Back injury forces him to withdraw from Open and has Bradenton resident on verge of losing PGA Tour card.
By BOB HARIG
Published July 18, 2003
SANDWICH, England - In golf terms, he's on his way to the worst year of his career. Paul Azinger would never make it out to be more than that. Not when he endured cancer to win again on the PGA Tour.
But professionally speaking, this has been a tough year, one that got worse when the Bradenton resident was forced to withdraw from the British Open after only nine holes Thursday due to a bad back that has plagued him all year.
"I haven't said much about it, but it's been awful," Azinger said. "My swing is predicated on speed and I can't rotate my body. I just can't hit it. And I hit the ball so good in practice this week. "But this morning it was really bothering me. I might have overpracticed. And it really started to grab me out there."
Azinger, 43, has played in 13 events this year, but made only two cuts, with his best finish a tie for 43rd at the Phoenix Open in January. At one point, he missed 10 cuts in a row before a tie for 73rd last month at the St. Jude Classic.
A runner-up at the 1987 British Open to Nick Faldo, Azinger, a 12-time tour winner, decided to come because it is the last year of his exemption for winning the 1993 PGA Championship.
He wasn't exempt for this year's Masters or U.S. Open, and the way things are going, he won't have a PGA Tour card next year. Azinger is 214th on the money list.
He said an area just below the waist line on his right side is giving him trouble. Flying across the Atlantic didn't help. And neither did a lengthy session on the putting green Wednesday when he was trying to get used to a regular putter instead of his belly putter. "When I bend over to chip and putt is when it's the worst," he said. "And to spend any time practicing that makes it really bad." Azinger said he hopes to play next week's Greater Hartford Open, a tournament he won in 1987. "We'll see," he said.