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January 8, 2008

Paul Azinger


STEWART MOORE: Talk about some of your expectations going into the season.
PAUL AZINGER: My game is okay. I haven't really played that much. I'm on a medical. I wrenched my back out last year moving my boat around in my garage. I mean, I don't know what to expect. You never know.
STEWART MOORE: Obviously this is a big year for you outside of your own game.
PAUL AZINGER: Yeah, I'm watching, I guess, fairly closely what's going on. The Ryder Cup points system is more of a one-year system now. Only four tournaments counted last year. If you've got your card this year, it's wide open; anybody can get on the Ryder Cup team. It's not like you're behind the 8-ball now. Some guys had really, really good years last year and they're pretty far down the Ryder Cup's list.
But I wanted more of a current system, more of a one-year system. Actually I wanted a one-year system but we decided to include the four majors from last year.
I like the system. I think it should prove out that we get the hottest Americans that are currently hot, and we'll just see if it plays out that way. I think it will.

Q. With the system, is it not a bit of a worry that a player will get hot early in the year, get enough points and then lose that form towards the end and still make the team?
PAUL AZINGER: What if the guy got hot last year and got a lot of points and then played all year and didn't get any points? You never know what's going to happen. A guy could win three times on the West Coast and then play terrible the rest of the year and still be on the Ryder Cup team, I suppose. It's just the chance you take.
I felt like the last couple Ryder Cup teams there wasn't a lot of change over, hardly any change over the weeks leading in. The guys that were secure on the team weren't finishing in the Top 10 and they weren't losing any ground because nobody that was close was finishing in the Top 10 to supplant them.
I just feel like the Money List is the true barometer. It's really what measures everything we do out here. You stay exempt based on where you are on the Money List; you get in the majors based on where you are on the Money List. Everything we do is based on money, and I just feel like it's the right barometer.

Q. Did you play the '00 PGA at Valhalla?
PAUL AZINGER: I did. It was hot.

Q. Did you make the cut?
PAUL AZINGER: I don't remember.

Q. I just wondered, from the short time you've been there, that playoff with Tiger and May, those people were berserk.
PAUL AZINGER: I did make the cut because I was there on Sunday.

Q. Especially the way it ended with birdies being poured on top of each other. I'm wondering if because of where we're going to have it that this might have a chance of being one of the loudest places we've been.
PAUL AZINGER: I think the fans in Kentucky can be the 13th man for this Ryder Cup team. They're rabid fans; they understand rivalries. I was just up at the Kentucky-Louisville game and that was some kind of an electric crowd. Neither team is ranked particularly high, but the animosity there, the boos that greeted Pitino when he walked out on the floor were just unbelievable.

Q. Boos, not like whiskey?
PAUL AZINGER: Boos, good call. B-o-o, like Boo Weekley.

Q. How often do you find yourself thinking Ryder Cup stuff?

Q. Every week, every day?
PAUL AZINGER: Every day. When you hear all these captains talk about how it consumes them, and really there's not a whole lot to do, you pick out the meals, you pick out the clothes and then you wait to see what makes your team. But there's a lot to do that's consuming. The problem is the stuff that consumes you, you know, you do the logistics, but the stuff that consumes you is stuff you can't control because it's stuff that happens the week of.

Q. Did you do your media training and did the TOUR pay half of it?
PAUL AZINGER: Did the TOUR pay half of it? Probably (laughing). I did media training.

Q. Is it true that they used the Mike Gundy interview as an example of what not to do?
PAUL AZINGER: No, I didn't see that.

Q. I thought I heard that somewhere.
PAUL AZINGER: No, they didn't. Actually it was very good, the media training. I liked it. It kind of teaches you how to stay on point and just makes it easier to get out of a trap. I thought it would possibly help me get out of a trap when the tabloids come try to do their thing. I can skirt around them a little bit better.

Q. Have you met Harry by any chance?
PAUL AZINGER: Are you the tabloid guy?

Q. "Sporting Life" back in the UK.
PAUL AZINGER: Is that a tabloid?

Q. No, it's the UK's biggest attended website.
PAUL AZINGER: I just think I've got to be a little more guarded because I'm not just representing myself anymore. It's one thing to put your foot in your mouth and you look bad, but PGA of America knows that now you represent 28,000 men and women of the PGA of America, so they want to make sure that you take the high road if you can.

Q. How has that been?
PAUL AZINGER: So far, so good. I was out of the spotlight for a long time. I hadn't played since Hartford. Since Friday of Hartford I haven't done anything with the press. I've turned down every one-on-one interview. I haven't done a single one. I feel like now maybe I'll start doing them this year when I play a little bit. I just didn't see any value in doing them last year.

Q. What kind of schedule are you looking at personally?
PAUL AZINGER: I'm not sure, somewhere between 10 and 15 events is all.

Q. You're on a medical?
PAUL AZINGER: I get 13. I have 13 events to keep my card and then I can play the rest of the year if I want. If you can't make your money in 13 events, probably the writing is on the wall. You're not very good (laughter).

Q. Obviously it's early in the points and all that, but one guy who seems to be making a move and becoming the player he once was is Stricker.
PAUL AZINGER: Yeah, I love it. I love Steve Stricker. I like his demeanor. He's obviously a terrific match play player. He did really well a few years back winning the Match Play down in Australia. He's a clutch putter. He's the kind of guy you want.
His swing looks terrific, too. He's shortened it up quite a bit. Looks like he's reined everything in. He's confident and he's climbing up the ladder. But it's wide open.

Q. What's the general feeling of players when you see a fellow peer out here go into the valley and some of them never get out of it, but a guy who does get out excels on the other side.
PAUL AZINGER: Scott Verplank did it. He's comeback player of the century probably. He's long gone. He was asking me about the Florida State golf coaching job years and years ago. It's hard to come back. Chip Beck, Baker-Finch, guys that drop way off, you know, you can be best friends with a guy and you can say and do everything you can to help him, but in the end, golf is really up to you to figure it out and to accept the right teaching and eliminate what's not right. There's just no secret formula for it. You want to help and you want to help, but in the end, it's golf, and you can't really help a guy. You want to help him as much as you can, but it's up to us. I haven't exactly played that well, either, and I've got tons of guys trying to help me. But it's kind of up to me.

Q. Hal Sutton is another one.
PAUL AZINGER: Hal Sutton dropped off and came back and has played terrific.

Q. Did you see the comment I think it was in Golfweek magazine who quoted Duval about wanting to make the Ryder Cup team this year?
PAUL AZINGER: Yeah, I think it's fantastic. He's not behind the 8-ball. It's wide open. That's the beauty of this process. David Duval could have a terrific year and make the team. You know, if David Duval made that comment and he was a full year and a half behind in points, it would be very, very difficult.

Q. Under the previous system?
PAUL AZINGER: Right. You pointed out to me the other day, if I win this tournament I'm fifth in Ryder Cup points, and I see nothing wrong with that. I think that's great. But if I only play 10 or 15 events, the likelihood that I would stay in the Top 10, it wouldn't be very likely.
The system -- we'll find out if the system has flaws after it's all over and done with. But the four picks it helps, too, because I feel like the four picks are going to make it possible for me to cover my tracks if somebody slipped through the cracks, if somebody that's still way up in the World Rankings, somehow maybe had an injury or just didn't play that well but he's still kind of revered or still a great player who didn't quite make it; well, you've got four picks instead of two, you still have the ability to grab that guy.

Q. What's Toni been doing?

Q. Your wife.
PAUL AZINGER: Lots of stuff, lots of stuff. Stupid stuff, you know (laughing)?

Q. It gives you a lot of freedom with the four picks. It's a nice luxury to have.
PAUL AZINGER: I think it's a luxury. People think there's more pressure to pick four, but I think there's two less people you disappoint. You pick four instead of two, I think that's great.

Q. Is there one thing you have set in your mind above all else that is going to be the deciding thing?
PAUL AZINGER: Yeah, I want to pick who's hot. Experience is not going to play as much of a factor. I want guys that are red hot. Even after the PGA Championship, we have eight guys that have qualified and solidified their spot and we have five weeks or so until the Ryder Cup, actually maybe six with the week off, not sure, haven't really looked. But I think I'm going to get three tournaments to watch before I have to pick, at least two anyway. So who knows, some guy could have played horrible all year and win back-to-back. I'll pick him. It's likely that whoever wins the last event before the matches start might be an automatic bid. I don't know, I'm not sure.

Q. Do you watch a lot of golf on the TV?
PAUL AZINGER: I hate watching golf, I've got to be honest with you (laughter). I hate the announcers (laughing). If anyone writes that, can you please say, "He busted out laughing after the fact"?

Q. Did you watch last week?
PAUL AZINGER: I did watch the playoff. That's all I watched was the playoff.

Q. Did you find yourself rooting for your man?
PAUL AZINGER: Oh, of course. I wanted Stricker, big time. Nothing against Daniel Chopra, but I just wanted Stricker, absolutely. I consider Steve Stricker a good friend, too. I mean, I really want him to win. He'd have been third on the points list had he won, right? Now he's fifth or fourth or whatever.

Q. Moved into the big three in the World Rankings.
PAUL AZINGER: Oh, he did? Cool. Yeah, personally I didn't want to count the World Rankings because I felt like there were some guys -- if you went five off the World Rankings there were some guys that wouldn't even have to sweat out whether they would make the Ryder Cup team. They already knew they couldn't drop out of the Top 5. I would rather have everybody just feel like they don't know for sure and they're going to have to get in there and play good and earn it.

Q. What do you think the policy will be as it relates to drug testing before the Ryder Cup? It will be in full force come July. All the world is behind it, so to speak, and now probably --
PAUL AZINGER: As long as they don't test the captain, I'm fine (laughing). I'm fine with whatever they do (laughing), as long as the captain doesn't get tested.

Q. Given the nature of the event, could you see it where everyone would just -- they'd just do all 24?
PAUL AZINGER: Yeah, they could. I really haven't even thought about that.

Q. It just gives us something to write during the extra day of the week. It would be good for us.
PAUL AZINGER: Yeah, I think drug testing is -- I'd have to get a Whizzinator (laughing). Is that what that thing is called, the one that guy got busted -- the Minnesota Viking guy got busted with a Whizzinator?
I don't think you have to worry too much about the top players in this game. I think everybody has enough common sense to know that if they were doing something that the TOUR is giving you enough time to get off it, but I feel the likelihood that anybody was on something is very remote.

Q. I would ask this as a guy who's been around for 20-plus years, but it's being talked about as one of the issues going into '08. What do you think it'll be like at the end of the year?
PAUL AZINGER: What's that?

Q. The drug testing. Do you think it'll be important? Or do you think it'll be more like the driver testing and start collecting dust in week three?
PAUL AZINGER: I really don't know. I think it could be more like that. I really think it would be possible the PGA TOUR wouldn't test one single person, but the policy is in place and the TOUR probably will just say, hey -- I mean, I don't know. I don't want to speak for the PGA TOUR. I don't know what the PGA TOUR does from one minute to the next and I certainly have no influence on what they do. I don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't test anybody.
There is a certain honor system out here that the players abide by. Players still call penalties on themselves. But there are players that still want to try to get an advantage. But I can't speculate. It's hard to speculate.

Q. I guess you missed the Verplank grilling on Thursday then, huh?
PAUL AZINGER: What was it?

Q. The ball moved. He was kind of on an upslope, the wind coming against him, and as he went through his pre-shot routine, he said he didn't address it and was told that he did, so he got docked a stroke and argued about it for about 20 minutes after the round was over.
PAUL AZINGER: Well, I mean, the best thing about that is that the first thing he did was he called the official to make sure that they got it right. That just says a lot about -- if a guy is beating feet to first base and he's called safe and he knows he was out, he's not telling the umpire, "hey, look, Dude, I'm sorry, I was out."
But a golfer wants to get it right. So he may argue because he feels like he's right, but in the end you have to look at Scott Verplank and say the very first thing he did was make sure that everybody understood what happened and he tried to get clarification on it. I think that says a lot about who the players are as a whole.

Q. Where are you at these days in terms of -- obviously you have the Ryder Cup in September, but with your own game where are you at as far as desire?
PAUL AZINGER: Well, I want to play really well. I would love to play great golf. I wouldn't mind making the Ryder Cup team. That would be kind of cool.
But I'm realistic. I didn't touch a club for 22 weeks last year. I literally didn't even reach over and touch a grip. I didn't really want to play anyway, and then when I completely wrenched my back, it was like, man -- I want to the doctor and a friend of mine said, "You should try to get a medical." I said, "Yeah, maybe I should." It worked out kind of good for me. But I was incapacitated for quite a while. I didn't touch a club, and the only reason I came back out is because my buddy wanted me.
To play with him a little bit because he was trying to get ready for Tour school and stuff, so I went out and watched him practice and started chipping a little bit and stuff. But I'm pretty excited. I'm glad to be here. I didn't really know I was going to play here until about 15 days ago.

Q. Who's the friend?
PAUL AZINGER: Steve Pleis, just a friend from home. He missed.

Q. Did he go to the final?
PAUL AZINGER: No, he ended up missing in the first stage. Tour school is a nightmare.

Q. Did he caddie for you at one point?
PAUL AZINGER: He caddied tore me after I got sick for about five weeks.

Q. 22 weeks?
PAUL AZINGER: That's a long time. That's like almost five months.

Q. You must have at least gripped a club when you were recovering from cancer, didn't you?
PAUL AZINGER: Oh, yeah. I was chipping around all the time. I mean, let's think about it. I think the first week of June is Hartford, so three weeks -- I think that's right.

Q. Hartford was the third week of June.
PAUL AZINGER: The third week? So we'll see July, August, September, October, yeah, 20 weeks probably, 18 weeks. Seemed like 22. Maybe it was only 20. It was a long time.

Q. You've got a great record here, six top 20s and a win.
PAUL AZINGER: I think I have seven Top 5s here. I should have won this tournament like four or five times probably.

Q. Why do you like it so much here?
PAUL AZINGER: I don't know. I can hit it really low. It's really windy. It's Bermuda. There's a lot of reasons I like it. I don't know, I've played good here a lot. I even played decent here last year. I shot 72 on Sunday to finish 13th. I remember I three-putted the last hole and it cost me like 50 grand. I made $89,000 instead of $130,000 or something.
I don't know why I play well here. I think just the Bermuda and the wind maybe.

Q. Given your layoff, this is probably the perfect venue to come back and start with.
PAUL AZINGER: Yeah, I haven't been competitive. I haven't really gambled at home or anything (laughing). I'll probably be nervous Thursday, probably be real nervous. But I want to do well. I feel like I'm hitting it decent or I wouldn't have come over at all. I made good contact all day today.

Q. You don't have anyone, younger players, what have you, calling you Mr. Azinger this year, do you?
PAUL AZINGER: Not yet. I haven't seen any of those guys. No, not yet.

Q. Patting you on the back, calling you buddy?
PAUL AZINGER: No, not yet. You know, I think Ryder Cup is one of those things where you don't start really sugaring up to the captain until really mid-year. You don't want to sugar up too much early, although Bubba Watson has kind of pulled up next to me a few times. Bubba Watson has got eyes on that Ryder Cup.
It's not one of those things -- Ryder Cup is major championship pressure. It's like Sunday, final round, last group, major championship pressure the first day. The difference in the major is that week you played your way there and you earned it and you're playing really well when you're there. Ryder Cup you're totally exposed, and in the past you may not have played well for five or six months and you're on the team, and now you're in Ryder Cup final group pressure the first day.
I mean, I don't think guys really want to say, hey, I want to be on the Ryder Cup team. They want to make sure they're playing well before they start sliding up to you. That's always the way I worked my little begging process, make sure I'm playing good before I beg for what I don't want. Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

Q. Did you captain any teams at school? Do you have any experience in captaincy?
PAUL AZINGER: I was Hale's assistant captain at the Presidents Cup, and Hale made the team, so he actually laid a lot of responsibility on me. It was the first Presidents Cup, I think. I really enjoyed that. That's the only experience I have doing it. I don't know how important it is.
Really you just have to be fairly organized and realize you have a bunch of really big boys that are showing up to play that all know what they're doing. I think my responsibility to myself is to give them as much free time as possible and make sure we all are as relaxed as possible and get the right players together, go have at it. Let's go play golf. It's just golf in the end.

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