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January 13, 2005

Paul Azinger


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Paul Azinger, past champion here at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Thank you for joining us for a couple of minutes this afternoon. First round 67, 3-under par, one shot off the lead as of right now heading into round two. If we could start with some opening comments, a good day for you.

PAUL AZINGER: Good day. Real hard wind. This is the wind -- you know, traditionally the scores are much higher. I think usually single digits wins in this wind. The other wind, the dead opposite wind, 18-under wins. I just felt like starting out that par was a good score on every hole, and it was howling out there. I mean, it just howled. A couple lulls there at the very end of our round, which was kind of a nice break.

But all in all, real happy. The golf course shaped up nice. I played on Sunday and it was sopping wet and the fairways looked terrible. And then I played on Tuesday morning, really, really early and it was still wet and the fairways looked terrible. I didn't get in the Pro-Am, and I guess Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday it dried out nice. The fairways were playable, and greens are perfect every year.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: You jumped right out of the gate with birdies on the first three holes, including the first hole which a lot of people were saying plays like a par 5.

PAUL AZINGER: It is a par 5. (Laughter.) At least it was for 20-something years.

I was nervous today because I was hitting it decent and I just wanted to start off well. I was nervous on my first drive and I hit a low, frozen rope right down the middle and had 215 to the hole or something and was smart enough to go to the right of the bunker. I didn't think it would carry with a 3-iron; and it would have, actually, but had about a 35-footer, big breaker and it went in.

And then the second hole, I decided on Tuesday I was going to play aggressive for the most part, and I hit -- normally would hit an iron downwind there, but hit a 3-wood and killed it. And had just a sand wedge in there and hit it about four feet and made that.

I hit a decent drive on 3. I think I had 162, and dead into the wind; it was ripping and I had smoked a 6-iron about two inches from the hole.

Then I hit it six feet on the next hole and missed. So I got off to a great start.

7, I hit a beautiful 8-iron, just went a little too far. I only missed two greens today all day long and I bogeyed both holes.

I birdied 9. I 2-putted from probably 35 feet, something like that.

My only bad drive of the day was on 12. I sliced it off to the right and was on an upslope and couldn't really punch it out very well, and I came up way short. And then I flopped it way short of the green again and chipped it up, gimmee, made bogey.

Then 13, hit it in the left-hand rough, had a perfect lie, about 45 feet and 3-putted.

Good 3-wood on off 15, a sand wedge to 15, 16 feet.

And then 18, I bombed a drive, and had 235 front and hit 3-wood in the right bunker got up-and-down. Hit it about a foot.


Q. You said you were nervous on the first tee. Is that because you were anticipating that you could play well and you just didn't know if it would happen in the conditions?

PAUL AZINGER: Pretty much. I mean, I had a good off-season. I really didn't hit balls the whole off-season, but I played almost every single day. I played a lot of golf, I really did. I think that I know what I want to do. I don't want to be a ball-beater. I know what I want to do with my swing.

I don't know, I didn't want to get off to a bad start today. I just wanted to get off to a good start, and I just had some butterflies today, which is good. Like normally the end of the year, I didn't have any butterflies because I knew I was playing so bad. It felt good to be a little nervous.

Q. As much as you dish it out and have dished it out your entire career, how much would you have taken if you'd finished behind a 15-year-old girl?

PAUL AZINGER: From my friends at home, probably quite a bit. There's no guarantee that I still won't, so I'm not going to let up. She's phenomenal.

There's no shame in losing to her. We were talking about it today on 17. One guy in my group was 5-over with two to go and he birdied the last two holes, and Ted Purdy saw me the other day, and was grinding not to let Michelle beat him. I said, "No shame lose to go that girl. She's awesome." She hits it like a man.

Q. You came in earlier and said that you're not -- that you're not a part-time player, but you're a part-time announcer. A lot of people think when you go to the booth that your career is on its downswing.

PAUL AZINGER: Well, my career is on its downswing, but I'm not giving up at all. I want to change that, guys going to the booth and then bellying up. Peter Jacobsen came to the booth and came out of the booth and played great. Bob Murphy went to the booth and then went the Senior Tour, played great. Who else?

Q. Trevino.

PAUL AZINGER: Trevino did it, too. As poorly as I played at the end of last year, and being that it's the third time I've been offered an opportunity to work with one of the networks, I just felt like, you know, if I didn't -- I just wanted to look harder at it. But I didn't want to do 20 broadcasts. I negotiated down to 12; that way I can still be a full-time player. I still want to be a full-time player. I'm still exempt on this tour for career money and that sort of thing, and I just feel like I can still compete, I really do.

But last year, I didn't compete very well and the year before that I was worse. I think Jay Haas is kind of inspiring everybody. He had a couple of years where he didn't play very good, and he kicked it into gear and now he plays well every week.

I just felt like pulling a little double-duty might be good for me.

Q. Are you a goal-oriented type person? Would you set goals at the beginning of the year with regards for the season?

PAUL AZINGER: No. I always kind of lied about it and said I did have goals but I really didn't, because I thought you were supposed to. (Laughter.) Seriously.

I mean, honestly, I just -- my goal, if I were to say I have any goals is to not get a lot of lessons, to try to stay as much in the very present as I can as a player. That's it. Just as simple as it can be. I'm not thinking I want to win. I would like to win a tournament and be a broadcaster, not a goal; that's a result of trying to be in the present and one shot at a time. There's a process that it takes to win and it's just very difficult to do. Especially now, now it's just all about power, not accuracy. Just got to bomb it now. I'm not going to bomb it anymore. I used to bomb it.

Q. If you had your choice and you could only be in one, would you rather be at THE TOUR Championship in November or Kapalua next year?

PAUL AZINGER: Are you kidding me?

Q. Are you about to make fun of me?

PAUL AZINGER: Yeah. (Laughter.)

Q. Go ahead.

PAUL AZINGER: I would rather be at Kapalua. I could care less about THE TOUR Championship.

Q. Was looking at it from the standpoint of being consistently?

PAUL AZINGER: I'd rather just get red-hot one week, and then I think if that happens, then your confidence soars and then you stay consistent. But I would rather just get red-hot. I'd just to just be red-hot here to be honest.

Q. Who do you think, as a broadcaster, who do you think had a better year, someone who finished 20th on the Money List and was there every year, or someone who won Reno-Tahoe -- I'm not picking on Vaughn Taylor -- but an opposite-field event?

PAUL AZINGER: Probably it's a toss-up I think. But I think the bottom line is, you might look at the money and say, my goal is to make money, and the guy who had the best year is the guy who made the most money, not the guy who won the opposing event. The bottom line is, you're here to make money, even though you don't think about the money, that's what you try to do.

But, you know, there's not a greater feeling than winning. So it's kind of a toss-up.

Q. And are you career-exempt this year or did you go with 26-50?

PAUL AZINGER: I'm 26-50. I think I was Top-25 at start of last year and dropped out. I would like to play well enough to get back in that.

Q. You've never used one, have you?

PAUL AZINGER: I didn't use my Top-50 because I felt like my first year, I finished 126th; and just write a sad little note to all the sponsors: "Finished a disappointing 126th on the Money List, I really like your tournament, may I please play."

Q. Is that how it went?

PAUL AZINGER: Well, so far, I've only asked for two and I got them both; Phoenix where I won and Bob Hope.

I called the guy at Doral, maybe I'll get in that one. I'm in Bay Hill because I won there; that's a lifetime exemption.

I don't know how many I'm going to need. If I get off to a good start this year, I might not need any. I don't know how it works. I've not researched it or anything. I'm not stressed about it. Tad Ridings, I don't know what he looks like, but I just know he knocked me off the Tour, you know. (Laughter.) But it meant a lot more to his life. It changed his life a lot more than it changed mine, you know. Plus I think I jacked a short putt here last year that allowed Vijay to keep his Top-10 streak alive, and that putt ended up costing me my card. So it was my own fault. (Laughter.)

Q. That's good.

PAUL AZINGER: That's true. I thought about all of the putts when I was in -- because I had like three Top 10's, like right away. And I thought, "Did I miss a big putt on any of those?" Hawaii I did, I missed one; it might have been it.

Q. Sometimes when players go to the booth and they watch a whole tournament, which they usually don't do at home, and they certainly don't go out here because they are playing, they gain some information, learn a little more about what's really happening out there and see things that may end up helping them. In the limited time that you've been with ABC, have you gleaned anything from that?

PAUL AZINGER: Not yet. I mean, the guys that were winning, you know, like Goosen was almost flawless when he shot 64 and won THE TOUR Championship. Tiger was almost flawless on Sunday at the Target thing. I think that hopefully I can go in the booth -- because I think I got it in my head last year, two years ago maybe, that perfection was attainable. I played with these guys the first two days and somebody shoots stupid good and is leading the tournament it seems like every week I get paired with anybody.

Then you see what Vijay is doing. You get this mindset when you're making changes that you can attain Ben Hogan-like perfection. But in reality, Ben Hogan said that when he started playing better, he quit striving for that. If you're a perfectionist, you're toast.

Vijay, letting it get away; and then Ernie making a mistake; and Tiger not getting it done; you know, none of us are incapable of mistakes. I think I just had gotten to the point where I felt like I was the only guy making catastrophic errors in my swing and ball-striking and all that.

I initially said, to get to your question, I felt like going to the booth would be good for me for two reasons. No. 1, when I take five or six weeks off, I have to call the Tour to find out who won to find out who to congratulate, because I completely go away; and I won't be doing that, because I'll be broadcasting in my six weeks off.

And I can watch guys play and realize they are not playing before golf and they are still winning. But the two tournaments I broadcast they were playing pretty perfect, so it wasn't helping me much. Guys didn't miss a fairway or a green. No wonder I can't play good. (Laughter.)

But, no, really, I'm just trying to just be one shot at a time. My technique is a little better and we'll see what happens. Hopefully I can do both really well.

Q. This course, you've always played well.

PAUL AZINGER: That's another thing. I do play decent here most of the time, but I've still missed some cuts here, too, recently. So it's not a given that I will play well here. It's hard. This is a hard wind and it played really difficult today I thought. The pins I thought were very tough. No. 1 was the left pin where it always is, but it was about six feet further back than normal which made the putt break way more.

I also thought the pins were tricky today.

Q. Are you more nervous tomorrow now than you normally would be because of all the things you've talked about?

PAUL AZINGER: I don't know. I think if I'm not nervous, I'm hurting a little bit. You want to have that -- nervousness is like, just some butterflies, you want a few butterflies, the anticipation of what's to come can be good. I'm not gut-wrenching nervous, I just was a little nervous. And I haven't been a little nervous for a long time because I haven't really -- I was a little nervous here last year I remember and I played well. I finished in the Top-10 here last year and I think I finished in the Top-10 at the Bob Hope.

But then I made another change in March of last year and only was in contention a couple more times, and they were in May at Houston and New Orleans. So it's been quite a while since I've had any hope of catching a butterfly, you know.

I said to someone, John Hawkins was asking me something the other day about broadcasting, and I just told him, "Broadcasting doesn't make me nervous. It's easy for me because I just like to talk." I said, "When I come to think about it, if I thought hard about it, I really -- only money I ever made, I made nervous." That's just what I'm used to. If I'm not nervous, I'm not making any money, so I'm playing too bad to be nervous, that's all.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Paul, thanks a lot.

End of FastScripts.

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