Paul Azinger: His Bio and Golf Career

USA team captain Paul Azinger shares the Ryder Cup with fans after his team's 16 1/2-11 1/2 victory on the final day of the 2008 Ryder Cup at Valhalla Golf Club on September 21, 2008
Paul Azinger shows off the Ryder Cup after captaining Team USA's victory in 2008. David Cannon/Getty Images

Paul Azinger's golf career as a player thrived in the late 1980s and early 1990s before being interrupted by a battle with cancer. He made a mark on the Ryder Cup both as player and team captain, then entered a career in broadcasting.

Date of birth: Jan. 6, 1960
Place of birth: Holyoke, Massachussetts
Nickname: Zinger

Tour Victories

PGA Tour: 12
European Tour: 2

(Individual wins are listed below.)

Major Championship Wins

1
1993 PGA Championship

Awards and Honors for Paul Azinger

  • PGA Player of the Year Award winner, 1987
  • Member, U.S. Ryder Cup team, 1989, 1991, 1993, 2002
  • Member, U.S. Presidents Cup team, 2000
  • Captain, U.S. Ryder Cup team, 2008
  • PGA Tour Courage Award winner, 2000

Quote, Unquote

  • Paul Azinger: "Great champions learn from past experiences, whether those be good or bad. A lot of times a guy needs to be knocked down before he gets up and fights."
  • Paul Azinger: "Staying in the present is the key to any golfer's game. Once you start thinking about a shot you just messed up or what you have to do on the next nine to catch somebody, you're lost."
  • Tony Jacklin: "Match play is in this man's blood. The better the player Azinger went up against, the better he played. Even Seve Ballesteros, who could intimidate almost anyone, couldn't faze Paul."

Paul Azinger Trivia

  • At the 1991 Ryder Cup, Paul Azinger and Mark O'Meara beat Nick Faldo and David Gilford in a foursomes match by a score of 7-and-6. That ties the Ryder Cup record for largest margin of victory in a foursomes.
  • Azinger was one of the early adapters of the belly putter. He began using one in 1999 and is often credited with popularizing the putter on tour.
  • One of Azinger's hobbies is poker, and he played in the World Series of Poker in 2006 and 2008.

Paul Azinger Biography

Paul Azinger is probably best-remembered for the passion and intensity he brought to the Ryder Cup. That might best (or worst, depending on your point of view) be exemplified in the back-and-forth accusations of rules violations that Azinger and his Ryder Cup arch-nemesis Seve Ballesteros engaged in during the contentious 1991 Ryder Cup.

The quote above by European captain Tony Jacklin reveals the respect that Azinger's Ryder Cup play engendered in opponents - despite the fact that he had an overall losing record as a player (5-7-3) during a period of European ascendancy.

But Azinger beat Jose Maria Olazabal in singles at that 1991 Ryder Cup, a key point in the Americans' win. And, as a captain's pick in 2002, Azinger holed out on the final hole to gain a halve against Niclas Fasth in singles.

And in 2008, his Ryder Cup experience came full-circle when he captained Team USA to a relatively easy victory, the only USA win during a 12-year stretch from 2002 through 2014.

Azinger was introduced to golf at the age of 5. But unlike many tour pros (especially the really good ones), he didn't dominate at every junior level.

In fact, Azinger didn't break 40 over nine holes until he was a senior in high school. He had to begin his college career in junior college, but finished it at Florida State University, and tourned pro in 1981.

It took a couple trips through Q-School before Azinger began to make a mark on the PGA Tour. He first cracked the top 100 on the money list in the 1985 season, then finished 29th in a 1986 season that included two runner-up finishes.

And in 1987, Azinger broke out and established himself as one of the PGA Tour's best. He won three times that year, posted nine Top 10s and was second on the money list. And Azinger probably should have won the 1987 British Open: He needed to finish par-par to get the victory. Instead, he finished bogey-bogey and lost to Nick Faldo. Still, Azinger won the PGA of America's Player of the Year Award.

Azinger won at least once in seven consecutive PGA Tour seasons, 1987 through 1993, bookended by 3-win seasons. In 1993, he won three times, finished second or third seven more times, and was again second on the money list. One of those wins, at The Memorial, came via a final-hole hole-out from a bunker.

Azinger was runner-up in another major at the 1988 PGA Championship, but finally got that major championship victory at the 1993 PGA Championship. Azinger beat Greg Norman in a playoff for that trophy.

But in December 1993, Azinger received shocking news: He had cancer, specifically lymphoma in his right shoulder blade.

He played just four events in 1994 following chemotherapy and radiation treatments. And he was never the same golfer afterward. But he did recover and was able to resume a full-time tour schedule in 1995.

His 12th and final win happened at the 2000 Sony Open. Azinger went wire-to-wire and won by seven shots - his only victory after the 1993 PGA.

Azinger began a second career in television before his first career on the PGA Tour was over, broadcasting with the ABC network's golf team. In 2016 Azinger replaced Greg Norman as lead analyst on American golf broadcasts by Fox Sports.

Books By Paul Azinger

Zinger, published in 1995, details his battle with cancer (Buy It on Amazon)

Cracking the Code: The Winning Ryder Cup Strategy was published in 2010 and describes his strategy as captain of the 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup team (Buy It on Amazon)

Azinger's Pro Tour Wins

PGA Tour: 12

  • 1987 Phoenix Open
  • 1987 Las Vegas Invitational
  • 1987 Sammy Davis Jr.- Greater Hartford Open
  • 1988 Bay Hill Classic
  • 1989 Greater Hartford Open
  • 1990 MONY Tournament of Championship
  • 1991 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
  • 1992 Tour Championship
  • 1993 Memorial Tournament
  • 1993 New England Classic
  • 1993 PGA Championship
  • 2000 Sony Open

European Tour: 2

  • 1990 BMW International Open
  • 1992 BMW International Open
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Your Citation
Kelley, Brent. "Paul Azinger: His Bio and Golf Career." ThoughtCo, Feb. 1, 2016, thoughtco.com/paul-azinger-bio-and-golf-career-1563674. Kelley, Brent. (2016, February 1). Paul Azinger: His Bio and Golf Career. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/paul-azinger-bio-and-golf-career-1563674 Kelley, Brent. "Paul Azinger: His Bio and Golf Career." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/paul-azinger-bio-and-golf-career-1563674 (accessed November 21, 2017).