time in the booth?
PAUL AZINGER: I liked being in the booth. Like on a scale of 1 to 10 how much did I like it?

Q. Sure. How does it compare to playing?
PAUL AZINGER: The one thing -- the big difference between -- to compare the two is like night and day. There's just no comparison. You're so disconnected from the pressure in the broadcast booth. You wake up -- I was never nervous in the broadcast booth ever, but -- you're so completely disconnected from the pressure of the tournament that you have to kind of just recall it, what the pressure feels like, and try to articulate that to the fan.
But the guy leading the tournament on Saturday night has to eat on that, has to eat dinner on that, try to sleep, and if you're on the East Coast you wait until 1:00 or 2:00 o'clock to play in the summertime depending on where you are. It's just really difficult. When you get up as an announcer and analyst you've done Saturday's telecast, you've watched the guy play, you go to bed, eat this big ol' dinner with a bunch of guys. There's just no pressure at all. I think it's easy to forget that as an analyst.
But at the same time, you know, there's a lot of guys up there that just want to say guys are choking all the time, too. To me I look at pressure like this, and as an analyst I looked at the pressure like -- it seemed to me like the most spectacular shots you ever remember were under the most pressure situations. I just never tried to forget that. I just think the longer you're in the booth, it's easier to just assume the better you used to be. I was only in there two years, and wasn't that much separated from bad play.

Q. How do you sleep tonight?
PAUL AZINGER: Tonight? I'm not going to lose any sleep. I've been at this a long time, and I just take whatever comes. I'm confident, and I've worked hard. I played decent in Hawaii. I'm just grinding it out. I didn't hit it great today off the tee and I just kept grinding away. The one thing I will say about golf for me is the further removed I am from playing well, I think it's easy to think that the easier it used to be, but it really was never easy. It was always a grind, for me, for everybody really in the end. You've got to make the short putts and all that. I think when you play bad for a long time, somehow you think it was easy back then.
I'm just trying to realize that it's not easy, you just go out and do it. It wasn't easy today, really.

Q. Is this your best start in a while?
PAUL AZINGER: I played good in Hawaii, I was Top 10 going into Sunday. 6th or something going into Sunday. I finished 13th, I shot 2-over.

Q. Are you doing any Ryder Cup evaluating right now?
PAUL AZINGER: I wonder if it's too far out for me to be eyeing players. We changed the system so they're not getting any points right now. They're not getting any points until The Masters. Even those points are insignificant. It's essentially a one-year process now. I'm aware of what Charley Hoffman was doing, I see Bubba Watson played well last week, Brandt Snedeker, I'm trying to get to know who these guys are and seeing what they're capable of. It's a one-year system. I'm just going to try to know who they are, that's all.

Q. Still getting good vibrations coming here? This was your first win a while ago.
PAUL AZINGER: Yeah, that pin on 18 was exactly where it was on Sunday in '87. We were talking about it on 13, Lee Janzen won here in '93. He asked me what I won by. I said I won by 1. How many did you win by? He said, I won by 2. All I can remember is walking on that 18th tee and my caddie, Billy, who is caddying for me still, or again, I got up on the tee, and he had his arms wrapped around every club in the bag but the driver, and I had a one-shot lead. He already had the club cover off it, too, which he never does. I looked at him and said, "do you want me to hit driver?" Yeah, hit a driver. So I did, then hit 7-iron. I was ready to hit a 5-iron off the tee.

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