Paul Azinger used to say for years that the only thing that made a player choke was cash or prestige.
So he’s not afraid to use the word “choke.”
Just don’t expect to hear it when he takes over for Johnny Miller on NBC Sports next year. Azinger has pledged to call the shots the way he sees them — that’s the advice Miller has given him — but he has a different perspective when it comes to his vocabulary.
“I’m not afraid to use that word, but I’m not going to stick it on somebody because I don’t think that’s fair,” Azinger said during a conference call to announce his hiring by NBC. “It’s irresponsible as a broadcaster to do that. I want to help build their brand, not tear them down, and I want to do it in the way that I do it.”
He also pointed out that Miller, who once said he should have a doctorate in “chokology,” never called anyone a choker.
“I think he said, ‘If there’s ever a shot you could choke on, this is it,'” Azinger said.
Azinger has used “choke” frequently in discussions on golf, mainly his own, and it’s always been the same topic. He long has said that only two things cause a player to choke: cash and prestige.
“That’s about it,” he said. “I just don’t see any value in labeling somebody a choke. I would probably go about it a different way.”
Meanwhile, Azinger picked up a new nickname during negotiations with NBC.
The network first contacted him in 2013 when Azinger was with ESPN, and it was little more than contact. But when Miller began talking seriously this summer about retiring, Azinger was the first phone call.
It reached a point where Tommy Roy, the golf producer at NBC Sports, wanted to meet with him. Roy lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, and Azinger lives near Bradenton on the Gulf Coast of Florida. They decided to meet in Ocala, a halfway point.
“We found a Ruby Tuesday just off the freeway, so that’s where we met,” Roy said, confident that no one would recognize them.
The meeting went well, and Roy believed Azinger would be the right fit. Then, it was up to the NBC executives to work on a deal.
“Whenever we have big-time deals at NBC, we operate in total secrecy,” Roy said. “So from that point forward when we had any internal texts or communications on this, we always referred to Paul as ‘Ruby Tuesday.'”