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Paul Azinger's focus beginning to return to his game

Paul Azinger has written about his Ryder Cup captaincy and produced videos for a phone app. Now he’s headed back toward “playing mode.”

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Paul Azinger has written about his Ryder Cup captaincy and produced videos for a phone app. Now he’s headed back toward “playing mode.”

LUTZ — If you ask him, Paul Azinger will politely talk about his golf game and how he is working to get it back in shape. But his eyes really widen when he talks about his book on the 2008 Ryder Cup that is scheduled to come out in May, or the golf iPhone app he developed for Apple.

Azinger the businessman has taken precedence over Azinger the golfer the past few years. Ever since he was named the 2008 Ryder Cup captain, the Bradenton native has been more focused on making other people better golfers.

He led the U.S. squad to victory over Europe in 2008. Since then he has written a book about the experience called Cracking the Code. He also developed an iPhone app called Golfplan, which allows users to see 30-second videos of Azinger giving lessons.

With all that going on, he has had little time for his own game.

"I told one of my sponsors that this year is really a throwaway year for me," Azinger said. "I've got a book that is coming out soon, and I've been working on an iPhone app that has quick-fix drills that people can use. So I'm going to be a little distracted.''

In fact, there was a time when Azinger thought about doing something other than golf. Ever since his days at Florida State through his 12 PGA Tour wins in 27 years as a professional, golf has been his constant.

"I almost bought a majority share in a boat company, but the economy is so bad that it didn't make sense,'' Azinger said. "And I'm not going to get rich on the book or the iPhone thing, so if I'm going to make some money I have to play golf. I'm not that good at anything else."

Azinger has eased his way back into golf. He turned 50 on Jan. 6 and has played in two Champions Tour events before this week's Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am. His best finish was a tie for 21st at the Ace Group Classic in Naples in February. He has yet to shoot a round in the 60s on the Champions Tour.

It has been a long winless drought for Azinger. His last PGA Tour victory came in 2000 at the Sony Open in Hawaii. He admits he has a ways to go before being competitive on the Champions Tour, but he's at least got both eyes on his game again.

"I had maybe one eye on golf and one eye on Ryder Cup,'' Azinger said of the past two years. "I played maybe six to eight (PGA) events per year. I haven't really thought about much else than Ryder Cup for the past two years, so now I'm trying to get back into that playing mode.

"I really didn't practice a whole lot prior to the other events. But I've had two weeks off, and I've actually practiced. I may play crappy this week, but at least I've practiced."

Azinger plans on making the 65-mile commute from his home in Bradenton to TPC Tampa Bay this week, although he said he will get a hotel tonight because of his 7:15 a.m. tee time Friday. The rest of his time will be taken up by signing 300 advance copies of his book.

Whether he finishes first or last this week doesn't seem to matter to Azinger. He knows where he's at in his career, and he's just fine with it.

"I've never truly had a real job in my whole life," he said.

Paul Azinger's focus beginning to return to his game 04/14/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 15, 2010 11:47am]
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