Originally created 11/04/04

Azinger, Faldo to make debut at East Lake

ATLANTA - Nick Faldo and Paul Azinger haven't seen much of each other since their spirited match in the '93 Ryder Cup ended in a draw. They will be side-by-side this week at the Tour Championship, starting their new roles as golf analysts for ABC Sports.

The network will be the first to have a three-man booth in golf, although Azinger and Faldo will only work together with host Mike Tirico for about a half-dozen tournaments in 2005.

"Their personalities were so divergent," ABC golf producer Mark Loomis said. "But they believed in what they said, and they also listened to others. I thought the two of them together will be terrific."

Faldo's dry sense of humor and Azinger's sharp wit were on display during a news conference as ABC announced its talent lineup for next year.

"I think the timing was good," said Faldo, a six-time major champion. "I was frustrated with my golf the last couple of years. I got mentally tired. So I thought if I'm mentally screwed up, maybe I'll make a great announcer."

Azinger said he was looking forward to having a conversation with Faldo.

"We haven't had a whole lot to say to each in the last 20 years, so it's going to be fun getting to know Nick a little bit," Azinger said. "I know Nick does two things a little slower than I do. One is probably hit a golf ball, and the other is fixing his hair."

Both signed two-year contracts that coincide with the end of the PGA Tour's television deal through 2006.

Ian Baker-Finch, who had been working in the booth after Curtis Strange left in June, will be calling various holes during tournament coverage. On-course analysts will include Judy Rankin, Billy Ray Brown and Bob Rosburg.

Steve Melnyk will not return. ABC also used Hal Sutton this year, but he is not returning in 2005.

It was a difficult decision for Azinger, 44, who has been working on his game and has only one PGA Tour victory in the last 11 years (2000 Sony Open) since recovering from lymphoma.

"If I was playing great golf, I probably wouldn't be sitting here," Azinger said. "But the 18th tower just doesn't come available very often. There's only three of them on the major networks."

Azinger also said ABC's schedule did not conflict too much with his playing schedule. The only PGA Tour event he will miss because of network duties is the Nissan Open at Riviera.

He finished 126th on the money list after a bogey-bogey finish to miss the cut at Innisbrook. Azinger said he would not use a one-time exemption from the career money list to keep his card, but would rely on his status as a past champion to play about 15 tournaments a year.


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