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April 23, 2004

Paul Azinger


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Paul Azinger, thanks for joining us, rebounding from a first round 73 with a great round today, 67, and there's not a lot of low scores out there today. Maybe some comments about the conditions of the golf course and how you played.

PAUL AZINGER: Well, the golf course I think is perfect. We played with virtually no wind for probably seven holes, six holes, and then it started to pick up and get pretty gusty. It's very difficult now.

But really the big difference for me was putting between the two rounds. I putted quite bad yesterday. I probably had eight straight rounds where I putted really poorly, and I putted great the first six tournaments or so I played, but today I putted really well again, and it made all the difference. I could have shot a really good score yesterday. I actually hit it a little better yesterday, probably more greens in regulation and more fairways yesterday. It's all about putting, chipping and putting.

Q. You started the year well and hit sort of a lull. I'm just wondering what your frame of mind or mind set was coming in here, what you're kind of looking at to try to turn things around.

PAUL AZINGER: You know, I made every cut up until Doral. I made the cut at Doral, and I made like a triple bogey from a green side bunker at Honda and missed the cut by one. I didn't really want to play Bay Hill, but my dad wanted me to. He doesn't watch me play much anymore, so I used Bay Hill almost as a throwaway week to change my swing. I've been working with Jim Hardy since October of last year, and I've made some significant changes, and all the while trying to avoid hitting the inside of the ball and trying to get more of the back of the ball, but felt predisposed to the inside of the ball because of my shaft at the top of my back swing, that it needed to be flatter. I was way better at getting the back of the ball, but I thought Bay Hill would be a good week to try to get it flatter.

He had a full-proof way of doing it, but I hated it because it was just very difficult, but I probably flattened at Bay Hill by 10 or 15 inches. He was proud of me because most guys, it's hard to get their shaft to budge an inch.

I would say the last three events I've played, I've been too wrapped up in my swing. Focusing mainly on my long game and my big shots, I've kind of ignored my short game, which has been pathetic the last three events. I actually went to see Bob Rotella the other day, and he kind of reminded me of the importance of your scoring clubs and all that. He said your swing change is good and everything -- it is good. I needed to do it mainly because of my back. The way I was swinging, my back has been killing me for three or four years.

As a matter of fact, I did hit 1,500 balls a few weeks ago in like four or five days, and my back didn't hurt at all, so I've done the right thing in that regard and pretty much decided this week I was going to work on my scoring clubs, and it made a big difference.

I got some balls up and down today that I probably wouldn't have gotten up and down last week, and my technique has improved.

Q. I would imagine you've had probably more advice thrown your way over the past X number of years, well-meaning advice. I'm just wondering, talk about the process you've gone through over the years, sifting through the advice and dealing with all the things that you've dealt with.

PAUL AZINGER: Normally, I pretty much consider myself the anti-model. I would say that after I got sick, I had about three or four years there where I was pretty bad, and then I had a nice stretch where I got myself back into the top 20th World Rankings.

I won Hawaii, and I had another stretch where I started to drop off again. I made 25 straight cuts at one point a few years ago, so that's been good, but through it all, I really haven't been getting a whole lot of advice from anybody that I didn't seek out. And really none of it was helping, except for the mental part of it was helpful, until I saw Jim Hardy, then it really started to pay dividends for me, and I recognized what he was saying was true, and I believe him.

That's why I came out this year pretty much with a new attitude and a better game, and I told my caddie I was real sure I couldn't say about it and didn't want to talk about my swing, and that's how I started the year. I realized there was one more thing that needed to be done, and that was the flattening part of the shaft, and I made the commitment and thought if I want a chance to win a U.S. Open or British Open or PGA, I want to be more accurate and get the shaft around me. When I used to play well it used to be flatter. As I've struggled, the shaft has gone more and more vertical like this.

I thought Bay Hill was a good week to do it. I suffered for that span, but nobody really volunteers advice out here, you have to go seek it out. People know better, I think.

Q. Are you comfortable with the changes now -- (inaudible)?

PAUL AZINGER: It could probably be a little flatter than where it was. I'm real comfortable right now that I'm not going to be just completely swing-conscious on the golf course, but you have to have some keys. Everybody has a few keys, and I'm just working on a couple keys, and I think I'm going to be just a little bit more effective than I was when I was up there.

Q. Did you also change your posture?

PAUL AZINGER: Yeah. Well, that was the first thing that he fixed, was getting me more bent over and keeping my shoulders kind of in front of my hips throughout the swing instead of standing up and letting my right shoulder go closer to my body.

Q. Does that help you -- (inaudible)?

PAUL AZINGER: Yeah, it gets you flatter, but it keeps me from going to the inside of the ball and hurting my back. I kept my right shoulder that way more, which keeps me rotating, and it took all the pressure off my lower body. It was real helpful. I got immediate results. Jim Hardy is the kind of guy, I said, I've never even thought anything like that before. He says, well, this isn't going to take six months. If you're not hitting it better in the next five or ten minutes I'm telling you wrong. It was good advice and it helped me. That said two things to me: It said I'm going to -- he's going to give me good information, and he thinks I'm good enough to do it.

I think anybody out here who has a talent is either getting good information or bad information, and I think that most of us out here could jump through a hula hoop and swing if that was a perfect technique to hit good shots, but it's not, so we would try it and try it and if someone says that's the way I need to do it, you wouldn't hit good shots. The golf ball is going to tell you if the information is good or not.

My point is, I guess, that most -- I would say just about everybody out here has the skill to produce whatever someone is asking them to do in a matter of minutes, and it shouldn't take weeks and weeks or months.

Q. How hard has the mental side of having to deal with having been in the top handful of players in the Tour, a guy who wins a major, falling to the bottom, coming back up again?

PAUL AZINGER: I mean, it's the hardest part. I've been like crashing rock bottom maybe three full times really since I got sick, I guess, because when I first came out I was great and then I just was awful and then I got okay and then I got awful, then I got actually pretty good, and for a point got really bad again last year.

The hardest thing is -- you think experience will make you play good, but it's experience with desire. None of us can see ourselves, so we have to have good information. If you're not getting good information, it doesn't matter how strong your desire is. Every one of us out here has somebody telling us what to do with their swing for the most part. I think mentally when you've gotten to a point at my age where you don't have to do it anymore -- probably I don't have to do it, then I think desire becomes like the big thing. A guy like Jay Haas, he still wants to make the Ryder Cup team. He has a chance to do it. Then you look at Johnny Miller whose desire left him early on. If Johnny Miller would have played and played and played, I'm sure he would have won 15 or 10 more times if he wanted to, but he lost his desire.

Q. Where was your desire as of last fall?

PAUL AZINGER: My desire was as strong as ever, but my information wasn't good.

Q. When the conditions changed like they did today from start to the middle, how do you accommodate for the wind? What changes do you make out there? Are you less aggressive?

PAUL AZINGER: Well, you're just kind of running on instincts when it gets windy like that. Sometimes the wind was almost beneficial for me because I wasn't so swing-conscious. You're just trying to get it done. If you're in the middle of an intersection and someone said grab your 4-iron and break that yellow light on that streetlight right there, I guarantee you wouldn't have swing thought trying to do it, just put the ball down on the cement and whack it.

Q. How did you come to seek out Jim?

PAUL AZINGER: Jim Hardy? I kind of was getting some second-hand information from another play, and then Tom Pernice and his caddie and Peter Jacobson and Scotty McCarron said you've got to go see Jim Hardy, because everyone recognized I was in trouble. My swing was just not functional. He was kind enough to work with me. He's not really -- I don't even think he fancies himself a teacher because he only works with guys he feels -- when he feels like doing, it for the most part. He's got several guys that he'll work with any time, but he's really not allowing too many other players to -- he just doesn't have time. He's really busy in golf course design and all that. He did this golf course.

Q. Can you talk about Jay's desire to try and make the Ryder Cup team? What sort of goals do you put out there for yourself at this stage? Where do you see yourself?

PAUL AZINGER: Well, I've never tried to make or pick a particular result as a goal. I mean, I would never say I want to be the lead money winner or I want to win this or I want to win that. I would never say that. I would just say that my desire is to be the most focused guy. That's the way I've always done my goals. And then the results take care of themselves, they just happen. I've never been really specific even in my mind, certainly not audibly, about what my goals are, not targeting that events. You know what I mean?

I did mention, you know, that I want to have a chance to play better in a U.S. Open, and that's why I made the decision to flatten my swing, because I thought that was going to be a functional improvement, but clearly I want to do well in that event. That would be great.

Q. Is your ball flight markedly different after the swing changes?

PAUL AZINGER: Way different. It's whatever I want now, compared to -- I only had thin and low. Now I have a lot more variety. My potential, my ability to put the ball on a desired tread if I get in trouble. I hit a shot over the tree yesterday on No. 6. I could have never gotten over the tree, ever, in my whole career. I hit it to 10 feet.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Let's go over your score card and then we'll take a question or two. Birdied the par 5, 12.

PAUL AZINGER: I hit a 3-iron, 40 feet, two putts.

14, I drove it in the right rough, caught an okay lie, hit a beautiful 6-iron about 15 feet.

15, I hit a 3-iron past the pin on the right about 40 feet, knocked it seven feet by, made it. I was glad to make it because I four-putted that hole yesterday.

16, I hit a great drive there and hit a 4-iron probably maybe 10 feet.

18, I drove it in the right rough with a 3-wood and hit a 7-iron a foot.

2, hit a 3-wood down the middle, hit a pitching wedge about five feet.

Only bogey of the day, par 3, third, in the rough, and pitched it about 12 feet. I made some good putts coming in.

7, I had to chip out of the right rough again and hit sand wedge from 85 yards, probably seven or eight feet, made that.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Paul Azinger, thank you.

End of FastScripts.

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