One-of-a-kind Fuzzy says goodbye to Masters

By Associated PressApril 10, 2009, 4:00 pm
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AUGUSTA, Ga. ' The best and worst moments of Fuzzy Zoellers professional life took place on the same expanse of manicured lawn, a few hundred yards apart.
 
In 1979, he was the first rookie in nearly a half-century to win the Masters, becoming golfs equivalent of a made man. Almost 20 years later, the fast-walking, faster-talking, self-styled ambassador cracked an ugly joke on his way out of the tournament that has haunted him nearly every day since.
 
Lifes not a bowl of cherries, Zoeller said Friday, walking off Augusta National after 30 years as a competitor for the last time. You know that.
 
His daughter Gretchen, one of four children and a former college golfer, was toting his bag. They hugged on the 18th green, where moments earlier, Zoeller was treated to a standing ovation. Both of them were fighting back tears.
 
It came at the end of a farewell tour that Mayor Deke Copenhaver kicked off Monday by handing him the key to the city. Ever the funny man, Zoeller couldnt resist a promise to return, if only because he already knew where the good bars in town were.
 
Im going to be at the mayors house tonight, he said. So I know where his bar is at.
 
You wont find golfers like 57-year-old Frank Urban Zoeller anymore, unless you count his pals on the 50-and-over Champions Tour, and maybe never will again. He was one of the games few remaining showmen, a little like Dean Martin, only inside the ropes. Hed throw off jokes between shots during a round, then throw down a vodka tonic or two afterward.
 
No one was counting in 1997, when Tiger Woods wrapped up a historic win here and Zoeller, whod finished tied for 33rd, suggested what Woods should serve at the Champions Dinner the following year, when the defending champion chooses the menu.
 
So, you know what you guys do when he gets in here? Zoeller said then. You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not to serve fried chicken next year. Got it?
 
He smiled and walked away, then turned back and added, or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve.
 
Friends have said those 30 seconds obscured 30 years of good will. Zoeller lost some sponsors, but even worse, those close to him said he became more guarded, even in their company. You wouldnt have known that watching Zoeller making his final circuit.
 
He cracked jokes with the members in green jackets on the first tee and most every one afterward. He lit a cigarette halfway down the first fairway, threw the butt down before skidding a 7-iron to 10 feet below the flag and didnt bother to line up the putt before narrowly missing.
 
He didnt line up any of his putts during his 1979 win, either, but for a different reason. Zoeller hadnt even seen Augusta, let alone practiced here when he teed off in the first round. But as was the practice in those days, he was paired with a local caddie and followed every direction almost on faith. He described Jariah Beard as a seeing-eye dog leading a blind man around the course. It wasnt far from the truth.
 
Beard was one of the best caddies at the club, so experienced he could read putts from the middle of the fairway. Zoeller started the final day six strokes back, but leader Ed Sneed bogeyed the final three holes, setting up a three-way playoff between those two and Tom Watson. On the second extra hole, Zoeller chased an 8-iron to 8 feet below the pin and Beard simply said, right edge.
 
All these years later, Zoeller still doesnt understand why none of his fellow pros hire a local caddy, a practice that Augusta National officials dropped soon after his win. His daughter Gretchen may not know the course the way those men do, but she knows her father. On the third tee, with Woods putting on the seventh green a few dozen yards over his right shoulder, Zoeller pushed his tee shot into a pine tree on the right. By the time he and Gretchen reached the ball, barely 150 yards down the fairway, a small crowd had gathered and they fell into a familiar routine.
 
Last time I looked, she said, trying to pump him up, there are no pictures on the scorecard.
 
Damn, Zoeller said. I hit the fairway. What the hell?
 
Pulling a club, she said, Im caddying for a diva.
 
Without a practice swing, Zoeller knocked the hybrid club 200-plus yards down the fairway and off they went. A few hours later, he walked into the scoring hut and signed for a 76, which left him at 155 and 11 strokes over the cut.
 
I hope everybodys had fun, because Ive enjoyed my ride, Zoeller said. I can tell you that. Now its time to step aside and let some other young kid come in and win. Hopefully, they will, too.
 
With that, he headed off toward the clubhouse and the locker where his own green jacket hangs. He plans to come back for the par-3 contest every year, then take a seat on the upstairs porch next to Arnold Palmer and watch the kids struggling with the wide green jigsaw puzzle that Zoeller put together correctly on his first try.
 
Whether his memories of the place fit together as easily, only he will ever know. But something he said before heading out to play Friday, knowing it was his last go-round, suggested he was ready to try.
 
When youre playing well, Zoeller said, you remember everything. Maybe thats the funny thing about professional golfers. They also have the ability to forget the bad stuff.
 
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    Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

    Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

    Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

    As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

    "That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

    Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

    Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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    Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

    If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

    Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

    But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

    Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

    Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

    Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

    Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

    Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

    Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

    Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

    Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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    Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

    Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

    “It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

    Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

    “What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

    Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

    “When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.