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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