Azinger Faces Last Year of Eligibility
HONOLULU (AP) _ Paul Azinger had the best of both worlds last year, working as an analyst in the booth for ABC Sports at a dozen or so tournaments and still having time to play 22 times on the PGA Tour.
Now, this could be the last year of each.
Azinger was disheartened that the PGA Tour’s new six-year television contract does not include ABC, as much for friends who will be out of work than his enjoyment as an analyst. And having slipped to No. 34 on the career money list, he is using a one-time exemption for being top 50 in career money to keep his card.
So while the buzz at Waialae has been the new TV contract and a revamped schedule to reflect the season-long points race known as the FedEx Cup, Azinger has a different focus.
``It’s hard for me to look at it, because it’s looking into a future that I don’t have,″ Azinger said. ``I don’t have any tenure out here. I’m still looking at this week and next week. I’m trying to play good, because I need to play well.″
Azinger first dabbled in TV at the 1995 Ryder Cup with blunt, witty commentary. When NBC showed highlights of a hard-fought draw with Nick Faldo in a 1993 match that didn’t have any bearing on the outcome, Azinger said, ``Look at that. I had cancer and he still couldn’t beat me.″
He and Faldo became a tandem in the ABC booth at the end of the ’04 season, and will continue this year.
Is television in Azinger’s future, even if ABC is gone?
``I’m open-minded to what anyone has to say, but I’m not counting on anything,″ he said. ``I’m counting on that I’m going to get to play.″
As for the television package, Azinger said he’s not sure it matters to the players or the average fan. Starting next year, NBC Sports and CBS Sports will split the FedEx Cup tournaments, with The Golf Channel getting at least five tournaments, including the first three.
``Players don’t care who covers the game,″ he said. ``I don’t think Tiger Woods cares who covers the Masters.″
Nor does he believe players will care that much about the FedEx Cup, which includes three Championship Series tournaments leading to the Tour Championship, with an estimated $10 million going to the winner.
Azinger’s first victories came in 1987, the first year of the Tour Championship (then called the Nabisco Championship), which was created to define the end of the golf season.
That didn’t work, and he isn’t sure this new format will make much of a difference.
``The best players in the world are playing to make history,″ Azinger said. ``There are only four tournaments you can win to make history, and TPC (The Players Championship) is not one of them. And neither are those world events. And you’re not going to make history winning some kind of FedEx Cup.″
ON THE BAG: Even with Michelle Wie gone for the weekend, Hawaii has had plenty of cause to cheer one of its own at the Sony Open.
Parker McLachlin got into the tournament through a playoff at Monday qualifying, made the cut on the number, then birdied his last three holes Saturday for a 65 and was headed for a decent paycheck.
And he has some good help on the bag.
His caddie this week should look familiar _ former U.S. Open champion Scott Simpson, who lives in Hawaii and agreed to carry the bag if McLachlin made it through qualifying.
``How do you say ‘No’ to a U.S. Open champion?″ McLachlin said.
Simpson is letting the 26-year-old make all the decisions, although he does help from time to time on the green. Simpson was grateful McLachlin at least used a lightweight bag.
He’s not the first U.S. Open champion employed as a caddie.
Corey Pavin was on the bag when former UCLA teammate Jay Delsing got through Q-school. Four-time U.S. Open champion Jack Nicklaus has caddied for son Gary during early stages of Q-school.
And a week after winning the U.S. Open by 15 shots at Pebble Beach, Tiger Woods caddied for buddy Jerry Chang during qualifying for the U.S. Amateur Public Links.
A TOUGH JOURNEY: J.B. Holmes became the first player since Willie Wood in 1983 to go from college to winning the PGA Tour qualifying tournament, and he is off to a strong start in his rookie season.
But the road hasn’t always been easy.
Golf has been his passion, but Holmes had a tough time getting through school at Kentucky. He found it difficult to read at times, and struggled to complete tests in the allotted time. A counselor suggested he go through some tests, and Holmes discovered he had dyslexia.
``School was just a lot of extra time for me,″ he said. ``Where it would take somebody two hours to read something, it would take me four hours. So I always just felt stupid a little bit. I know I wasn’t. I made good grades. But just being able to read real slow makes you not feel real good.″
Holmes left Kentucky after four years, about a semester shy of graduating. Golf is what he always wanted to do, and his dyslexia doesn’t affect him on tour.
``I’m pretty good with numbers,″ he said.