A PGA for Plucky Paul
The year 1993 was so dramatic. Azinger was easily one of the top five players in golf. When the final major of the year was unfolding, though, Azinger was a deeply concerned man. You see, that was a championship that was won with cancer as a companion. Would he have won several more had cancer not intervened? What records would he have set? What glowing tributes would have been written had not ugly lymphoma so cruelly interrupted?
Instead of being one of the top five players in the game over the past decade, Azinger settled down into one of perhaps the top 50. He has been good, but not great. The disease robbed him of his greatness. From the peak of his greatest triumph ' winning the championship at Inverness ' came the depths of his greatest challenge: beating cancer.
Underneath his collarbone, it first began sending out an irritating little message at the 93 U.S. Open ' Somethings wrong, it whispered. It became much louder at the PGA, but that was the time for Azinger to compete, to hang in there and win the trophy. That was the time he defeated Greg Norman in a playoff. That was the time Paul Azinger outlasted all the games greats, standing alone until the end as the sole survivor.
Making it all the more meaningful was the fact that this was a championship when all the games top players played like champions. Nick Faldo challenged until the very end. Tom Watson challenged on the final day. Vijay Singh challenged, as did Norman, Lanny Wadkins, Scott Simpson and Bob Estes. It looked like football game and there was a loose ball on the ground. Everyone tried to pick it up, but only one would actually do it ' Azinger.
Azinger plodded along in neutral the first nine holes Sunday while everyone else was already in gear. He started the day only one behind, but by the turn, he was three back.
Estes took possession of the lead after he birdied the eighth, but he bogeyed the 10th from a fairway bunker and 11th after missing the green long. Next, Faldo looked like he had it. He was in command until the 15th, where he barely saved a par, and the 16th, where he missed a two-foot birdie putt for a par. That, as it turned out, kept him out of the playoff.
Wadkins had his chances but couldnt come back from a costly double bogey at No. 14. Watsons putter ' what else? ' kept him from grabbing the title. Azinger, meanwhile, was playing safety-valve golf the whole front nine and not making much of anything happen. Then he decided that if he was going to have a chance to win this tournament, he had better start taking chances.
After the ninth hole, said Azinger, I tried to be more aggressive. But there was no indication Id get that hot. It just happened.
Starting at the 12th hole, Azinger made three consecutive birdies. At 12, he lobbed a 9-iron to 12 feet. At the par-5 13th, he got up-and-down from a greenside bunker. At 14, he finally tied Norman and Faldo for the lead by knocking an 8-iron to seven feet, then sinking the birdie putt.
Norman, playing behind Azinger, retook the lead with a birdie at the 16th. But Azinger battled back on 17 with a 9-iron to five feet and another birdie.
Im a nervous person, said Azinger. Thats my deal. I walk fast. Im jumpy. But it doesnt mean I cant hit decent shots under pressure.
It could well have ended on the 72nd hole when Norman lined up a 20-foot birdie putt, then watched in dismay as it barely curled outside the cup. And a nearly identical putt occurred on the first playoff hole, again the 18th hole on the course. This time the ball actually caught an edge of the cup and spun out.
Two feet from the cup, there was no doubt in my mind that it was in, said Azinger.
It wasnt in, though, and now came the second playoff hole, the short 10th. Normans approach was a little long, about 20 feet past the cup. Azingers approach with a sand wedge stopped just eight feet away.
Norman, thinking Azinger would probably hole his putt, tried to die his effort right in the hole. It stopped four slippery feet short of the target. Azinger then putted for birdie, but it missed when it caught the right lip of the hole and caromed out.
Now it was up to Norman to keep the playoff alive. He stroked the putt firmly, but there was just enough for the ball to catch an edge and stay out. Azinger had won.
Im in a daze, said Norman. I lost to a great player Im maybe down about that first playoff hole putt. I gave it a good run. It was one of those perfect putts that just didnt go in. I got painted, as we say.
Azinger was hugely relieved. Gone was the label of best player to have never won a major. Ahead, it seemed, were many more majors. He had just finished third in the U.S. Open that year, had won two other tournaments, in fact.
And then cancer. Azinger revealed later that Dr. Frank Jobe had called the Friday night of the PGA, telling Zinger of the urgency to have a biopsy done of the right shoulder. Jobe had noticed a disturbing dark mass under the shoulder blade, and he feared the worst.
If it had been my left shoulder, I could never have played a hole of golf, Azinger said. I could swing a golf club because my right elbow is close to my side in the swing.
He waited two months to have the biopsy done and got the dreaded news early in December. The dark mass was malignant. He started chemotherapy right away, put away the golf career, and thought of nothing but living.
Norman later said that, knowing Azinger had the dreaded disease, it was much better that he won the playoff. Azinger himself was a much different person when he returned.
I realize how much my life has changed since I had cancer, Azinger said when he returned to the PGA the next year. And I understand now that I have the opportunity to be an inspiration to a lot of people who are fighting the disease, and throughout my whole cancer period, I had a wonderful prognosis. And I know a lot of people dont have the same hope that I had.
And if I can inspire them by just being out there, then thats just the way it has to be. Its a new calling almost, and Im willing to take that on. I dont have a problem with that.
Azinger did come back and win again ' at the 2000 Sony Open in Hawaii. He has even been chosen to Curtis Stranges Ryder Cup team of 2001. He has been a consistent player, if not the flashy fellow who won 11 times in six years leading up to the PGA in 93.
Paul Azinger was the PGA champion. But far more important, he is alive. Golf will always occupy a spot several notches lower, but he has a title that no one else could claim - the 1993 PGA Championship.
Golf Channel to Deliver Worldwide Coverage of the 2018 PGA Merchandise Show, "The Major of Golf Business," Tueday-Friday, Jan. 23-26
Morning Drive, Golf Central to Give Viewers Insider Access to the PGA Show with Nearly 20 Hours of Live Coverage; Golf Channel’s School of Golf Instruction Program to Originate From On-Site
Golf Channel’s Portfolio of Lifestyle Brands – GolfNow, Golf Channel Academy, Revolution Golf and World Long Drive On-Site at the PGA Show Contributing to the Network’s Comprehensive Coverage
ORLANDO, Fla. (Jan. 18, 2018) – Golf Channel announced plans for its comprehensive coverage of the 2018 PGA Merchandise Show – the largest golf convention and business gathering in the world – with nearly 20 hours of news and instruction coverage Tuesday, Jan. 23 – Friday, Jan. 26. Golf Channel’s coverage will span across the four days, beginning Tuesday with the “PGA Show Demo Day” from the Orange County National Golf Center & Lodge driving range in Winter Garden, Fla., and continuing Wednesday-Friday at the PGA Merchandise Show from the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.
With an insider look at the PGA Merchandise Show – a golf industry event that is not open to the public – Golf Channel’s coverage via Morning Drive and Golf Central will be delivered to a worldwide audience in more than 36 countries. Coverage will provide viewers live interviews with industry leaders, professional golfers from the world’s major tours, PGA of America members and a comprehensive overview of the latest products and trends for 2018 from some of the nearly 1,100 golf brands exhibiting on-site.
PGA Merchandise Show Week Programming Schedule: Jan. 23-26 (All Times Eastern)
7-11 a.m. (Live)
5-6 p.m. (Live)
School of Golf
7-11:30 a.m. (Live)
5-6 p.m. (Live)
8:30-11:30 a.m. (Live)
7-8 p.m. (Live)
8:30-11:30 a.m. (Live)
7-8 p.m. (Live)
Golf Channel’s expansive coverage of the PGA Merchandise Show will utilize several on-air personalities from the network’s news division, beginning with Charlie Rymer and Lauren Thompson offering coverage of the PGA Show Outdoor Demo Day on Tuesday. In addition to Rymer and Thompson, Wednesday-Friday coverage from the PGA Show Floor will include Matt Adams, Cara Banks, Lisa Cornwell, Matt Ginella, Damon Hack, Bailey Mosier and Gary Williams.
DIGITAL & STREAMING COVERAGE
Golf Channel’s PGA Merchandise Show on-air coverage will be available to stream via Golf Channel Digital Tuesday-Friday. Comprehensive online editorial coverage also will be available throughout the week, with contributions from writers Jay Coffin and Will Gray. Golf Channel’s social media platforms will keep viewers engaged in the conversation about what’s generating buzz at the #PGASHOW throughout the week via the network’s social media channels – @GolfChannel and @GCMorningDrive on Twitter, @GolfChannel and @GCMorningDrive on Instagram and GolfChannel and GCMorningDrive on Facebook. Golf Channel social media host Alexandra O’Laughlin will host Golf Channel’s digital and social media coverage throughout the week.
PGA SHOW DEMO DAY COVERAGE
Golf Channel’s coverage of “Demo Day” will begin Tuesday, Jan. 23 at 7 a.m. ET with Morning Drive airing live and on-site to highlight the latest in golf equipment from the expansive driving range at Orange County National. Rymer and Thompson will host Morning Drive on-site, featuring interviews and product demonstrations.
PGA MERCHANDISE SHOW FLOOR COVERAGE
Coverage of the PGA Show will transition indoors to the Orange County Convention Center, Wednesday-Friday, Jan. 24-26 to give viewers an all-access tour of the PGA Show. Morning Drive and Golf Central will provide on-site reports throughout the week, with featured interviews and segments originating from the PGA Show Floor. Coverage from the Convention Center will originate from a large, multi-purpose space elevated above the PGA Show Floor, with three set configurations for interviews, along with a putting green and a golf simulator for product demonstrations. Golf Channel also will feature a “Fly Cam,” a unique camera technology made popular in televising football and other sports. Suspended above the PGA Show Floor, the Fly Cam will span more than 700 feet, giving viewers an aerial viewpoint of the vast floor and the exhibitors. New for 2018 will be a “Jib Cart,” a mobile cart with a camera jib affixed allowing high shots of the booths throughout the Show Floor.
SCHOOL OF GOLF KICKS OFF EIGHTH SEASON WITH ONE-HOUR SPECIAL FROM DEMO DAY
School of Golf, Golf Channel’s signature instruction program that airs on Tuesday nights, will kick off its eighth season with a one-hour special at Demo Day on Tuesday, Jan. 23, airing in primetime from 8-9 p.m. ET. Originating from the Cleveland Golf/Srixon/XXIO booth on the Orange County National driving range and hosted by Martin Hall and Blair O’Neal, the show will include special guests and interactions with a live audience.
GOLF CHANNEL’S PORTFOLIO OF LIFESTYLE BRANDS ON-SITE AT PGA SHOW
In addition to Golf Channel’s on-air and digital coverage, the network’s lifestyle brands – GolfNow, World Long Drive, Golf Channel Academy and Revolution Golf will showcase their services at the PGA Show with special clinics, product demonstrations and on-site activations.
GOLFNOW EXHIBITING AT BOOTH #2173
GolfNow, the industry’s leader in golf-related technology and services, will be exhibiting Wednesday-Friday from Booth #2173. In addition to showcasing advanced technologies that have created the largest tee-time marketplace in golf, GolfNow also will be educating course owners and operators about innovations and services designed to help them run their businesses more efficiently and successfully. GolfNow Business experts will be on hand at GolfNow’s 2,400-square-foot booth, offering its course partners technology demonstrations, as well as consultation on any of the GolfNow Services: Plus, a top-line focused consultative performance system for golf courses, including marketing, sales and automated pricing; Answers, a call center for golf courses, answering customer calls day and night; and Ride, a no-cost purchasing program that saves course operators from 6-35 percent on items they buy day-to-day, such as food, office supplies and agricultural products.
WORLD LONG DRIVE BRACKET CHALLENGE
Thursday at 2 p.m. ET, World Long Drive competitors will be at the PGA Show to compete in a World Long Drive Bracket Challenge. Hosted by Golf Channel’s social media host Alexandra O’Laughlin and airing live via Golf Channel’s Facebook Live, the competition will take place at Golf Channel’s simulator on the Show Floor featuring eight men and four women, including World No. 2 Ryan Reisbeck, No. 3 Maurice Allen, No. 5 Trent Scruggs and 2017 Volvik World Long Drive Women’s Champion Sandra Carlborg.
GOLF CHANNEL ACADEMY INSTRUCTION
Wednesday-Friday, Golf Channel Academy coaches will provide on-site instruction clinics at Golf Channel’s simulator set on the Show Floor. Wednesday’s clinics will feature driving, full swing, wedge play and putting clinics. Thursday’s clinic will include the full swing and Friday’s clinic will feature the short game, all streamed live via Golf Channel Academy’s Facebook page.
REVOLUTION GOLF TO SHOOT DIGITAL INSTRUCTION SEGMENTS ON-SITE AT PGA SHOW
Revolution Golf, the industry’s largest direct-to-consumer digital platform delivering high-quality video-based instruction, travel content and integrated e-commerce will have a significant presence at the PGA Show. Golf Channel’s newest digital acquisition, Revolution Golf will be shooting digital segments at Demo Day and throughout the PGA Show Floor, including segments with its team of instructors.
CareerBuilder purse payouts: Rahm wins $1.062 million
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry on the fourth hole of sudden death to win the CareerBuilder Challenger. Here's a look at how the purse was paid out in La Quinta, Calif.:
|T20||Charles Howell III||-14||$57,754|
|T36||Tyrone Van Aswegen||-12||$27,189|
|T69||Billy Hurley III||-6||$11,623|
After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...
Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).
Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.
It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard
On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...
There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.
He sure looks like the real deal, though.
His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.
Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner
Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2
With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.
He picked up one more No. 2, too.
The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.
In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.
Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.
“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”
Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.
Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.
He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.