Zinger Falls on Tough Times

By Golf Channel NewsroomAugust 14, 2003, 4:00 pm
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) -- Maybe Paul Azinger senses time is running out on his golf career. Maybe he's past the point where he really cares.
It was 10 years this week in Ohio that a tousle-haired Azinger won the PGA Championship in a dramatic playoff with Greg Norman. At the time he was in the 'best player never to win a major' category and it seemed as if there would be many more to come.
Then Azinger got cancer, capturing the hearts of golf fans with his determination to get healthy again and return to competition. Five years later, he won more fans with a poignant eulogy for his best friend, Payne Stewart, after Stewart died in plane crash.
Those same fans lining the walkways outside the clubhouse at Oak Hill saw a different Azinger, at least for a day this week. At the age of 43, he's struggling with his game and a bad back and seems to be playing out the string.
In a few years, the senior circuit awaits, where grumpy old men go to make lots of money.
To some fans at Oak Hill, Azinger seemed to be gearing up for it already.
On Tuesday, he walked through hundreds of autograph seekers crowding the ropes between the driving range and the clubhouse, looking straight ahead and acting as if they didn't exist.
It wasn't the first time they had been stiffed by Azinger, and they weren't happy.
'That's the fourth time today, Paul,' one fan yelled. 'We're going to stop caring.'
Azinger had dutifully come to participate in the Champion's Clinic, along with other former winners. He showed the crowd a few wedge shots, then went over to the side of the driving range to work on his game.
That game isn't what it once was, and maybe that's what is wearing on him. Azinger, who has faded the ball his entire career, began hooking it last year and only recently corrected the flaw.
He's missed the cut in 11 of 16 tournaments, and pulled out of two others. His 10-year exemption for winning the PGA expires this year and he likely will need to take advantage of the career money earning exemption to play on the tour next year.
It was hard to find out much about the state of his game, though, as Azinger hurriedly changed shoes in the locker room.
His state of mind was another thing all together.
He had time for only a question or two, Azinger said, because traffic out of Oak Hill can get bad late in the afternoon and he didn't want to be caught in it. Some of those pesky autograph seekers apparently drive cars, too, or at least their parents do.
No, he said, it doesn't seem as though it has been 10 years since he won what will likely be his only major championship. And, no, he said, he didn't think at the time about whether it might be his only major win.
Did he think his career could have been better?
'Probably, but not everyone gets cancer,' Azinger said.
No they don't, and the resiliency of Azinger in battling back from lymphoma found in his shoulder a few months after he won the PGA is an inspiring story for both golf fans and cancer patients.
He came back the next year, his full head of hair gone because of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, to play in four tournaments. But he was never the same player, winning only once in 2000 in Hawaii and having only three top-3 finishes in 191 tournaments since.
Azinger still managed to string together eight consecutive finishes in the top 100 money winners, though, becoming a grinder instead of a contender. He's popular among players and his leadership qualities on the course were still so valued that Curtis Strange made him a captain's pick in the 2002 Ryder Cup.
Azinger came through with a dramatic bunker shot on the final hole to tie Niclas Fasth and postpone for a few moments Europe's eventual win over the United States.
This year, though, he's 187th on the money list and has fallen completely out of the world rankings.
Maybe that's why he grew testy when asked if he came to Oak Hill thinking he had a chance to win.
'No, I came here knowing I had no chance,' Azinger replied sarcastically.
A reporter asked him if he felt like continuing the brief interview.
'No, because you ask stupid questions,' he said.
Then it was off to the parking lot, quickly walking past another throng of fans wanting autographs and into a waiting car.
No, Azinger's not going to beat too many players this week.
But he's already one up on everyone trying to beat the traffic.
Related Links:
  • TheGolfChannel.com Bio: Paul Azinger
  • 2003 PGA Championship Home
  • More News from the 2003 PGA Championship
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    Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

    By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

    Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

    Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

    “I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

    “The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

    Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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    Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

    By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

    LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

    Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

    ''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

    It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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    ''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

    Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

    ''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

    After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

    ''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

    He's making his first start in the event.

    ''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

    Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

    ''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

    Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

    ''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

    The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

    ''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

    Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

    ''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

    Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

    Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

    Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

    John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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    Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

    By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

    Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

    He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

    How rare is his missing the cut there?

    The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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    The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

    The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

    Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

    Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

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    Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

    Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

    The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

    They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

    It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

    “I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

    The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

    The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.