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December 4, 2008

Paul Azinger

Aaron Stewart


PHIL STAMBAUGH: We welcome this afternoon one of the teams in the 2008 Del Webb Father/Son challenge of ChampionsGate playing for the first time in the event, Paul Azinger, the victorious Ryder Cup captain for the United States here, and Aaron Stewart, son of Payne Stewart, playing in this event for the second. Aaron, I think in 2004 you played with Lee Janzen in this event.
PHIL STAMBAUGH: Maybe get an opening comment from each of you about teaming in this event and how you got together as a team this year.
PAUL AZINGER: Well, you know, everybody, I think, knows what good friends Payne and I were. I'm just real excited about the opportunity to play with Aaron. I played with him yesterday, and I didn't know he was as good as he is. I thought with his build and all he would hit it a little farther than he does. (Laughter)
But I think we're going to have a great time this week and have fun and enjoy just being together. We don't really know each other that well. I mean, Aaron kind of grew up on me a little bit. I haven't seen you really very much for the last two years.
He's grown up to be a fine young man, and reminds me a lot of Payne. He's a bit of a practical joker, I can see that. But he's a terrific player. He's got a great golf swing and hits it really, really well. Putts it -- perfect putting stroke. I think we're going to enjoy the week and embrace the week and have fun with it. If we're competitive, that'll be a bonus.
AARON STEWART: Yeah, I think -- I don't really know how we get paired together, but I'm excited to be here. Playing with him yesterday, I didn't know that he hit it as good as he did. Thought was just one of the old guys just hanging on.
PAUL AZINGER: I am Aaron, I am.
PHIL STAMBAUGH: We'll go to a few questions.

Q. Paul, a couple weeks ago I guess you sort of didn't dismiss the possibility that you might reup for 2010 in Wales. I'm wondering the status of that is, because that's obviously a note of interest to many of us. Any development?
PAUL AZINGER: Yeah, you probably should address all those questions to the PGA of America and not to me at this point. I don't know how to respond just yet. When I say that, I'm saying I don't know what you're supposed to know with respect to the PGA of America.
You know, they went to get their message out when they get their message out, and I don't want to jump the gun and try to get the message out ahead of when they want the message out. I'm going abstain from answering that question and just let them get the message out. It's kind of their message, and I'm going to let them deliver you that message.

Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL AZINGER: I don't know what he'll answer that question. I just think it's their message to get out and not something that I need to deliver. You know, I'm going to let the PGA of America message you on all that. I'm pretty much done answering those questions.

Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL AZINGER: Honestly, I really do feel like that's something that I believe the PGA of America should have the privilege of getting out. I don't believe that it's something I should be talking about.

Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL AZINGER: Well, it was the greatest experience of my life being the captain of that team and having an influence and impact on the way the team was picked. You know, changing the selection process was really a difference-maker, and then taking an approach, you know, kind of a team-building approach.
You know, that whole -- it was the greatest experience obviously that I'll ever have in golf, I believe. I enjoyed it immensely. Of course I'm going feel that way at that moment.

Q. Are you still on cloud nine? And the second part, can you run us through what life's been like since Ryder Cup?
PAUL AZINGER: I'm on cloud nine. You know, I played Vegas, and it was great to see a bunch of the players and a bunch of the caddies. Coming here and seeing a lot of the senior players, you know, it's been fantastic.
I did come in here still on cloud nine. I haven't shared me story too much with too many people. Couple small groups have heard the story now. You know, I've given kind of detailed, inside-the-ropes scoop stuff that you guys don't know about yet to small groups. It's been exciting for me and I want to do more of it.
I've since hired IMG to represent me, and I think I'm going to get fairly busy and get to share the story of the Ryder Cup. My hope is that I do a book. I really want to do a book. I really want to shed in-depth detail on how I took a different approach to these matches, and just let Americans who love watching to really understand how that all broke down and enjoy the experience with me through my words. It was great.
For not hitting a shot, I'm getting a lot of satisfaction from something where I didn't even hit a shot. The players played great. I'm real proud of all of them. I think the Ryder Cup is a steppingstone to building careers. A lot guys I think laid some serious groundwork towards their features. That's the biggest stage in golf. 600 million people watched those matches, and they played great under the most extreme pressure.

Q. Could you describe what the last couple of weeks have been like. You threw out the first pitch at an American League playoff game; you visited the president at the White House; and I would imagine more than one person has offered you a free lunch. What's that like?
PAUL AZINGER: It's so different from winning the PGA Championship, for example. That's kind of just all about me. I've had more people say "thank you" than "congratulations" as it's all played out.
Going to the White House was a great privilege. Spending 20 minutes in the Oval Office with the president and having him show us artifacts in the oval office that have been there for years was really cool. It was cool to hear his kind of intimate kind of details and feelings from the heart about how he has tried to handle his presidency. That was a gift to us of us that was there. That was fantastic.
It's just been an unbelievable whirlwind for me. I haven't been that busy and I haven't tried to go out and exploit or capitalize yet on what could be out there. I've actually had the opportunity to kind of sit back and enjoy the fact that these guys pulled it off. Two years of hard work paid off. I'm glad that all the hard work, that turned out to be a positive I'm not getting ridiculed for overdoing it, which if we had lost I think probably would have happened.
Everything's been positive, and it's been amazing. I'm real happy we pulled this off.

Q. Nick has not quite had the same adulation since, and you're paired with him on Saturday. Do you feel for him to some degree? In sports, you're either a hero or not a hero.
PAUL AZINGER: You know, I haven't seen or talked to him. I don't know how he's affected by it, honestly. I don't know how I would have been affected had we lost, but it would've affected me.
I don't know how it affects him. He's a different personality than I am. I mean, I've seen him on the air a few times and he doesn't seem too fazed. Feeling one way or the other, you always feel bad for a guy that's been maybe unjustly criticized.

Q. Why have you kind of been laying low? I think you had the opportunity to do the Tonight Show and they threw Boo in there in your place. As much as he rocked, I suspect you would have held your own.
PAUL AZINGER: I don't know if I could have come up with the car keys and the portal, that story on the Tonight Show, to tell you the truth. I didn't want to go to L.A., and I didn't want to go to New York. Other than that, I just didn't want do it.
I didn't just feel like doing it. I love Jay Leno. In my book, Zinger, I was actually on a flight with Jay Leno coming back from doing chemo. I was weak and hadn't eaten but maybe ten grapes in four or five days because I had been so sick.
I can remember getting up to use the bathroom and then hitting some turbulence on my way back. I lost my balance and landed on Jay Leno. He's such a great guy. I would have loved to have gone on the show. But I had done so much I just felt like stepping back and relaxing going home. I'm glad the players were able to go out and do that sort of thing, Boo particularly.
It should be as much about those players -- way more about them than me. Like I say, I didn't hit a shot. Those guys did it all, and as a result I'm propped up. I felt like my goal, or responsibility is a better word, was to give them the best opportunity to be successful. I did that by trying to be a thorough as possible and getting them with the right guys that I felt like their personalities meshed.
I felt like, you know, having the ability to have the rough height where we wanted it, there's a lot of little things that I just was targeting to be give these guys the best opportunity to be successful, and then message them to play great and play aggressive.
You know, let them understand we we're on a free-roll. We were 6-1 underdogs in Europe. We're 2-3 underdogs over here. The handcuffs were off and they free wheeled and they played great. That was my responsibility.

Q. Have you had a lot of endorsement offers? Have you signed anything, or do you expect to soon?
PAUL AZINGER: With IMG now taking the reins, I do expect some endorsement offers. Right now I'm wide open to a lot of possibilities. If you want to ask somebody at IMG directly, they'll let you know what's available and if it's appropriate. I'm not out trying to sell myself or anything like that. I've never been like that.
But I do I want to share the story about what happened at the matches from my perspective. I feel like if 600 million people watched it, and there's a bunch here in this country, I think the inside scoop is a compelling story. I want it share it with people. I haven't done much. That's why I switched agents, so...

Q. Aaron, can you fill us in where you're at in your golf career right now? And do you remember much about Paul when he was more friends and going head to head with your dad?
AARON STEWART: Right now, I'm currently playing -- I'm a redshirted freshman in my sophomore year at SMU in Dallas, playing on the team out there. We got a really good group of guys. Going to be really good here shortly. We're a young team, but we're coming up. We got two great coaches so, it's going to be really exciting.
I can remember Paul being around and seeing him at tournaments. I mean, I grew up mostly with Josie and Sara Jean at the nurseries with my sister. I remember always our families being together all the time and stuff like that.
PAUL AZINGER: Were you the little kid that kept peeing in front of my girl?
AARON STEWART: I think that was Shaun O'Meara.

Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL AZINGER: I hope. I've done the Open Championship for the last two years for ABC, and now ESPN has taken over the event completely, all four days now. I'm excited about that possibility. I would love to do it again.

Q. Do you see yourself going on in the future though?
PAUL AZINGER: I have no idea. There's a new TV contract to be negotiated in probably four years or so, something like that. I don't think that's something I will address until further down the road.
Right now, the only place for me logically to end up would be at ESPN, and to do one or two a year would be fantastic. I turn 49 January, so I'll be able to play golf next year and prepare for senior tour. My hope is to be competitive next year. I would love nothing more than to get in contention and have a chance to win some tournaments next year. That's why I'm out there.
Of course, your first three or four years are going to be your best on the senior circuit as well. I feel like to pursue TV right now would be a mistake. I would rather let the TV contracts play out and see if there's a spot for me. If not, then I continue to play.

Q. Have you talked to anybody about what it's like to play on the Champions Tour?
PAUL AZINGER: I just know the scores are really low. I don't expect it to be a cake walk or like falling off a log, I can tell you that. I haven't talked to anybody directly. I know the scores are low, though. I watch. I look at the yardage that they're playing, and those guys still play terrific golf.

Q. You find people are recognizing who you are? Is it way different now?
PAUL AZINGER: I still haven't watched the Ryder Cup. I haven't seen it because I don't have a quality copy in my possession. I didn't drive around during those matches at any point wondering if I was on television. It was just one of those things. I had no idea if I was ever on or if I was always on. I'm sure it was somewhere in between.
So as I began to get out and I went to Las Vegas and I'm walking through casinos, it was obvious that I was on enough that a lot of people have begun to recognize me.
So it's changed completely.

Q. Even out of uniform?
PAUL AZINGER: Amazingly. I have even more vanity glasses to try to hide. No, I'm kidding. Fake mustache. It's really fun and exciting. I've had people shouting today, just the handful that are out there, "Thanks for bringing back the Ryder Cup." It's cool.

Q. Aaron, one of your dad's more famous practical jokes was when he stuck bananas in Zinger's loafers. How much have you seen your dad's golf game or swing? Have you looked back at it, and have you seen any similarities in your own game?
PAUL AZINGER: I'm working with the same coach, Chuck Cook out in Dallas. Chuck says that I have a much more modern swing. He had a really slow and classical swing. But Chuck's always laughing at random moments. I'm like, What are you laughing at? And he was like, Ah, your dad would have done the same thing.
There must be some similarities there, but I don't think our swings -- I mean, certain parts of the game are probably similar. I didn't play golf that much when he was alive, so it's probably harder for our swings to really be aligned. I think probably some of rhythm and hands around the greens and stuff is definitely genetics.

Q. After watching the celebration in the bunker at Deerfield, can you understand why your dad stuck bananas in his loafers?
AARON STEWART: Yeah. I think he was thinking that he probably can afford a new pair of shoes now.
PAUL AZINGER: You know, he's right. Payne, around the greens there's a lot of similarities. Honestly, you have a better putting stroke than your dad did. Just watching you yesterday, I was like, That is a perfect putting stroke. It's just beautiful.
Payne always struggled with his putting. Remember when he had his hands way up and then sometimes way down. He was a terrific putter in moments, and he turned out to be a really nice pressure putter, but Payne had a long arms. A long-arm swinger, like Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Payne Stewart, the long-arm guys had that long, flowing swing.
He doesn't have super long arms, and has like a more -- like you say, a modern swing. I think that's the big difference. But around the greens, chipping and pitching, he has the same gift. Payne was remarkable around the greens.
Any time you see that long, flowing swing, it's a guy with really long arms. It's an observation that's rarely made.
Loren Roberts, he can't reach the bottom of his pockets, you know. He's got really short arms. Doesn't make him cheap. It's just the tempo of the swing is not the same. That's the only difference really.

Q. Do your peers and teammates, friends, do they ask about your dad? Do they know about him? Are they too young to know all that he accomplished?
AARON STEWART: Yes and no. I mean, sometimes, every now and then, but not really. I'd say it's more just me as a person as their teammate. I'm just one of the people on the team, you know. We're all equal and we're all trying to get better as a team. Once we're all starting to mesh well together, the team is going to play better because of that, so...

Q. It's been like 50 years since somebody did the Ryder Cup back to back captaincy. Hogan a million years ago. Not putting you on the spot, but can you think of a reason why anybody wouldn't want to do that more than once? Is it that tough? The protocol has been one and done, I guess they just keep the revolving door. It's odd that it's been that long.
PAUL AZINGER: Well, Vijay asked me about doing it again on the range, and somebody said, Only one guy's done it back to back. Vijay blurted out, Yeah, but he had a good grip.
I mean, I don't know. You got to direct those questions -- anything regarding the future of the Ryder Cup and the captaincy to them. I don't want to step on their toes.

Q. You just offered us an anecdote about Vijay. I imagine you as a player see a side to him that we don't see. Can you describe what his personality is like?
PAUL AZINGER: You know, obviously, you know, there's a little bit of a disconnect between you and him. You know, Vijay is really funny, and I think in certain atmospheres he really is comfortable and becomes this person that you will never get to see, unless you're there in a different capacity. I think he's funny.
In a small group he's hysterical if he's comfortable. I think he makes people feel good about themselves. At the same time, he's a shit-giver, and he's good at it. I think he can take on that role. You don't get to see it.
He's very guarded around the press and careful with his words, for obvious reasons. So the general public isn't going to get to see it unless they're lucky enough to be in that small room with him. I just think his work ethic is something to be admired, and his desire to be great -- the guy's won 44 tournaments, is that right? That's just remarkable.
Like to me, for Phil Mickelson, for a guy to have won 33 some odd events and have anybody ridicule him for anything is just mind boggling to me. You can second guess the guy all you want, but for some reason there're two Phil Mickelsons? I don't get it.
The guy is the greatest left-handed player and arguably the greatest player that's ever lived, and there's this freedom to pound him in the press. I don't know why that is.
I guess at Winged Foot on Sunday, that was kind of like the mountain top rip job on Phil. If I was in the broadcast booth I would have set that up differently. I would have felt like, Oh, my gosh. Here we are on the last hole, 450 yards, and Phil hadn't hit a driver all day. He still remarkably has the lead, and unfortunately he's got to hit driver again here. Of course he hits a terrible drive.
Second shot was a mistake obviously, but it was set up differently. It was set up like you're really stupid if you hit driver here. The hole is 460 or something straight into the wind. Of course, obviously he hasn't hit a fairway all day and now he's going to hit a bad drive and choke. I think it's unfair.
Vijay gets the same kind of a rap sometimes. He's alienated himself from the press.

Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL AZINGER: Well, you know, I look at -- you can go on YouTube and type in Ben Hogan and about -- several things come up. You can click on one interview where Hogan said that he never felt like his swing was as good as the rest, and that he felt like if the fellows had to work two hours I had to work eight. When I noticed they started to work more, then I spent more time even in the hotel room working on my swing.
So Hogan, everybody wants to swing like Hogan. People are trying to teach like Hogan. Hogan did this or that. Well, you know, he worked harder than anybody else. That's Vijay. It's no fluke Vijay has accomplished what he has. It's through hard work.
We think there's this magical formula to success that Hogan had, because he did it because of repetition and work. He had a greater feel for his swing because he spent more time on the rock pile.
That's who Vijay is. He feels that inside. Maybe he feels like he has to work harder. And he does. He works harder than I can do, I can tell you that. The results are there. He works harder than anybody else. The results are earned. He should be respected.

Q. Is there no chance that you'll be Ryder Cup captain in 2010?
PAUL AZINGER: You know, I'm amazed that you would even ask me that question knowing my ability to dodge that.
I think that the PGA of America deserves to get that message out, whatever that message is. I'm not going say one way or the other. I'm not going to speculate. I'm not going there. All right. Thanks.

End of FastScripts

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