Azinger Easing Into Double Duty

By Brian HewittJanuary 17, 2005, 5:00 pm
Anytime Paul Azinger gets a lot of attention its a good thing for golf. Azinger isnt always comfortable with the various kinds of spotlights that have been shined on him during his more than 20 years on the PGA Tour.
And part of that, I think, is because he knows he doesnt know how to be disingenuous. Azingers honesty almost always translates into candor. And thats a large part of why ABC Sports has put a wire in his ear and a mike on his lapel.
Azinger double bogeyed the sixth hole Sunday in the final round of The Sony Open in Hawaii on his way to shooting 74 and falling from third to 17th. Already the critics were out in force, presuming he cant mix golf and commentary.
To them I say this: Azinger has been combining golf and commentary all of his professional life. He just hasnt been getting paid for both at the same time.
I mean Vijay Singh hits a hook on the 13th hole at the Mercedes Championships in Week One and it costs him the tournament. Then, by sheer dint of grind, Singh works the problem out on the range and captures the Sony Open one week later.
Azinger, who just turned 45, will happily tell you his home has long since stopped being on the range. I think that I know what I want to do, he said last week. I dont want to be a ball-beater. I know what I want to do with my swing.
And what of the 15-year-old singular sensation named Michelle Wie?
Theres no shame in losing to her, Azinger said.
Wie, you should know, unless you have been vacationing in Vladivostok, did not make the cut at the Sony Open. She missed it last year, too. Two career starts, two missed cuts.
Azinger has finished in the money 359 times in 505 official PGA Tour events.
My career is on the downswing, he said. But Im not giving up at all. I want to change that, guys going into the booth and then bellying up. Peter Jacobsen came to the booth and came out of the booth and played great. Bob Murphy went to the booth and then went to the Senior Tour, played great. Who else?
Off the top of my head, there was Lee Trevino and Jim Colbert.
Azinger purposely negotiated his television exposure down to 12 events for this year. I didnt want to do 20 broadcasts, he said. I still want to be a full-time player.
Somebody asked him about consistency. Every player strives for consistency, no?
Id rather just get red-hot one week, and then I think if that happens, then your confidence soars and then you stay consistent, he said.
You wont find that in Hogans book.
The bottom line, Azinger added, is youre here to make money, even though you dont think about money, thats what you try to doBut, you know, theres not a greater feeling than winning. So its kind of a toss-up.
You wont find that in Nicklaus book.
But, thankfully, we will find Azinger on our radar screen for years to come. There will be a Ryder Cup captaincy, probably at Valhalla in 2008. And then there will be the Champions Tour.
Cancer tried to take Azinger away from us a few years back. He was too tough.
So why DID he go to the booth when he knows he cant help saying whats on his mind, often at the expense of political golf correctness?
Its easy for me, he said. I just like to talk.
When I take five or six weeks off, I have to call the Tour to find out who won to find out who to congratulate, because I completely go away. And I wont be doing that because Ill be broadcasting in my six weeks off.
You will find all of this and a lot more in Azingers book. I just hope he writes it some day.
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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.