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June 13, 2000
PEBBLE BEACH, CALIFORNIA
LES UNGER: Let's proceed now with Paul Azinger, and some details about the ceremony, et
cetera, tomorrow that I'm sure some of you would like to know about. Paul, we appreciate
you coming by. As far as I know, there is a ceremony at 7 o'clock tomorrow morning, and I
don't know very many of the details. If you could fill us in, that would be great.
PAUL AZINGER: Okay. You don't know what's going on tomorrow, most of you? I believe the
ceremony is only from 7:00 to 7:30. And in everyone's packet this week was a invitation to
be in the ceremony. Similar to a 21-gun salute. Everyone is going to hit a shot at the
same time into the ocean, however many players show up and salute Payne. And then Larry
Moody, who hosts Bible studies on the PGA TOUR is going to speak. And Trey Holland and I
will speak for a few moments, and I believe Tracy will speak for a few minutes. And then
the shots will be hit, and it will be over. I heard Roger Maltbie say this is really
golf's last opportunity to say good-bye to Payne. And it's hard to imagine, but I think he
might be right. Even though it's only 30 minutes, I think we just need to honor the
defending champion, and the man himself, one more time.
LES UNGER: Is this near 18?
PAUL AZINGER: It's on the 18th hole.
LES UNGER: Anybody have any questions about this they'd like to ask?
Q. A lot of people have been talking about Payne this week, and I was just wondering,
obviously, you've thought about him for the last -- almost a year, nine months, but is it
special this year, and why?
PAUL AZINGER: I think the majority of us are still in disbelief that Payne Stewart is
not here. I think all of us are still -- some were obviously a lot closer to Payne than
others, myself included in that group. And we've all been affected and impacted in a big
way, and all been impacted in a different way. I think just getting on a airplane now is
different than it was for all of us. It's just hard to grasp, really, that a tragedy of
that magnitude could have happened to the current United States Open Champion. I don't
think that any of us realized his popularity. But I don't know any other athlete in the
world that could command attention as Payne did in his death. If you think about it, he
had that kind of impact on the world. Maybe there's a couple of guys only. And I don't
think that any of us realized how big Payne Stewart really was.
Q. Phil came in here a little while ago and said that last year's outcome seemed like
it was meant to be. When you look back on it --
PAUL AZINGER: When I saw Phil at the funeral, he was all teared up. We both were. I
just kind of got real close to him and I looked at him, and I said, "Payne needed
that U.S. Open more than you did. And now you know why." And it's funny, but I really
-- now more than ever, am I firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Like at
the Hawaiian Open this year, I felt like if I didn't win, I felt that somebody needed it
more than me. And I think it gets down to that. Unless your priorities are in the right
place, it's difficult to think that way, but I think Phil Mickelson really understands now
the impact Payne Stewart's death had on the world. And that impact was magnified by the
fact that he was the United States Open Champion.
Q. I heard Justin Leonard say that it is so overwhelming that you have to force
yourself to stop thinking about it. This week -- after tomorrow night, are you going to
say: "Now it's time to play golf"? Do you consciously have to try and not be
distracted about it?
PAUL AZINGER: Everybody will deal with the situation differently. I think that for me,
I personally don't ever want to really totally stop thinking about it, because it helps to
prioritize things in my life. I don't ever want to forget the guy. I was very close to
Payne, but I was extremely close to the other ones in the plane, as well. I don't want to
get over it, because I don't ever want to forget them. Time, I think, always is a healer.
But it can also be a revealer. I think a lot of things have been revealed to me through
the time of the healing. But it's just really difficult to put into words the sense of
loss that you feel when something like that happens so quickly. There was no preparation
for that whatsoever. And I'll never forget how I felt when I heard the news. Even though
my life has returned to normal for the most part, I still feel that -- my goal this week
is to be the most focused man in the field, and my goal doesn't go beyond that. I'm not
thinking about score' I'm not thinking about anything, but to be the most focused guy
here. And I think that Payne was heavy on my mind at the Hawaiian Open, and I still felt I
was extremely focused there, and probably a little more motivated, and might be a little
more motivated here.
LES UNGER: Thank you very much.
End of FastScriptsÃ¢ï¿½Â¦.