Sutton Comes to a Crossroad

By Associated PressDecember 21, 2004, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)Hal Sutton played only one PGA Tour event the final three months of the season, allowing him a taste of what life was like before he devoted two years to being Ryder Cup captain.
The biggest change might have been his appetite.
Sutton missed the cut at the Chrysler Championship in late October, no surprise given the rust. He talked that day about wanting to put the Ryder Cup behind him and get back 'to what I should be doing ' playing golf.'
Hal SuttonBut with only 10 days left before 2005, he still isn't sure what he wants to do.
'It's tough to get back,' Sutton said. 'I'll be honest with you, I lost a little desire.'
Sutton still has plenty on his plate.
Two weeks ago, he realized a two-year dream when Christus Schumpert Health System announced plans for a children's hospital in Shreveport, La., a five-story wing with 80 beds. Sutton came up with the idea after his agent's 7-year-old daughter died of spiral meningitis, and he has been hosting charity events with David Toms to raise money.
A week later, county officials in Fredricksburg, Texas, approved another construction phase in the golf course Sutton is building called Boot Ranch. It is scheduled to open in September, and Sutton sounds more enthusiastic about the course than his Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson pairing at Oakland Hills.
'Those are the two biggest things I have going on right now,' Sutton said. 'I'll play some golf, but I don't know how much. I've always made my schedule as the first priority. Now I'm making my schedule with those other two things as the first priority.'
Life rarely returns to normal for a Ryder Cup captain.
Of the five U.S. captains who preceded Sutton, only Tom Watson finished in the top 150 on the PGA Tour money list the year after his captaincy ' 43rd in 1994.
Lanny Wadkins had never finished lower than 88th on the money list in his 22 years on tour before being named Ryder Cup captain. With the Ryder Cup behind him, he played 21 times in 1996 and finished 189th.
And then there's Tom Kite.
A model of consistency his entire career, Kite nearly qualified for the '97 team. Some thought he should have made himself a captain's pick. But the year after his U.S. team lost at Valderrama, Kite played 22 times and finished 159th on the money list, his lowest position ever at the time.
Some of that is by design. The PGA of America usually selects captains whose best golf is behind them.
'You're appointed Ryder Cup captain because you're on the downside of your career,' Curtis Strange said. 'When I was doing TV, I still had a job, so things got back to normal for me.'
Sutton thought he might have a TV job waiting for him, working alongside Strange last year at ABC Sports. But then Strange resigned, and the network went with Nick Faldo and Paul Azinger as their top analysts.
There have been other things holding Sutton back.
The palm area of his left hand was nagging him all year, and he took a steady dose of cortisone to get by. He had surgery earlier this month and is waiting for the stitches to come out. And the natural letdown from his two years of being in the spotlight has allowed him to reassess how much he wants to go through the grind of a PGA Tour schedule.
Next year will be his 24th on tour.
'One thing I learned by not playing as much this year as I normally do is that I can live with that,' Sutton said. 'It's not something where I'm just hanging on every limb to get to the next tournament. I've done a lot of playing golf in my life, and I'm sure I'll do more. But right now, I'm content with the things I'm working on. I'm watching my kids grow up, and I've enjoyed spending time with them.'
Sutton, 46, is one of the few players who earned his fame before the kids came along. Samantha turned 8 last month. His twins, Sara and Sadie, will be 6 in January. He and his wife last year adopted a son, Holt, who turns 2 in April.
'Life is good right now,' Sutton said.
He has one more year of exempt status on the PGA Tour, courtesy of his victory five years ago in The Players Championship. Sutton probably has made enough money ' $15.2 million, which puts him 19th on the career money list ' to play in 2006 with an exemption for being top 25 in career money.
Sutton already has resurrected his career once.
He was regarded as the next Jack Nicklaus when he won the PGA Championship, beating Nicklaus in a dramatic final round at Riviera in 1983 at age 25. But his game fell apart in his prime, and Sutton went eight years without winning. He had to use a one-time exemption from top 50 in career money just to keep his card.
Then came an amazing renaissance. He won six times in his 40s, beating Vijay Singh in a playoff at East Lake in the '98 Tour Championship, and staring down Woods in 2000 at The Players Championship. In between, he led the Americans to a rare victory in the Ryder Cup.
Whether he can compete again depends largely on his health and how much age has diminished his skills.
But it all starts with desire.
And the year after a Ryder Cup can take a lot of that away.
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.