March 22, 2001
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA
LEE PATTERSON: All right, Paul. Maybe just a couple thoughts about how you are heading into the weekend and then we'll open it up for questions.
PAUL AZINGER: Listen, I had the solid shirt today. I was holding it up today. I had it ironed. I said, "No, this is Tommy Bahama year." And they want me to wear a printed shirt all the time, but I said, "Well, I've got to get out of this." So I'm wearing one every other week, one day. But I've gotten more compliments on this shirt than anything I've ever worn.
Q. Nice shirt. But about the golf, would you talk about the round and overall conditions, and here when you see somebody post a 67 in the morning how much they usually change in the afternoon and how that came about today?
PAUL AZINGER: Well, it actually probably got a little easier this afternoon. You know, it was pretty cold this morning. I was up early and driving around by 7:30 this morning, going out for breakfast, and it was 46 degrees, and there was a little chop on the lake, and I'm glad I wasn't out there. But last week, you know, I was on the other side of it Thursday. The morning I guess was 23-under and the afternoon was 107-over. So the guys who played late got a good break. The course is drying out just a little bit, you can tell from the front nine to the back. I'm sure it's starting to dry out. And by the weekend they will have it just about where they want it. The fairways are soft enough that it was a little easier maybe to keep the ball on the fairway, and there was a little mud on the ball, but that will all change. It's going to get harder, I'm sure, as we go.
Q. Are soft greens good for a low-ball hitter? Did that help you?
PAUL AZINGER: Heck, yeah. I played here the year Duval won and the year Lee Janzen won; and, you know, I've had a decent track record on this course. I've had a few opportunities to do well here and win. Those two years, the course was just so hard; I didn't fix a ball mark even in the practice rounds, the greens were so hard. That favored a certain type of player, and that wasn't me. It just didn't fit my style. I think I might have missed the cut both of those years. I'm not sure, though.
Q. I guess you switched to the medium-length putter right before the 2000 season, and Vijay followed you along. Six months later, he said I guess he learned that from you. Do you remember teaching him or him coming to you for counsel -- you guys are the only ones that use --?
PAUL AZINGER: Except for Gary Nicklaus and Jim Furyk and Andrew Magee ... --
Q. It's starting to catch on?
PAUL AZINGER: It starting to catch on. I'm not counseling anybody how to use it, to be honest with you. Guys are inquiring about it. Vijay asked me at the Memorial what I was doing and if he could borrow my putter to hit some putts on the putting green, and I said, "Sure, go ahead." I told him how I thought it was helping me, but I'm not promoting it. I'm not looking to promote it. If I had a patent on it, that would be one thing; you can't patent a long shaft. But I don't.
Q. What is it worth to you?
PAUL AZINGER: It improved me. If you look at my statistics last year versus 1999, there was a huge improvement. I haven't putted very well this year at all, until Sunday at Bay Hill. So it's not foolproof by any means, but it helped me. It just helped me. I don't know what else to say. You can talk too much about it, or if you start thinking too much about it, it becomes a problem. So I'm just happy it improved me. I've hit a lot of putts with the short putter a couple weeks ago, just messing around, and clearly I was better with the longer putter. I haven't putted good, like I said, most of the season.
Q. You're sitting here saying that looking ahead thinking the course is going to get harder as we go along. You don't sound all that excited about it.
PAUL AZINGER: I don't care. It's not going to get ridiculous, not like those years. In those years when the ball hit the green, you could hear it from 150 yards out. It won't be like that. No, at this point, I don't think it can get anything close to where it was those two years. It will get harder, though.
Q. But you're okay with that?
PAUL AZINGER: Sure.
Q. Is this tournament big for you, and how would you view it if you won it?
PAUL AZINGER: I'd be rich. (Laughter.) But we don't think about the money, do we? (Smiles.) It's clearly the strongest field assembled all year, there's no arguing that. It's a nice feather. Very difficult course to win on. Takes moxie. There's a lot of good players, the list of champions that have won this tournament. It's a hard course. You know that. Where would it rank? I don't know.
Q. Forgive me, but sometimes before the start of a tournament, you get a little, you know, maybe uptight, antsy. But you have looked so relaxed for the last couple of days. Did you feel this good round coming on, or are you feeling like your confidence is really where it should be, way up there?
PAUL AZINGER: Well, you know, I mean, I don't really notice that I get antsy or anything. Maybe the last day I might be a little antsy or uptight. I felt good last week, and I felt good at Pebble Beach. I hit it really quite well from Friday to Sunday at AT&T, and then I hit it great at the Hope and didn't really get much out of it. Hit it great at Bay Hill and didn't get much out of it. I finished 15th there. So I was confident that my ball-striking, I had the chance to hit the ball well here. It was just a matter of if I could hole some putts. I started out holing them. I hit a lot of good putts today that didn't go in. Yeah, I thought I was capable of doing something special here. I don't know that that makes you more relaxed or more nervous.
Q. You're leading the tournament, so maybe you're not the best guy to ask this, but can you understand why there are not more guys under par today?
PAUL AZINGER: I have no idea how many guys are under.
Q. There are not many.
PAUL AZINGER: I would say because a few of the pin placements were tough. They were not easy pins today, and I think that's possibly what protected the course. And I think they were probably aware the scores could get really low if the pins were easy. You know, I didn't miss a green until No. 16, and I had several putts that I had to be really defensive on. You know, I can see where if I had put the ball in the green on 18, I would have been defensive if it was to the right of the hole there, which is where you would end up. So it was the hole location, as they would say on the network TV.
Q. Speaking of network TV, you made a comment a few minutes ago that fame is fleeting and you realize that. Do rounds like today and tournaments like this, when you are in this position, does it remind you what you are missing and doing as far as to rejuvenate you or bring back memories?
PAUL AZINGER: Not particularly. Last year I felt like -- it's all about Tiger Woods right now. We all know that. We've all been minimized to a degree. Even, you know, Greg Norman has been minimized, as great as his career was and as much as he was the main guy. You hate to mention anybody's name when you are talking about anything like that, but he's probably the best example of fleeting star power. It's all about one guy right now. And some day, somebody will replace him. For me, last year I played pretty well, and I got, you know , I got my share of interviews last year to feed and stroke my little ego, you know. I got to play on the Presidents Cup team and all that. So, you know, you'd better be aware that one day you're the man and the next day you are going to walk by all of those press guys and they are not even going to look at you. (Laughs.) I've lived it for four years, and it's nothing personal, and I totally understand.
Q. Norman was up there for ten years, which is a long, long time, isn't it? Just to use a name there.
PAUL AZINGER: Sure. And Jack was, too. Jack -- and Tom Watson was there for a long, long time as well. Tom Watson held that position for a long time. But, you know, people come in, and there's a changing of the guard, so to speak. We know it was coming eventually. Didn't know it would come at that magnitude. But it's great for us and great for everybody who plays the Tour, as bad as we want to beat him. We recognize what he's done for us.
Q. Last year Hal Sutton wins this wire-to-wire. Your last win came wire-to-wire. Do you feel history is on your side?
PAUL AZINGER: I don't think it has any bearing whatsoever. I've won wire-to-wire before, and I've come back before to win. So I'm not a trend man. I don't gamble, but if I did, I don't think I would bet trends too much. Probably why I don't gamble, because I always lost when I did. (Laughs).
Q. What you were just talking about, about Tiger, does that mean there is more urgency for you when you have an opportunity like this? Do you feel more of a sense of urgency when you get a chance?
PAUL AZINGER: Not yet. Not yet. I mean, maybe when I'm 44 or 45 or something. I like to look at guys like Raymond Floyd or Hale Irwin who were really successful in their late 40s. Tom Watson was successful in his late 40s. A lot of guys that can do it. I'm not thinking about that at all. Everybody knows that he is there, and especially this year, the scores seem to be quite a bit lower.
Q. Changing the subject a little bit, they had a situation this morning where they could not fill the field because no alternates were on the grounds. As a younger player, could you ever imagine not hanging around until the last minute to see if you could get in the tournament, with a chance to get in the Masters?
PAUL AZINGER: For me, personally, no. I was -- I remember in 1982 we had to Monday qualify -- no, it was 1984. My number wasn't getting in; just out of the Tour school, exempt tour (inaudible). I was trying to qualify every week. If I was an alternate, boy, I was hanging around. But every individual is different. Maybe first and second and third alternates live on the other side of the country, too, I don't know. So I would not judge anybody. It's their decision. A surprise, though. Little bit of a surprise. But at the same time, you would think, "Who the heck is going to withdraw from this tournament?" Could go either way.
Q. You have this unique putting style which Vijay gives credit to. He says he saw you doing it and he's doing it. I know you're going to beat him this week, but you've got to get a kick out of seeing him go from 99 in the putting stats to fifth this year, doing something that you are essentially the teacher for?
PAUL AZINGER: I really like Vijay. We like to play together and I'm glad to see him doing well. I know it's really helped him. There's no question about that. You know, we're buds, so that's good.
LEE PATTERSON: Why don't you go over your birdies for us really quick.
PAUL AZINGER: 1, I hit a 9-iron 25 feet, a big breaker and made that. 2, I went for the green and missed it to the left and chipped it, I would say, probably ten feet. 3, I hit 6-iron probably about seven or eight feet behind the hole. 8, I hit a 4-iron 30 feet, maybe 35 feet. 9, I hit a sand wedge four feet. 10, I was in the fairway bunker on the left and hit a 9-iron probably 15 feet.
Q. How are you going to feel if one of these days Vijay beats you head-to-head with a birdie putt on the last hole? Any cause to regret?
PAUL AZINGER: Well, there's nothing I can do about it you know. What can I do? I can only control me. I didn't talk him into it. I didn't teach him what to do. He crosses hands; I don't. He's on his own. There's nothing I can do. He was just curious and I said, "Sure, go try my putter." And he was out there at the Memorial, putting around. He was going to do it eventually, you know. (Smiles).
Q. What were your thoughts after the third hole, you start off like that?
PAUL AZINGER: "Oh my God! I might make 18 straight." (Laughter.) I didn't think about anything. That's a nice start, for a change. One of the things that's been getting me a little bit this year is I've played really great on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and then been very frustrated with the starts to all of my tournaments. And I've been maybe pressing a little bit if I wasn't a couple under after five holes. Today I was determined that I was not going to let my start affect how I felt or change the way I did things, and as it turned out, maybe that freed me up a little bit, I don't know. I got off to a nice start. So, I didn't -- you know, see if you can get in the fairway on 4.
PAUL AZINGER: That was a nice start. You know, 2 might be considered an easy hole, but certainly I think 1 is -- would never be considered easy. And 3, where the pin was today would never be considered easy. So that was a nice little bonus.
Q. DiMarco and Calcavecchia have names for their styles of putting. Do you have one for yours?
PAUL AZINGER: Not yet. "Belly-button putter."
LEE PATTERSON: Thank you, Paul. Appreciate it.
End of FastScripts.... PAUL AZINGER: I'm trying to think who is here that didn't already hear it. (Laughs ). Well, I thought it played a little bit harder today than it did yesterday, and I didn't hit it quite as good, but I managed to get a good score out of it. The wind was -- you know, I think we were just talking about it on the seventh or eighth hole today; the wind started to kick up. So even though we were probably on the good side of the field, I felt like it played a little harder this afternoon than it did at any point yesterday. I was not quite as sharp. I missed a few fairways, but all in all, I did a good job of scoring. My short game was really good and I putted really well. So, you know, I'm in pretty good shape.
Q. Through the years, you guys have always said that sometimes after a great round like you had yesterday, it is really, really hard to follow it up with another great round. So can I assume that you are pleased with the 2-under par round today and also with your position?
PAUL AZINGER: Well, yeah. I mean, it just played a little harder. I didn't hit it quite as good. It is hard to follow-up that kind of ball-striking round. Yesterday was one of those things that -- I'll never forget that ball-striking round. If I could have another couple more rounds like that this week, I'll be in great shape. Today, I had a few miscues. I really only made one mental mistake, and I did have to chip out on the sixth hole, but I managed to make a par. I missed the fairway to the right on No. 1 and was not able to get to the green. But, you know, it's just -- I didn't expect to hit it like I did yesterday. You know, I just wanted to think any way I had to think to get the ball to the hole.
Q. What was that club you put back in your bag twice before going to the ninth green and what did you finally hit?
PAUL AZINGER: I hit 9-iron. I had 114 yards. I had the pitching wedge out, you know, and the wind was gusting. I still could have gotten the pitching wedge there. I could have played a different kind of shot. So I kind of hemmed and hawed and decided to hit the 9-iron down. I hit it really easy and got a good dredge out of it, and it turned out to be the right one. I apologized to my partners for taking so long.
Q. Outside you talked about changing your state of mind in the most recent years. How do you do that?
PAUL AZINGER: Are you going to write about it or can we keep it a secret? (Laughter.)
Q. Depends on how good of an answer it is.
PAUL AZINGER: Well, I think that -- I probably went for probably three or four years. I feel like, you know, there's three things that can cause to you play really lousy: It could be your equipment, it could be your state of mind or you could just be really playing lousy. I changed my equipment. And it was probably an improvement, but I was still playing lousy. So the next step, really, was my state of mind. So I actually hooked up with Bob Rotella and worked with him. I realized I was maybe going through the motions a little too much; going to these tournaments out of a sense of obligation rather than being committed. So I decided to be more prepared before I left town to go to all of these tournaments, and that's maybe about it. I'm going more maybe with a purpose. I played really solid golf all of last year. Even when I played my best back in the late 80s and early 90s, I would still miss six or seven cuts a year, and I only missed a cut one time last year, which is pretty good. So I've just gotten a lot more consistent and going to each tournament with more of a purpose maybe.
Q. I'm confused, which is not usual, but you said that you didn't expect to hit the ball as well as you did yesterday. I know you had a good round, but why would you not come out and say --?
PAUL AZINGER: Well, I don't know that I said that. Did I clearly say that? Is that the court stenographer, Steve, or is that you? Because if that's you, we all know.
Q. You said "I didn't expect to hit it like I did yesterday."
PAUL AZINGER: Well, yesterday was like an anomaly. That's how good I hit it. Hogan, I mean, how many times did Hogan come off the course totally satisfied? Probably never by his standard. But for me yesterday, was just a great day. I don't know what else to say. I don't know what you're looking for. What are you looking for?
Q. I'm just surprised that if you play really well that you could come the second day and you would not feel that you would play as well.
PAUL AZINGER: Are you saying today I didn't expect to hit it? Well, I'm just saying yesterday was like an incredible day. You just know that you are going to have to think anyway -- the reality is that day-in, day-out -- you change every day out here. Everything changes. The weather conditions, the way you slept, the time that you have to get up to go tee off. You know, just one of those things where you just go out there and think any way you have to think to get the ball in the hole. I was very confident starting the day. I expected to play well. Let's just say this: I was prepared maybe to hit it not quite as well because yesterday was pretty special for me.
Q. Once again, what about your position now heading into the weekend? A little change in the mental attitude or are you thinking, "Well, there are certain holes out here that I can charge if I have to," or same pace of play for you?
PAUL AZINGER: Well, I think it doesn't really matter where you are after two days or after three; it's where you are after four days. That's what really matters. So I'll try to do everything the same, but I don't want to share too much because Scott Hoch just walked in the room. I don't want to give him any information.
Q. How have you changed since you won the PGA?
PAUL AZINGER: I've grown up a bit. I've been through quite a bit since then. But I would say that physically I'm a bigger man. I weigh 190 pounds instead of 165. I'm in a little better shape. I really should be just as confident.
Q. Has your game changed at all, how you play the game?
PAUL AZINGER: Not really. I probably know a little more about it. Probably a little better chipper and putter than I was. Probably a little better than I was, really. But I'm older. Old age with bad technique. Bad combination. (Laughs).
LEE PATTERSON: Why don't you take us through your birdies real quick.
PAUL AZINGER: Started on the back nine. No. 11, I was just short of the green in two, between the two bunkers and pitched it about ten feet. I bogeyed No. 1. I hit it in the right-hand rough and could not reach the green. I hit it in the bunker, but it didn't get up-and-down. 2-putted for birdie from 35 feet on No. 2. I hit 7-iron on No. 3. I would say 25 feet there, 30 feet. 8, I hit it in the left-hand bunker with no chance. I made a bogey there. 9, I hit -- we talked about. I hit a 9-iron a foot.
End of FastScripts....