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Sunday, January 16, 2005
"The year I won here, I was five shots ahead and I led the whole way," Azinger said. "There was a lot more importance on it, really, because I had not won a tournament since I got sick, and it meant that I would make it all the way back if I had won in 2000, which I did.
"Had I not, then I'd be in that boat right now and you'd be saying, 'Well, are you close to all the way back?' Once I won that tournament, that question finally went away."
His love affair with Hawaii is also well-documented. Azinger was close several times to getting a win here in the 1990s, with three seconds before finally breaking through. He'd like nothing better than to swing his way into the winner's circle later today.
Azinger put himself in that position with a bogey-free third round of 67, leaving him 8-under 202 for the tournament and only two shots out of the 54-hole lead held by Shigeki Maruyama at 200. If nothing else, Azinger has confidence in his bag entering today's final round.
"I honestly feel like if it's my time to do it, I'll do it," Azinger said of trying to win here again. "I said it the year I won this tournament if it's right for me to win, I'll win it. I have not gone ahead of myself. The only time I've looked back and regretted anything is not hitting a better pitch on the last hole today."
Even with a victory, Azinger will still spend time in the booth. He is realistic that his better golfing days are behind him.
"Well, my career is on my downswing, but I'm not giving up at all," Azinger said. "I want to change that, guys going to the booth and then bellying up. As poorly as I played at the end of last year, and being that it's the third time I've been offered an opportunity to work with one of the networks, I couldn't refuse. But I didn't want to do 20 broadcasts. I negotiated down to 12. That way, I can still be a full-time player."
And what are his expectations for today?
"I felt good coming in here, I really did," Azinger said. "I had a little angst because I have been feeling good and then not being able to play well, you know, in spots the last year. But I commented the first day in here that I had butterflies, which is good. Because without them, I don't think you can perform simply because I don't think you have a chance.
"There were a lot of reasons I had butterflies, the first tournament of the year, you want to get off to a good start. Michelle (Wie) is here, you don't want her to smoke you. Now here I am, but I really prepared I think properly in the offseason. I came here with a mind-set hoping I would be in this position."