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October 27, 2004

Paul Azinger


TODD BUDNICK: We thank Paul Azinger for joining us here at the Chrysler Championship. Paul, No. 123 on the Money List. I think that's probably what most everybody has a question about to start out with. Not a too familiar place for you anyways. Just talk about your season and where you feel you are today.

PAUL AZINGER: Well, I'm a little surprised that I'm 123. I really didn't think 11 guys were going to go by me in the last three tournaments, but that's what's happened. I've got to play decent. I'm not in a desperate situation because I still have Top 125 all-time and Top 50 all-time money, I think, plus if I finish 127th or 128th or whatever, 126th, if I finish outside I still get 30 events, and I can probably squeeze an exemption from somebody, so it's not going to affect me. It might affect TPC is the only thing I can figure. Does 126 on the Money List get in 126 or does a guy from Tour school get into TPC?

TODD BUDNICK: There's an alternate list.

PAUL AZINGER: Plus I've got other things going on now.

Q. Is it just a pride thing, just to stay inside --

PAUL AZINGER: No, I mean, I want to do it. It would be nice to not have to call for an exemption or burn all-time money, but I've got to play good. It's a hard golf course. If I was playing great, I wouldn't be in this spot.

Q. Would you burn one anyways? Would you even play 25, 30 tournaments next year anyways?

PAUL AZINGER: No, next year I'll play between probably 18 and 22 like I do every year anyway. I've got several tournaments that I've won I can go to, no problem. Really, I'm not even really thinking about that much. It's not that much of a burden to me. I have been looking, I'm not ignoring it. I know where I stand.

But I just thought I was locked up a couple weeks ago. After Vegas, I thought, well, it's going to be hard for 11 people to go by me, but in reality, it's happening.

Q. You just said you've got some other things going on, too. Gee, what might those be?

PAUL AZINGER: I don't know.

Q. Let's get to the A-B-C of it.

PAUL AZINGER: I figure that's probably why you really want me in here.

Yeah, I think that had I played great, I probably wouldn't be looking at that in reality, but at the same time maybe I still would have looked at it, simply because it's the 18th tower. There's only three 18th towers in the major networks, and two of them are locked up, I think, for a long time. I don't see Lanny going anywhere, and I think Johnny Miller is going to stay there. I'm flattered that ABC wants to consider me. I went in there and did it at The Western, and it was kind of fun. Not the most fulfilling thing I think I'd ever do, but in the end it may end up being a nice option for me if I continue to struggle as a player.

I've negotiated it so that -- it looks like I'll be sharing about five tournaments or so with Nick Faldo next year, which that should be compelling enough I would think (laughter), and also I'm only going to have to do one event that I usually would play, and that would be Riviera.

So for the most part, my schedule won't change other than that I'll be away from the house 12 more weekends than I would be ordinarily.

Q. Would there be any that you'd play and work? Could you do that?

PAUL AZINGER: No, I will not do that. The only one I might do that would be Disney World because they want me to broadcast Disney, and I wasn't interested in that at all, but if I miss the cut at Disney, I'll broadcast. It's pretty much a full-time commitment the week that I broadcast. I'm not going to try to play. That's fair because the weeks that I'm going to broadcast -- the only other thing is if I do happen to qualify for some of the world events I'm not eligible for now, it's negotiated that they would just kind of rate my contract as per day or whatever.

But I'm excited about it. I think it's a little bit of a fork in the road for me, you know what I mean, and I kind of Y it off a little bit and I'm going to try it. I still believe I can play good golf. I still believe I can play exceptionally good golf actually.

I see a lot of improvement with my ball-striking. I changed coaches. It's a lot different, old dog, new trick kind of thing, and I'm trying to work through some things optically that are a lot different for me.

I started out nice, my short game was great at the beginning of the year, and then I needed to do one more big thing and that was flatten my swing, and I've struggled since I've flattened. My short game went away for a couple of months.

But my short game is better, I'm hitting it better and I still feel like I can compete in really big events. Right now I'm not in really big events as far as world events and majors and that type of thing. I'm not giving up as a player in any way, shape or form but I'm adding to my schedule a little bit by doing TV.

Q. Would you admit that a lot of people think it would be tough to keep your game at the level you want it while having another full-time job?

PAUL AZINGER: It's not a full-time job, though, because I only have to do the weekends. There's only a handful of events that I'll do four days, and I wasn't going to play those events anyway.

Actually, I think, if nothing else, it might keep me more interested in the game because normally when I don't play -- like I'll go away -- guys know I'll go away for five or six weeks twice a year, and I don't think about golf or watch golf or anything, so if anything it'll keep me more involved.

I'll have to do three tournaments on the West Coast, I think, San Diego, I'll do Riviera, then The Match Play, and then I don't do another tournament until May. It's not eating into my West Coast schedule at all, not eating into my Florida Swing, and then I take May off anyway, so it's really not going to affect my schedule much until the summertime.

Q. Are we talking in theory if you do this, or you're doing it?

PAUL AZINGER: I'm going to do it. I haven't signed on the dotted line, but unless they change their mind (laughter), I'm going to do it.

Q. Another fork in the road for you, you're mentioned every time the next Ryder Cup captain conversation comes up. Are you ready now?

PAUL AZINGER: No, I'm not going to do it, and partly because of ABC and partly because I think that I've done so much to my golf swing and my golf game, it may not look any different, but believe me, it's different. The way I think, everything is different. It's been a real challenge for me, it's kept me excited, it's kept me playing. I needed to make these changes because my back was killing me, and these are fundamentally correct things that I'm doing, and I think I'm going to be a better ball striker.

I don't want to give up on that to take on a job at ABC and be a Ryder Cup captain. I've put in too much effort. I've hit thousands of golf balls trying to do something different. I really believe I can actually be a little bit more committed to the game next year than I have been in the next two years because I'm doing golf because I'll be able to observe what winners are -- I think it's a game of perfect or whatever, like nobody misses a shot -- every guy I play with plays great it looks like to me, but just doing the Western Open, and I'm seeing the shots these guys are making an Sunday -- Steve Lowery finished 2nd and he hit some shots off-line.

I think it'll change my perspective hopefully a little bit, just keep me more in the game. I don't read about golf in magazines and I don't watch it on TV. I think maybe just being a little more connected to the game will probably be helpful. I've worked hard on my actual game. Being a broadcaster is something that I think will come natural to me and I'll just try not to state the obvious.

Q. Do you get the sense that --

PAUL AZINGER: I don't know, probably. I talked to M.G. about it, and I really just -- before he even had a chance to ask me, I just said that I'm just not quite ready to be the captain at age 47. I'd rather be 49 or 51. I'd rather just wait.

Hopefully I'll be a captain some day, it's just not going to be this time.

Q. What do you think about the philosophy of maybe getting a captain in their 50s as opposed to somebody who's mid or late 40s, the formula that they've been using, a guy who's out here and actually playing?

PAUL AZINGER: It's not a formula for success, so I just think that if you -- what's happened -- this is the way I look at it. Payne Stewart would be the logical choice for this next captaincy, but he's not here. There's a bit of a gap now. There's not an obvious choice, and you have several guys coming of age about the same time, and unless you make the decision to have the freedom to go into the 50s, then you're going to have to leave some people out.

I've talked with M.D. Orender about taking a little bit of the burden off themselves, and what you said is true. It's not a formula for success for some guy who's actively playing the Tour. It's not necessary. There's some guys to choose that are in their 50s. I think that's probably the direction they're going to go. I don't know for sure, though, I really don't. I don't know what they're going to do, I just know that I'm not going to be the captain.

Q. Can you appreciate the irony of you being in a TV booth now? I remember you thought Johnny Miller once was a big Mormon --

PAUL AZINGER: Biggest Mormon I've ever met (laughter). I won't be like a Johnny Miller type of a broadcaster at all. I hope no one looks for that. I'm very opinionated, but at the same time, I don't feel like after every shot is played, you need to ask a question, or before every shot is played, you need to ask a question. Could he chip that in? Could he this? Just philosophically I think the way NBC and Johnny approaches it and the way CBS does it, and I think ABC needs to elevate. ABC is third in a three-horse race and I think they want to do everything they can to elevate their broadcast.

I don't think Nick Faldo and I can rescue alone that broadcast. I think other things need to happen for NBC to step up and do it right. That's part of what Mark Loomis wants to do, and I think ABC wants a top-notch broadcast that can maybe steal the ratings.

Q. You've looked at what Curtis and Hal have gone to the last four years leading up to and during and after the Ryder Cup. Is there going to be a point where there's going to be some reluctance to be a captain, all the scrutiny and all the criticism you have to deal with?

PAUL AZINGER: It just doesn't seem that hard to me. I mean, I understand that there's a lot of things you have to do behind the scenes, but people there at the PGA of America have great organizational skills that I don't have, and I'll just pick out some nice clothes (laughter) and some nice gifts and see who makes the team. For the most part, I think a captain should adapt to the personality of the players that are on the team and try to treat each individual as an individual and maybe try to get them to enjoy it a little bit more possibly.

Q. Do you think the captain is asked to do too much?

PAUL AZINGER: I don't know. I mean, it's possible that you're at a point where -- see, I think the captain can generate a lot of revenue for himself. I don't think you need to pay the captain. I mean, the captain I think is the guy that you want to come and speak to your corporation, and he can generate some revenue that way. What did you ask me?

Q. Are they doing too much? They just talk about for two years they're doing this and that.

PAUL AZINGER: I don't know what they're asking them to do. I don't know how many times they have to leave the home and go down to West Palm Beach. I don't know. I can't imagine. I would think that you can be a captain and say I'll see you in October -- I'll see you in September when the bell rings. Here, I like that shirt and those pants. What's my budget for gifts? Okay, I'll see you guys in September. You could do it that way.

Curtis had the real burden because he had the extra year, and Hal poured his heart and soul into it. He just did. That's his personality. I know it took a lot out of him because he was playing great when he was picked and then he didn't play as well. I don't think it would take as much out of me because my personality is pretty much, pfff, they may not want me (laughter). It wouldn't take as much out of me I don't think.

Q. You mentioned the idea of maybe going to guys in their 50s. The name that's come up a lot recently is Larry Nelson. What are your thoughts about him? He was a guy that sort of missed out.

PAUL AZINGER: He was the guy that kind of got skipped over. Actually they could have had Larry Nelson as captain at age 49 and then Kite and Crenshaw and Watson all could have been captain and they all still could have been 49. But for whatever reason they jumped over Larry Nelson for maybe Watson.

Q. Actually it was Kite, I think, in Spain.

PAUL AZINGER: Kite was after Watson? I thought where they made the mistake was picking Watson when they did. I thought Larry Nelson should have been the captain and then Watson and then Kite and Crenshaw, in that order, and I think if you'll look, every one of those guys would have been 49 years old. They didn't do that, so every one of them was 47 years old, and Larry Nelson was the guy that missed out.

I think they could right a wrong. I don't know if that's why they would do it. I mean, he's the perfect guy. He's as deserving as anybody to be the captain, two-time PGA, one-time U.S. Open champion, and he's got a great demeanor. The Christine Brennans of the world are waiting to rip us for flying around, flying to the Ryder Cup and getting our ass kicked and then getting on a private plane and flying out like I don't care.

Well, the last time I checked Darren Clarke wasn't flying Continental Airlines, either, but the reality is that their format for picking the teams has been more current, and that's the reason that they've outplayed us. We had Todd Hamilton winning a British Open head to head against Ernie Els and winning head to head against Davis Love and winning all those tournaments in Japan and he's not playing on the Ryder Cup team? Our system might be bad.

In the end, if you look at how they were playing -- I looked at that sheet and saw a list of those names. I said, "How can Europe not be favored to win this?" That was my first thought. It was obvious to me. They were all hotter. It was just a more current list.

Our players are spectacular, more great names. They weren't quite as hot. It wasn't a huge upset to me. The way it went about, the lopsidedness, was a shock.

So I talked to M.G. about updating the system, trying to make it more current so the hotter players would be on the team.

Q. Do you think you were the only one that talked to him about that?

PAUL AZINGER: No, I'm sure I wasn't the only one.

Q. What did he say?

PAUL AZINGER: He's real open-minded. They hate losing, believe me. Those guys hate losing.

Q. It's too late, you can't change it now, can you, once you start the process?

PAUL AZINGER: I'm sure that the next Ryder Cup if they want to, they can change it.

Q. Well, the points have already started.

PAUL AZINGER: It doesn't matter. They can make an announcement next week that next year's points are different and then the year after that's points are different yet.

Q. I know people would say it's like changing a tee box.

PAUL AZINGER: You tell me what winning this tournament or -- Mike Hulbert winning this tournament has to do with the Ryder Cup two and a half years from now.

Q. I agree, I just don't know if they can change once they start the rules.

PAUL AZINGER: Well, they started right after the PGA.

Q. They went the other way, made it a longer period now instead of a shorter.

PAUL AZINGER: That's bass-ackwards.

Q. Vijay's year, where would you rank it? Put it in some kind of context as far as what he's accomplished this year.

PAUL AZINGER: Well, to me it's every bit as good as Tiger's nine-win season, I think. I'm not sure how many majors Tiger won in his nine-win season.


PAUL AZINGER: So it's not quite as good, but it's remarkable really. I never in my lifetime I thought I'd see guys winning more than three or four times. When Wayne Levi won four times, to me, that just blew me away. As a matter of fact, when I won three times, Bert Yancey said that that was the equivalent of winning six or seven times in his heyday, and now you've got guys doing what they're doing. It just blows me away.

It's Tiger Woods without the charisma is what it is.

Q. Is that what ABC wants from you?

PAUL AZINGER: I don't want to be critical of anybody in a way that is not -- at someone else's expense. I don't want to rip some guy for taking his club out of the bag and leaving his brain in the bag, even if that's what he just did.

Q. Will you do any TV classes, coaching or anything, or this is who I am, this is my wit?

PAUL AZINGER: If they ask me to, I'll do whatever. If I have like a crummy accent and they want me to change it, I'll change it. I'll do whatever they want me to do, but I don't think they're going to ask me to do any of that.

I think that they're hoping that I'll just be myself. That's what I hope they're hoping for. If they want me to go to finishing school or read the dictionary or whatever, I'll just read the dictionary. I think Mark Loomis is kind of counting on me to just be creative and opinionated off the air, as well, just give me some ideas, let's just step this up a notch, not just in the booth but maybe even off the air.

Q. Was there a lot of debate in your mind to make this decision, or was it "I'm ready for something like this?"

PAUL AZINGER: It was brutally difficult. I didn't say I want to do TV now. They talked to me last year and I wasn't interested at all. I shouldn't say I wasn't interested; I listened because I was curious, but it just wasn't the right deal at the right time, and Curtis was still in the 18th tower at that time. I have never seen anybody go from walking the fairways to the 18th tower. I've never seen anybody go from the 16th hole to the 18th tower, and I was just determined I wasn't going to do anything about the 18th tower if I ever did it, and then it became available. So I looked at it more intently, but I also knew I wasn't going to do 18 or 20 events.

I felt like I've worked too hard on my golf game. I'm seeing really great strides that I've made in my ball-striking, and my back doesn't hurt for the first time. It hasn't hurt all year. The last three years I pulled out of six or seven events because of my back, then I play tournaments I don't want to play. So I looked at it and just talked to Loomis about chiseling it down from 20 to 12. I've got two one-days I'm doing, as well, and it worked out.

Q. How many events did you broadcast this year?

PAUL AZINGER: Just one. I'm going to do the Tour Championship next week.

Q. You did the Western Open earlier?

PAUL AZINGER: No, the Cialis Western Open. You can't just say the Western Open (laughter).

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you, Paul.

End of FastScripts.

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