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January 15, 2005

Paul Azinger


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Paul, thank you for joining us. You're right in the hunt entering the final round of the Sony Open in Hawaii, just two shots off the lead. Talk about your day and your week; a great one for you so far.

PAUL AZINGER: I played really well all three days. The conditions were harder the first day than they were yesterday, and actually probably a little harder today than they were yesterday. So two hard days and one decent day sandwiched in between.

You know, everybody thinks I'm good because it's windy and I fly the ball low and all that, and that's true, but I've been really bad in the wind for a while because I have not hit the ball solidly.

So it doesn't matter if you hit it high or low. If you make good, solid contact, I think you can play in the wind. My low flight this week has been functional and its worked nicely because I'm making good, solid contact on all of those low-balls. Everything is pretty steady so far.

Q. What kind of conditions do you hope for tomorrow?

PAUL AZINGER: I don't really -- anything. I like this, actually. I hope it stays. I just think, you know, when I hit it in the rough here, it seems like I know what to do when the wind is blowing. I'm just not pulling for anything one way or another. But if it stays like this, I'll be fine. I'll be happy.

Q. Does success in the past here give you confidence?

PAUL AZINGER: Yes. I honestly feel like if it's my time to do it, I'll do it. I said it the year, I won this tournament if it's right for me to win, I'll win it. I have not gone ahead of myself.

The only time I've looked back and regretted anything is not hitting a better pitch on the last hole today. I was trying to fly that ball about 30 yards in the air, about one or two yards short of the pin and just sort of stop it. I think in the last second, I didn't want to be five feet past. So it's the only shot I've looked back on the whole tournament and wished I would have done better. Even my really lousy shots, I feel fine.

Q. Any similarities to the year you won?

PAUL AZINGER: No. The year I won, I was five shots ahead and I led the whole way. There was a lot more importance on it, really, because I had not won a tournament since I got sick, and it meant that I would make it all the way back if I would have won in 2000, which I did. Had I not, then I'd be in that boat right now and you'd be saying, "well, are you close to all the way back." Once I one that tournament, that question went away.

Tomorrow, I really just want to do what I did the first three days. Hopefully I'll be swinging the same. Just try to execute the first shot.

Q. Would you have guessed this was coming this week?

PAUL AZINGER: Yeah, I felt good coming here, I really did. I had a little angst because I have been feeling good and then not being able to play well, you know, in spots the last year, but I really -- I commented the first day in here that I had butterflies, which is good. Because without them I don't think you can perform simply because I don't think you have a chance. I don't think -- I think you have a chance. A lot of reasons I had butterflies, really, the first tournament of the year, you want to get off to a good start. There's a lot of reasons. Michelle is here; you don't want her to smoke you. (Laughter.)

Now here I am, but I really prepared I think properly in the off-season, and I came here with a mindset hoping that I would be in this position. I think mentally, in 2000, I was less ready in case I got in contention, and I think now I might be a little more ready in case there's a few holes to go to be in that spot. I'm real happy because I did have a good off-season.

Q. Is Tad Ridings forgiven if you win tomorrow?

PAUL AZINGER: He's forgiven anyway. I got an exemption to Doral and Phoenix. I hope he's forgiven.

Q. After you've won here, what were your expectations, and would you have thought you had not won again until possibility of tomorrow?

PAUL AZINGER: After I won here, I made it all the way to the Top 20 in the World Rankings and I stayed there for a while. It wasn't until two years ago -- 2003 is when I had my really bad year and last year I finished 126th. Those are really the only two horrendous years I've had since I've been on TOUR.

Two years ago, my back was really bad and I pulled out of probably seven or eight tournaments because of my back. I made a swing change at the end of 2003 and my back has not affected me one single bit since then. I've bent over more from the waist and took less pressure off my lower back somehow, and that's made the big difference for me.

Last year, I was in the midst of a lot of different things I was trying to do and I became more of a technical player. And I'm not a technical player; I'm kind of a feel player, and I would like to have no lessons this year, you know, or maybe one or two.

Tiger, well, he's getting lessons, he's third on the Money List and I'm 123 shots or spots worse, so just wasn't good for me. I hit a lot of balls -- I didn't hit a lot of balls; I played a lot of golf in the off-season. In fact, I played many rounds where I just went to the first tee and didn't even warm up. So I'm trying to own what I'm doing and not trying to feel it on the range and hope I've got it on the course.

Q. The 40-something-year-old guys on the leaderboard, any explanation for that?

PAUL AZINGER: Maybe just experience. I think play is a factor on this course because of the greens and the way to play shots. The reality that you're not going to hit fairways is something that all of us know. You're just not going to hit the fairway here, you can't. You hit good drives and they roll in the rough. That's just the way it is.

So, mainly I think probably on the greens, older players, they understand the greens a little better than somebody who is first-timing it.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Paul, thanks.

End of FastScripts.

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