WSOP Main Event: The Zinger
by Craig Cunningham
What is the right poker analogy to use when looking at PGA Tour Paul Azinger? You could compare him to Jennifer Harman, as both have come back from signficant illness to return the competition each loves. Harman underwent a kidney transplant, while Azinger was treated for lymphoma found near his shoulder blade. You could compare Azinger to Juan Carlos Mortensen, as both are fierce competitors. Azinger famously gutted out a birdie on the 18th hole of the 1993 Ryder Cup match against a similar bulldog, Nick Faldo. The birdie halved a match rendered meaningless after the US had clinched the Ryder Cup. It was meaningless to everyone but Azinger and Faldo. Which poker player went through the struggles that Azinger did after his battle with cancer, struggling to get back on track then losing some of his closest friends when Payne Stewart, Robert Fraley, and Van Arden passed away in a plane accident? Who worked through sickness and death and failure at the poker table for seven years like Azinger did before winning again at the 2000 Sony Open?
PGA Tour Pro Rocco Mediate played in last year's Main Event, making it into Day 2 before finishing out of the money. One of the new friends he made as part of Team PokerStars was 2004 Main Event Champion Greg Raymer. Raymer sweated Mediate at this year's Masters as he shot a 68 in the first round and stayed in contention through Sunday. Zinger would love to match or surpass both of Mediate's performances, contending in a major in the next twelve months and making it deep in this year's World Series of Poker. He may not have the experience that some of his fellow players have, but no one will doubt the heart of this lion.