In 1993 at the Memorial, where he will be playing this week, Azinger came to the final hole on Sunday tied for the lead with his playing partner and friend, Payne Stewart, and Corey Pavin, who was already in the clubhouse. Both Azinger and Stewart hit their approach shots into the gaping bunker just off the left edge of the green.
Stewart muscled his buried lie to 8 feet above the hole. Azinger figured he had to get at least as close as Stewart.
But Azinger'in a shot that has been replayed innumerable times on TV and the Web'holed his shot for birdie and was handed the $252,000 first-place check by tournament founder Jack Nicklaus.
I was just hoping to get close so I wouldnt miss a playoff, Azinger said Wednesday before playing a Memorial practice round.
It would stand as the shot of his life'until the 2002 Ryder Cup at The Belfry.
With the Cup still hanging in the balance late in Sundays singles matches, Azinger faced a sand shot at the 18th hole to keep the Americans flickering hopes alive and to avoid a defeat against Niclas Fasth.
The whole European team was ready to pop the cork, he said of the impending celebration before a partisan crowd. I said to my caddie, I have to make this, dont I? and he didnt even say anything. The last thing I said before I hit the shot was, Well, of course I do. And then I made it.
It was Azingers last shot in a Ryder Cup. It became overshadowed, even forgotten, when the Americans ended up losing 15 1/2 -12 1/2 . With so much on the line, though, Azinger had hit the perfect shot.
This September, Azinger will captain the U.S. side when it takes on Europe in the latest joust for the Ryder Cup at Valhalla Golf Club outside Louisville, Ky.
So which was better, the one that won a tournament or the one that kept a nations golfing hopes on life support?
In the end, that was probably the best shot, he said of his Ryder Cup heroics. Really, if we would have won those matches, where would that shot be in history?
CAPTAIN FOR A DAY:
Nick Faldo was looking dapper in his navy tie and gray blazer with the Memorial Tournament Captains Club insignia as he got ready to attend a ceremony to honor Tony Jacklin.
But it raised an immediate question.
Faldo is a six-time major champion, European captain for the Ryder Cup and lead analyst for CBS Sports. But when did he become a member of the Captains Club at the Memorial?
Just for the day, Faldo said as he slipped on his blazer Tuesday. The airlines have lost my luggage.
Ryan Moore finished second a year ago to K.J. Choi but he only remembers the good stuff.
I didnt even know I was in the top 10 making the turn (on Sunday), he said. I just wanted to make a couple birdies and get myself hopefully in the top 10 or top five because I hadnt had a good finish the rest of the year. It just went from there.
He strung together five birdies to make a late charge, two-putting for par on the last hole to come up short by a shot to Choi.
There really isnt any negative that Im holding onto, he said.
Instead of selling caps and T-shirts in the Muirfield Village pro shop, Bob Sowards, a former assistant pro at the club, is in the field. He earned his PGA TOUR card last year.
Ive probably played it a hundred times, he said of the Nicklaus-designed layout. One of my main jobs was to host guests, so I played it quite a bit then.
Ben Curtis, who won the 2003 British Open at Royal St. Georges, will be making his sixth appearance at the Memorial. He grew up in Ostrander, all of 11 miles away from Dublin. His best finish is a tie for eighth in 2004.
Another player with intimate knowledge of the tournament is Travis Perkins, who attended high school just across the county line and 12 miles from the course. Hell be making his first appearance in his old backyard on Thursday, then turns 31 on Friday.
Sowards, who made the cut and ended up 79th in 2005, remembers how he felt when he played in his first Memorial.
I was standing on the first tee and I was so nervous I was about to puke, he said with a laugh.
Former world No. 1 and 2001 British Open winner David Duval will not go through sectional qualifying to try for a spot in the U.S. Open, but will instead play at next weeks Stanford St. Jude Championship. The 120-player field is the largest in the tournaments 33 years. Good news: Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson and Mike Weir in the same group the first two rounds. Bad news: They tee off at 8:33 a.m. on Thursday. Nine former champions are in the field.