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Soul Survivor
John Garrity
January 24, 2000
To a chastened Paul Azinger, winning the Sony Open for his first victory in seven years was cause for reflection instead of celebration
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January 24, 2000

Soul Survivor

To a chastened Paul Azinger, winning the Sony Open for his first victory in seven years was cause for reflection instead of celebration

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Azinger didn't seem to notice. His lead was eight when he smacked his drive on the final hole. His celebration was contained, despite a heartfelt ovation from the spectators in the grandstand. Azinger—who admitted that he had felt poorly all day—doffed his visor; embraced his wife, Toni; and kissed his daughters, Sarah, 14, and Josie, 10. He told a television audience that he dedicated the win to Stewart's family, Ardan's family, Fraley's family and all those diagnosed with cancer and facing an uncertain future. Asked if he thought a higher power was pulling his strings, Azinger adroitly dodged the question. "The inspiration was there, but this whole divine intervention thing is a little too much to ask," he said. "It was up to me today."

Happily—well, almost happily—he was up to it. But it wasn't like his 11 other Tour wins. Every time Azinger looked at a leader board on Sunday, he saw Stuart Appleby's name. APPLEBY, whose wife, Renay, was struck and killed by a London taxi in July 1998. APPLEBY, who wore Payne Stewart's knickers and tam-o'-shanter at the Tour Championship, a few days after the fatal plane crash. APPLEBY, who like Azinger sometimes gets that vacant, haunted look in his eyes.

The deaths, Azinger said, "really changed the way that I perceive life." But now he had found his game again, and the kid in him wanted to throw his visor and punch his fist into the sky. The old soul, the mourner, said no, that won't do.

It was joy, encumbered. It was the best Azinger could do until life made its meaning a little clearer.

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