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Star-Bulletin Sports

Friday, January 14, 2000

S O N Y_ O P E N _ H A W A I I

Sony Open Hawaii

What A 'Zinger'

Paul Azinger hungers for victory
that has eluded him since his
1994 battle with cancer

Bullet Leaders: Scorecards from the first day's top contenders.
Bullet Rough start: Punahou graduate McLachlin's first shot forgettable.
Bullet Golf Watch: The tournament has tuned out its own history.

By Bill Kwon


Is this the year that the "Zinger" will finally win it at Waialae?

Paul Azinger, who finished runner-up three times and had two third-place finishes in the Hawaiian Open, shot a 7-under 63 yesterday for a three-stroke lead after the first round of the Sony Open at the Waialae Country Club.

Associated Press
First-round leader Paul Azinger follows his chip shot onto the
sixth green at the Waialae Country Club yesterday.

A long-time gallery favorite, Azinger was anxious for the 2000 PGA Tour season to start and he came out of the blocks off and running.

"I didn't want last year to end," said Azinger, who closed the 1999 season by making four consecutive cuts.

Winning at Waialae would be great for Azinger.

Heck, just winning period.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Vijay Singh tees off on No. 8. He's in a
group three shots behind Azinger.

An 11-time tour winner, including the 1993 PGA Championship, Azinger is still looking for that elusive first victory after his 1994 battle with cancer.

Azinger feels it'll come if he can just stay in contention as often as possible in every tournament.

"When you do, it's a great feeling," said Azinger, who obviously was pleased with his opening 63 in the tour's first full-field event.

The 63 tied the low at Waialae since it had been retooled to a par-70 for last year's Sony Open inaugural.

Despite lush conditions and brisk tradewinds that made the golf course play longer, Azinger wasn't surprised by his 7-under round.

"You know somebody's going to do it. You just don't know if it's going to be you. I hope I can keep it going," he said.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
The No. 4 hole at the Waialae Country Club was tough for
Jay Williamson yesterday. His tee shot sailed over the green
by 10 feet and so did his second shot, which almost landed
in a bunker. Because of the odd angle he had to stand, he
choked up on his club to chip onto the green. He then
two putted for double bogey on the par-3, 203-yard hole.

"This course used to be a pushover, but it's not a pushover anymore."

Still, Azinger scorched the back nine, which he played first, making the turn in 30. He eagled the par-5 18th, sticking a 7-wood from 243 yards out to within three feet of the flagstick.

The club, which he added to his bag instead of a 1-iron, also set up a birdie-4 at the ninth hole that got him to 7-under.

Staying focused and eliminating anxiety helped yesterday, said Azinger, who missed the cut at Waialae the previous two years.

The key?

Spending more time this week, fishing. "It's a secret spot, I can't tell you," said Azinger, who wouldn't even reveal the name of his fishing buddy.

Seven players were three back of Azinger at 66, including three former Hawaiian Open winners -- Jim Furyk, John Cook and John Huston.

Associated Press
Defending champion Jeff Sluman
follows his drive from the 10th tee.

"Paul shot exactly what I shot on the first day (in 1998)," said Huston, who set an all-time PGA record with a 28-under-260 after his opening 63, which was 9-under-par that year.

"It's basically the same course except for two less par-5s," said Huston, referring to the par-4 fifth and 13th holes, then par-5s.

"It's not as much fun. You don't have two extra chances to make birdie or eagle. Now you're hoping to make par."

Ernie Els, who lost to Tiger Woods in a playoff last week at the Mercedes Championships, was in a nine-way logjam at 67 along with defending Sony champion Jeff Sluman.

David Ishii and Waikoloa's Peter Jacobsen were among the 16 players at 68.

"It was about as good as I could have done the way I hit the ball," said Ishii, who sank a 20-foot par putt at the second hole to post a bogey-free round.

The field will be cut to the low 70 players and ties after today's second round.

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