Here's what Paul Azinger makes of Tiger Woods' lacklustre showing at the USPGA Championship and his back injury


Words: Robin Barwick

You never know what can happen in ‘Media Dining’ at the PGA Championship. While a barefoot Jason Day was busy extricating himself from the jungle by the second hole in the third round this afternoon, your correspondent was taking a late lunch with some American writers, and listening to a tale about Paul Azinger, and how he was so upset to lose the 1987 Open Championship to Nick Faldo at Muirfield, that the notoriously combative American was still too scarred to talk about it over 20 years later. Now that’s pain.

Readers of a certain vintage will remember that Azinger, playing in his first ever Open in 1987, held the lead after 36 and 54 holes, and clung onto a one-shot advantage over Faldo in the final round with two holes to play. Playing ahead of Azinger, Faldo parred all 18 holes that day to finish on 279, three under par for the tournament, before Azinger agonisingly dropped shots at both of the final holes to finish a shot adrift. Faldo was a major champion for the first time.

Writers in Media Dining came and left the table, and as Day showed brilliant perseverance to par Valhalla’s second hole, who should walk up to our table? Azinger, on a late lunch break himself from his broadcast duties with ESPN.

So is it true? Is it still too painful to talk about the 1987 Open?

“Well, I wouldn’t go that far,” starts Azinger, who went on to claim the 1993 PGA Championship at the Inverness Club in Ohio. “But it certainly hurt a lot and I can still feel the heartache. Put it this way, if someone kicked you in the balls really hard, you would still remember that pain years later wouldn’t you?”

This is what Azinger says on the matter of Tiger Woods, who missed the cut by five shots yesterday: “He has gone from the artist to the engineer. It is difficult to watch a Vincent Van Gogh paint by numbers. We want to see Tiger come back and get all of this stuff out of his head. The golf swing takes a second and a half. What is running through his head in a second and a half that has caused him to lose clubface and path awareness? Something different is happening in the strongest and greatest mind that golf has ever known, and he has got to fix it. It is not just physical.”

There wasn’t time to ask Azinger whether the 2008 Ryder Cup, at which his American team defeated Nick Faldo’s European team here at Valhalla, was sweet revenge for Muirfield 23 years before. It probably was, though, just a little.

Robin Barwick travelled to the PGA Championship courtesy of Mercedes-Benz. Mercedes-Benz is the official car of the PGA Championship