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August 21, 2001

Paul Azinger


TODD BUDNICK: We'd like to thank Paul Azinger for joining us in the World Golf Championships NEC Invitational press room. I'm sure everybody is interested in hearing about your recent selection to the Ryder Cup team.

PAUL AZINGER: I'm really excited about the opportunity to return to that level of competition. That's the main thing. You know, I'm happy Curtis decided I was worthy. I recognize that he jumped me ahead of several very good players, to pick me. He went past some really good players. You know, I'm just really happy that I have the opportunity, but at the same time, I feel for those guys and their disappointment. So, I'm just going to try to be totally prepared when I show up there at that Ryder Cup and do the best I can. I'm confident in my ability. I'll probably have more confidence now in my game than I've ever had. I don't know how else to say it. I've had people, even at the U.S. Open this year -- I finished fifth at the U.S. Open, and I had a couple guys from the media asking me, you know, how close I am to returning back to form, and I'm like -- I actually feel that I'm playing better now than I ever have in my life. I think in the past, maybe I got red hot a little more often with my putter, red hot, I don't know. But day-in, day-out, I feel I'm more consistent than I've ever been. I'm excited to go out there and play on the opportunity of that level, kind of under microscope in that format.

Q. Will it help you at The Belfry, considering in '93, Watson thought so much of you that he put you out in that shotgun position against Faldo in the last match?

PAUL AZINGER: You know, the thing about the Belfry that I think will help me is the fact that I've been around there in '89 and also '93. If that was an intangible that Curtis considered -- he didn't mention it, but it might have been. I've played two Ryder Cups at The Belfry. I think when you put out a guy last, I felt like coming off the PGA that they just thought if it came down to the Bernhard Langer/Hale Irwin scenario they thought I could handle it. I would say generally the guy who won last major might be most confident guy on the team, and for that reason, I feel they probably picked me. Often, I would often say that the last spot is not the pressure-cooker spot anyway. Although I felt it at the time because of what happened in '91. I think generally the second-to-last, third-to-last, fourth-to-last spots is usually where the Ryder Cup will end. So those usually are the most pressure-packed positions, I feel, even though it could come down to the last group. It's only happened once ever, if I'm not mistaken.

Q. How did you like your chances coming into the selection? Were you prepared for not being selected?

PAUL AZINGER: Was I prepared for not being selected? Well, I didn't think about not being selected. You know, if you're not -- I wasn't worried about not being selected. You know, it certainly would be a lot easier week to be sitting at home watching it on TV with no critics analyzing your every move. But, you know, I didn't think about it. I just continue to try to play my best. You know, if Curtis could have picked anybody -- he could have picked anybody there. There was a lot of good players there. He could have picked -- he just could have picked anybody. So I didn't worry about it. I didn't fret. If he had not picked me, I would have had a lot more relaxing week.

Q. Just talked a little bit about the 18th hole. Wanted to get your impressions about how David played that last hole. Obviously, turned out great.

PAUL AZINGER: Again, there is a situation where David Toms had -- I think the critics were ready to get him. I think even the guys in the booth, I could not quite hear what they were saying, but they were ready to pounce on him. I think he showed a lot of courage in laying up, but I think it would have taken more courage, borderlining on stupidity, to go for it. So, regardless, I think that there was going to need to be a tremendous amount of courage displayed either way. And he had the intestinal fortitude to make what everybody who plays the game for a living dreams of, and that's an 8- or 10-footer on the last hole to win a major. And I feel for Mickelson, because if you want to be perfectly honest, he didn't do anything wrong the whole week. He didn't do anything wrong. Golf is a game; you are going to 3-putt occasionally and make some bogeys, but David Toms, he had five fewer putts, a hole-in-one -- a hole-in-one that was going to go over the green, it was flying. And it was just meant for David Toms to win that tournament. He's proved that he could deal with extreme pressure. You know, he said that they were -- some guy yelled, "Wimp" at him from the crowd, so he made the right decision. He's a champion because of it. They are both champion. I feel for Phil. Phil Mickelson did nothing wrong in losing that tournament. But it was exciting. That was an amazing finish, wasn't it? I didn't know what 18 had in store. I didn't have that crystal ball. (Laughter.) But it sure was good.

End of FastScripts....

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