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Azinger Doesn't Like View From Bottom

February 01, 2003|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

LA QUINTA — It's not easy to be in last place at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, but that's where Paul Azinger is right now.

You really have to be doing something pretty bad to get way down there, which is the precise explanation for Azinger's current position. He knows what's wrong, he just doesn't know how to fix it.

"I'm driving it sideways," Azinger said Friday after his 74 in the third round left him at four-over 220 and dead last in the 126-player field.

"I don't know why I didn't break every club in my bag and scream after every shot. On the range, I hit it straight, like a laser. I get it out here, I don't even know where to put the club back.

"Driving has never been my strength, but it's never been a brutal weakness."

He says his driving inconsistencies began last March at the Players Championship, where he missed the cut for the first time in 25 tournaments. After that, he missed six more cuts and only once finished better than 38th, tying for sixth at the Buick Open.

At the Masters, where he missed the cut, Azinger said he was one-hopping his drives into the net on the driving range.

So far this year, Azinger has missed the cut at the Sony Open and tied for 43rd at Phoenix. His chances to make it this week don't look good, either. With 124 of the 126 players at par or better, Mark Hayes is three over and Azinger is one shot behind Hayes.

Azinger has hit two balls out of bounds and three into water. In the first and third rounds combined, he hit 10 fairways.

In short, his driving has been driving him crazy.

"I've hooked it for nine months and I haven't hooked it for 21 years," he said. "I have no clue what to do."

Azinger, 43, a 12-time winner and one of the most consistent players on the PGA Tour, said he is all right physically, that he has tried swinging harder, swinging softer, different golf balls, consulting with mental guru Bob Rotella, practicing more, practicing less, talking about it and not talking about it.

"I'm probably going to try not talking about it again," Azinger said. "It's like putting: You don't talk about that when it's bad. You say, 'Well, it was bad today, but it'll be better tomorrow.' "

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