Champions Tour rookie Paul Azinger held a question-and-answer session with reporters on Monday during the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic media day. Here is the transcript:
Q: Are you going to play the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic here at the end of April?? PAUL AZINGER: I plan on coming and playing. I've played Fallen Oak in the past and I absolutely love it. I have a fondness for the Gulf Coast. My daughter went on a mission trip there not long after Katrina and we built a couple of houses there. That area was hit so hard. I have a fondness for New Orleans and that whole area that got hit so hard. It holds a special fondness in my heart. I'm looking forward to coming and spending some time there.
Q: What do you recall about being here before with Nick Faldo in your challenge match?? PAUL AZINGER: Just whopping up on Faldo in our head-to-head match was part of the fun of it. I hit the ball really well there that day. I love the golf course. It's beautiful to look at; to see the incredible work of one of the great architects in the game -- Tom Fazio. It's a spectacular piece of property and he created this masterpiece. It's so pleasing to the eye; it makes you want to play golf just stepping on the property.
It's difficult, but it's fairly wide open off the tee. But if you hit in a fairway bunker, even for us, about 90 percent of the time you're probably going to have to come out sideways. You'll have to hit a short iron to get over the lips of the bunkers. These players are attracted to a course that is fair and that looks good. Fallen Oak is both.
Q: Do you have an advantage with having been here?? PAUL AZINGER: Not that much. These players are experts and experts at adjusting and adjusting quickly. I do like to putt on Bermuda grass. I like to hit off Zoysia, but so does everyone else. The players are so good. Here you have guys who have played professionally for a minimum of 30 years and most of us have learned how to hit the ball. It might not go quite as far, but if you walk up and down the range, it's a "Who's Who" in the game of golf. There's nothing like the sound of a perfectly struck golf ball, and to walk up and down the range and hear that sound from guys who have been at it for 30 years plus is great. We all have put in our 10,000 hours and we have taken it to the next level.
Q: On being a rookie with high expectations?? PAUL AZINGER: It's intimidating in some respects. I'm out there as a rookie and I'm expected to play well, but there are still guys out here who are really, really good. The three Champions tournaments that I have watched so far the winning scores 22, 17 and 18 under. I don't care where you are, that's some low shooting.
I kind of like it. I think we all like the attention in some way and when it goes away we want it back. But I'm going to have to earn it. I haven't been very well prepared the last couple of events, believe it or not. And I have always prided myself on being prepared. Going into the last event, I told my caddie, "Look around here, dude. I'm one of the least prepared players out here.' I knew it and as a result I played poorly. I don't think I touched a club for 10 days going in. I don't want to go into another tournament like that. I am going to be prepared, or I'm not going to play.
So, I will be prepared when I show up at Fallen Oak. I do feel I little bit of pressure to play better, I can tell you that. If you don't have butterflies before you tee off, it's generally because you think you don't have a chance."
Q: What does golf mean now?? PAUL AZINGER: I still want to play well. I still have the competitive desire to be good, but the Champions Tour is not going to ever define or re-define me as a player in any way, shape or form. I want to enjoy the game at this level, and obviously I'll enjoy it more if I play well. I'm getting to moving on and sitting in a white sand beach drinking out of a bamboo cup with a pink umbrella in it or something like that. That sounds good, doesn't it?