So, it appears the mythical Texas Slam is safe for another year. Nobody has ever done it. Not Nelson, not Hogan, not Snead, not ...
2013 Houston Golf Association Academic Scholarship recipients, from left: Zachary Bell, Melissa Gerhart, Sirena Guiterrez, Syndie Hinshaw-Medina, Lucas Bazemore and Fernando Trujano.
Rory McIlroy - Brendon De Jonge - Charles Howell III - Phil Mickelson - Dustin Johnson - March 31, 2013
D.A. Points - Billy Horschel - Henrick Stenson - Ben Crane - Jason Kokrak - Stewart Cink - March 31, 2013
Phil Mickelson - Rory McIlroy - Bud Cauley - March 30, 2013
Lee Westwood - Keegan Bradley - Ben Crane - Bill Haas - Stewart Cink - DA Points - Steven Wheatcroft - Jason Kokrak - March 30, 2013
Countdown to SHO
Friday Interviews: Azinger, Stricker, Lowery, Johnson,Palmer - April 23, 2004
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Paul Azinger, thanks for joining us, rebounding from a first round 73 with a great round today, 67, and there's not a lot of low scores out there today. Maybe some comments about the conditions of the golf course and how you played.
PAUL AZINGER: Well, the golf course I think is perfect. We played with virtually no wind for probably seven holes, six holes, and then it started to pick up and get pretty gusty. It's very difficult now.
But really the big difference for me was putting between the two rounds. I putted quite bad yesterday. I probably had eight straight rounds where I putted really poorly, and I putted great the first six tournaments or so I played, but today I putted really well again, and it made all the difference. I could have shot a really good score yesterday. I actually hit it a little better yesterday, probably more greens in regulation and more fairways yesterday. It's all about putting, chipping and putting.
Q. You started the year well and hit sort of a lull. I'm just wondering what your frame of mind or mind set was coming in here, what you're kind of looking at to try to turn things around.
PAUL AZINGER: You know, I made every cut up until Doral. I made the cut at Doral, and I made like a triple bogey from a green side bunker at Honda and missed the cut by one. I didn't really want to play Bay Hill, but my dad wanted me to. He doesn't watch me play much anymore, so I used Bay Hill almost as a throwaway week to change my swing. I've been working with Jim Hardy since October of last year, and I've made some significant changes, and all the while trying to avoid hitting the inside of the ball and trying to get more of the back of the ball, but felt predisposed to the inside of the ball because of my shaft at the top of my back swing, that it needed to be flatter. I was way better at getting the back of the ball, but I thought Bay Hill would be a good week to try to get it flatter.
He had a full-proof way of doing it, but I hated it because it was just very difficult, but I probably flattened at Bay Hill by 10 or 15 inches. He was proud of me because most guys, it's hard to get their shaft to budge an inch.
I would say the last three events I've played, I've been too wrapped up in my swing. Focusing mainly on my long game and my big shots, I've kind of ignored my short game, which has been pathetic the last three events. I actually went to see Bob Rotella the other day, and he kind of reminded me of the importance of your scoring clubs and all that. He said your swing change is good and everything -- it is good. I needed to do it mainly because of my back. The way I was swinging, my back has been killing me for three or four years.
As a matter of fact, I did hit 1,500 balls a few weeks ago in like four or five days, and my back didn't hurt at all, so I've done the right thing in that regard and pretty much decided this week I was going to work on my scoring clubs, and it made a big difference.
I got some balls up and down today that I probably wouldn't have gotten up and down last week, and my technique has improved.
Q. I would imagine you've had probably more advice thrown your way over the past X number of years, well-meaning advice. I'm just wondering, talk about the process you've gone through over the years, sifting through the advice and dealing with all the things that you've dealt with.
PAUL AZINGER: Normally, I pretty much consider myself the anti-model. I would say that after I got sick, I had about three or four years there where I was pretty bad, and then I had a nice stretch where I got myself back into the top 20th World Rankings.
I won Hawaii, and I had another stretch where I started to drop off again. I made 25 straight cuts at one point a few years ago, so that's been good, but through it all, I really haven't been getting a whole lot of advice from anybody that I didn't seek out. And really none of it was helping, except for the mental part of it was helpful, until I saw Jim Hardy, then it really started to pay dividends for me, and I recognized what he was saying was true, and I believe him.
That's why I came out this year pretty much with a new attitude and a better game, and I told my caddie I was real sure I couldn't say about it and didn't want to talk about my swing, and that's how I started the year. I realized there was one more thing that needed to be done, and that was the flattening part of the shaft, and I made the commitment and thought if I want a chance to win a U.S. Open or British Open or PGA, I want to be more accurate and get the shaft around me. When I used to play well it used to be flatter. As I've struggled, the shaft has gone more and more vertical like this.
I thought Bay Hill was a good week to do it. I suffered for that span, but nobody really volunteers advice out here, you have to go seek it out. People know better, I think.
Q. Are you comfortable with the changes now -- (inaudible)?
PAUL AZINGER: It could probably be a little flatter than where it was. I'm real comfortable right now that I'm not going to be just completely swing-conscious on the golf course, but you have to have some keys. Everybody has a few keys, and I'm just working on a couple keys, and I think I'm going to be just a little bit more effective than I was when I was up there.
Q. Did you also change your posture?
PAUL AZINGER: Yeah. Well, that was the first thing that he fixed, was getting me more bent over and keeping my shoulders kind of in front of my hips throughout the swing instead of standing up and letting my right shoulder go closer to my body.
Q. Does that help you -- (inaudible)?
PAUL AZINGER: Yeah, it gets you flatter, but it keeps me from going to the inside of the ball and hurting my back. I kept my right shoulder that way more, which keeps me rotating, and it took all the pressure off my lower body. It was real helpful. I got immediate results. Jim Hardy is the kind of guy, I said, I've never even thought anything like that before. He says, well, this isn't going to take six months. If you're not hitting it better in the next five or ten minutes I'm telling you wrong. It was good advice and it helped me. That said two things to me: It said I'm going to -- he's going to give me good information, and he thinks I'm good enough to do it.
I think anybody out here who has a talent is either getting good information or bad information, and I think that most of us out here could jump through a hula hoop and swing if that was a perfect technique to hit good shots, but it's not, so we would try it and try it and if someone says that's the way I need to do it, you wouldn't hit good shots. The golf ball is going to tell you if the information is good or not.
My point is, I guess, that most -- I would say just about everybody out here has the skill to produce whatever someone is asking them to do in a matter of minutes, and it shouldn't take weeks and weeks or months.
Q. How hard has the mental side of having to deal with having been in the top handful of players in the Tour, a guy who wins a major, falling to the bottom, coming back up again?
PAUL AZINGER: I mean, it's the hardest part. I've been like crashing rock bottom maybe three full times really since I got sick, I guess, because when I first came out I was great and then I just was awful and then I got okay and then I got awful, then I got actually pretty good, and for a point got really bad again last year.
The hardest thing is -- you think experience will make you play good, but it's experience with desire. None of us can see ourselves, so we have to have good information. If you're not getting good information, it doesn't matter how strong your desire is. Every one of us out here has somebody telling us what to do with their swing for the most part. I think mentally when you've gotten to a point at my age where you don't have to do it anymore -- probably I don't have to do it, then I think desire becomes like the big thing. A guy like Jay Haas, he still wants to make the Ryder Cup team. He has a chance to do it. Then you look at Johnny Miller whose desire left him early on. If Johnny Miller would have played and played and played, I'm sure he would have won 15 or 10 more times if he wanted to, but he lost his desire.
Q. Where was your desire as of last fall?
PAUL AZINGER: My desire was as strong as ever, but my information wasn't good.
Q. When the conditions changed like they did today from start to the middle, how do you accommodate for the wind? What changes do you make out there? Are you less aggressive?
PAUL AZINGER: Well, you're just kind of running on instincts when it gets windy like that. Sometimes the wind was almost beneficial for me because I wasn't so swing-conscious. You're just trying to get it done. If you're in the middle of an intersection and someone said grab your 4-iron and break that yellow light on that streetlight right there, I guarantee you wouldn't have swing thought trying to do it, just put the ball down on the cement and whack it.
Q. How did you come to seek out Jim?
PAUL AZINGER: Jim Hardy? I kind of was getting some second-hand information from another play, and then Tom Pernice and his caddie and Peter Jacobson and Scotty McCarron said you've got to go see Jim Hardy, because everyone recognized I was in trouble. My swing was just not functional. He was kind enough to work with me. He's not really -- I don't even think he fancies himself a teacher because he only works with guys he feels -- when he feels like doing, it for the most part. He's got several guys that he'll work with any time, but he's really not allowing too many other players to -- he just doesn't have time. He's really busy in golf course design and all that. He did this golf course.
Q. Can you talk about Jay's desire to try and make the Ryder Cup team? What sort of goals do you put out there for yourself at this stage? Where do you see yourself?
PAUL AZINGER: Well, I've never tried to make or pick a particular result as a goal. I mean, I would never say I want to be the lead money winner or I want to win this or I want to win that. I would never say that. I would just say that my desire is to be the most focused guy. That's the way I've always done my goals. And then the results take care of themselves, they just happen. I've never been really specific even in my mind, certainly not audibly, about what my goals are, not targeting that events. You know what I mean?
I did mention, you know, that I want to have a chance to play better in a U.S. Open, and that's why I made the decision to flatten my swing, because I thought that was going to be a functional improvement, but clearly I want to do well in that event. That would be great.
Q. Is your ball flight markedly different after the swing changes?
PAUL AZINGER: Way different. It's whatever I want now, compared to -- I only had thin and low. Now I have a lot more variety. My potential, my ability to put the ball on a desired tread if I get in trouble. I hit a shot over the tree yesterday on No. 6. I could have never gotten over the tree, ever, in my whole career. I hit it to 10 feet.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Let's go over your score card and then we'll take a question or two. Birdied the par 5, 12.
PAUL AZINGER: I hit a 3-iron, 40 feet, two putts.
14, I drove it in the right rough, caught an okay lie, hit a beautiful 6-iron about 15 feet.
15, I hit a 3-iron past the pin on the right about 40 feet, knocked it seven feet by, made it. I was glad to make it because I four-putted that hole yesterday.
16, I hit a great drive there and hit a 4-iron probably maybe 10 feet.
18, I drove it in the right rough with a 3-wood and hit a 7-iron a foot.
2, hit a 3-wood down the middle, hit a pitching wedge about five feet.
Only bogey of the day, par 3, third, in the rough, and pitched it about 12 feet. I made some good putts coming in.
7, I had to chip out of the right rough again and hit sand wedge from 85 yards, probably seven or eight feet, made that.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Paul Azinger, thank you.
CHRIS REIMER: Steve Stricker, shoots a second round 70, 5-under for the tournament. The key today is to play nice consistent golf out there because of the weather and the wind and the conditions.
STEVE STRICKER: The key for me was definitely scrambling. I think I missed seven greens today, and at one point I missed five in a row on my front side, and I got them up-and-down all five times. You know, when you do that it kind of really keeps the round going. I got off to a good start by birdieing 1 and 2, and then hit that skid of five greens in a row where I didn't hit and got them up-and-down. I didn't really make any long putts, chipped it close. I was off the string on a few holes. When you can do that it really keeps the round going, and it got me through that day, that part of the round.
Q. Tell us about the conditions, the weather, the wind.
STEVE STRICKER: It really picked up probably on our 7th or 8th hole today and maybe even a little gustier than yesterday. I would imagine this afternoon the conditions are going to be a little bit tougher for these guys. I noticed some of the greens are getting a little firmer and harder, a little bit faster, but not really a speed that putts are going to get away from you on. I did notice that the greens were getting harder, but I think it's going to be a little tougher this afternoon than what we had yesterday afternoon.
Q. You were hitting out of the rough quite a bit. Your score is more than respectable, but why were you hitting so well out of the rough when a lot of guys are having trouble out of the rough? How do you explain that?
STEVE STRICKER: I'm just managing my game well, I think. When I was in trouble, I would try to get it up around the green or shoot away from the pin and just try to get it on the green and two-putt. I just managed my whole two days very well, and I've been putting well. I haven't been -- I've been making some key saves, key saving putts. A couple times I missed it far enough off line where it actually held me, a couple times I missed it just barely off the fairway, next to a tree or something, so I had a little bit of everything, but I just managed my game real well and didn't try to do too many stupid things out of the rough.
Q. It's been a while since you've been in contention to win a tournament. What's your mind set on the weekend?
STEVE STRICKER: I'm taking one day at a time. It's been a struggle for me the last probably couple of years, and I'm lacking in confidence, which is starting to come back a little bit. I'm starting to shoot some better rounds, but I feel like I need to take baby steps. I'm just not driving it or feeling good about driving it yet or any part of my game. You know, I just don't have that confidence that I once had, and that's what I'm trying to find and get back. It's been hard. It's been real hard. But something like this is definitely a positive and helps in the confidence. Hopefully you can build on here and see what happens this weekend.
I mean, this game is so fickle. You can just find it from one tee to the next or lose it from one tee to the next, so you've got to keep plugging away and keep working at it.
Q. Ten years ago or so you did really well, one of the up and coming golfers and stuff like that. Do you hear people in the gallery when you're walking around say who's that, because they don't recognize you? Do you hear that?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I do, and it's motivation for me, to tell you the truth. Like you said, at one time I was supposed to be a good player and supposed to do these things, and people knew who I was. Now it's the opposite, and it makes you work hard at it. I didn't ever take for granted the position I was in before, but the position I am in now, I've really started working harder at it and trying to get my game back in shape.
CHRIS REIMER: Thank you, Steve.
STEVE LOWERY: You know, it was a game of momentum because of the break and everything. I played good early, and then we had the break and kind of went out and made some pars and three birdies at the finish, so it's up-and-down momentum all day.
Q. I'm sure you've been through rain delays before, but there's got to be a little something extra when you're at the top of the leaderboard. Is there anything you do with a rain delay, maybe you've got a structured schedule of how you treat a rain delay?
STEVE LOWERY: No, not really. It worked to my advantage. I had a double bogey on 17, so I kind of needed a break. It worked out good for me to have a little break there, so it kind of worked out for me today.
CHRIS REIMER: Zach Johnson, 5-under today is tied for the lead. Long day for you out there today. What was it like?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, it was long. I got off to a good start and I had a lot of momentum, just kind of riding with it. I was hitting fairways, hitting greens and making putts.
When the delay came it was a little frustrating, but it's frustrating for everybody probably. You can use it as a positive or you can take it as a negative. I got something to eat, relaxed a little bit and got my rhythm back when I went back out.
Q. And then you went out and made a bomb, right?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, that was lucky, complete luck. It was basically like 60 feet or something like that. It was ridiculous.
Q. You had said on TV that you were going to go practice your lag putting. Did you actually kind of practice some similar putts?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I tried to. It's hard to, but I tried. There's no putt the same, so obviously -- I practiced a lot of 40-footers. That's what I was trying to do.
Q. Did making that putt change your attitude a little bit about the frustration of the delay?
ZACH JOHNSON: I really wasn't that frustrated. The only frustration came was that I had some rhythm and momentum and it came to an end. When I went back out and practiced I felt like I got my tempo and rhythm back.
Over all it really wasn't that bad. I felt good still and hit a lot of good shots. I made a couple bogeys but really only hit one or two poor shots, but I just trusted it, and it was great.
Q. How much of a relief was it to get in tonight and not have to come back tomorrow? How dark was it getting as you were coming up 18?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, Spike McRoy's caddie, Jim, called the second they blew the horn. He said they're about to blow the horn, and two seconds later they blew the horn. I'm fortunate to be finished for sure. I've come out early on mornings after a delay too many times. It's not fun.
Q. It looked like you really stepped on your drive at 18. Was that a little pent up or something?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, I didn't. It was downwind right to left. The fairways are dry. They're pretty firm right now. I know we've got some rain in the forecast, but they're very, very dry, so you're getting 50-plus yards -- well, 40-plus yards of roll probably. I turned it over a little bit into the wind. It was kind of a missed shot into the wind, but it went.
Q. It's been a really good stretch for you in the last, what, six weeks or so?
ZACH JOHNSON: Sure, yeah, thank you.
Q. Do you ever pinch yourself?
ZACH JOHNSON: No, not really. I mean, I've had an okay West Coast, and then I came back out east and got to work with my instructor for a week, and that was great. Now I'm starting to feel the results of our work, and it's been great. I feel like I'm playing about like I was last year. I was really consistent last year and I was able to make a lot of cuts. I mean, out here everybody hits it good, it's just a matter of who makes the putts. My putting feels good, my rhythm feels good, I'm just trying to get it down the line.
Q. Payoffs here are much greater, though, right?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, financially, absolutely. To me, this is my job. It's just a game. That's kind of my approach. I've definitely got higher priorities than what I'm doing, but I give 110 percent and I love to do it. I'm very fortunate and blessed.
CHRIS REIMER: Zach, thank you very much.
Q. Mr. Palmer joining us now to receive the Dave Marr Award. You know, Shell and golf and television go back to the early 60s. Can you talk a little bit about the importance of corporations like Shell to the development of the game of golf as we know it today?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, Shell has been a very important part of the promotion of television and golf and with the Shell series it's been going on a long time. It has really made some great contributions to the game and it's created a lot of interest in people watching it, going back to Sarazen and Demaret and all the things that happened a long time ago, and of course traveling around the world exposing people to various places in the world, golf courses, countries, seeing what happens in golf in other places, other than just in the United States. And of course, here, they've done a great job with the work they've done in promoting golf, and, of course, helping promote Shell.
Q. Arnold, you've inspired millions of people over the years, and it really has nothing to do with birdies and bogeys. You have a decency to help others, and you readily give credit to your father Deacon for instilling that virtue in you.
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, my father was a fairly tough task master, and of course I could say that I owe a great deal of whatever I have done in my life to his teaching and to his perseverance in hanging in there with me, but that would be a little unfair to give him all the credit. My mother was also very important in the things that happened, and she helped give me the confidence I needed to go and play and do the things that I did.
Q. How much of an honor is it for you to receive this award tonight?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, it's a great honor, particularly when the trophy or the award is in the name of a man that was a very close friend and a good friend for many, many years. We did a lot of things together, played golf, had a lot of fun, and Dave was a particularly good friend, and the things that we did were serious sometimes, but a lot of fun, also. He was a great guy. He had a sense of humor that was unparalleled.
Q. You played a lot with him. I know back in 1965 he was your partner in a Ryder Cup match. What are some of your fond memories of Dave Marr?
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, we don't have enough time in one evening for me to tell you all I could tell you about Dave Marr, but certainly you've mentioned one that was a big thing, and you mentioned the Ryder Cup and the fact that he and I played together, but there was more than that. In 1965, there was the PGA Championship at my club, which Dave Marr won, and that was one of the great moments in my life, when someone else won a golf tournament that I really appreciated the fact that he did, and of course, no one deserved it more than Dave Marr.
Q. We're just a few weeks removed from an emotional 36 holes of golf, to say the least, down at Augusta. I'm sure maybe the cheers have stopped ringing in your ears, but I'm sure that the warmth that you felt in your heart that was extended by those fans is still there today.
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, as you probably know, part of the reason that I still play and part of the reason that I played 50 Masters was for the love of those fans and the people that have rooted for me all those years. Without the fans, I don't think that my golf would have been as good as it is or that I personally would have had the energy to do the things that I've done. It was their support and their cheering and constant letter writing that has kept me going and something that I hope will continue.
But certainly up to now, the fans and the people who have given me all the support they've given me are part of the reason that I've done what I've done.
Q. Last thing, Mr. Palmer, can we get a scoop here? 51 in your sights at the moment?
ARNOLD PALMER: No, I'm through. I will not participate as a player in the Masters again.
Q. But you'll always be there in spirit and heart, and hopefully as an honorary starter, which would make millions and millions of people very happy. Congratulations on your award. Dave Marr is looking down and I'm sure he's very proud that you're going to be receiving his award tonight.