The Big Easy-Going

By Bailey MosierMarch 15, 2011, 5:01 pm
Editor's note: will be following four mini-tour players – Tim Hegarty, Zack Sucher, Benoit Beisser and Jack Newman – over the course of 2011 in our new feature, 'The Minors.' Check in each week for the players' progress, updates, photos and more.

OCALA, Fla. – It isn’t Ernie Els’ 18 PGA Tour victories, three major championships or 45 other international titles that make Zack Sucher envious of the South African.

It’s not Els’ election into the World Golf Hall of Fame or the fact that he ranks fifth in career earnings on the PGA Tour.

Nope. Zack doesn’t hold any of that against Els.

The one thing that does irk the 24-year-old aspiring Tour professional is The Big Easy’s trademark on, well, ‘The Big Easy.’

When asked what one word best describes Zack Sucher both on and off the golf course, Sucher could only come up with one phrase – the same phrase – for both categories: “Easy-going.”

Since Els will probably always have dibs on ‘The Big Easy,’ we’re going to dub Zack Sucher ‘The Big Easy-Going.’

It seems by no error that Sucher be linked to Els. Their physique, personality and temperament on the course could easily be interchanged for one another.

And Zack hopes the same for their golf games, too, one day.

“I’ve always liked Ernie Els. He’s a big guy and swings so easy. He’s pretty mellow on the golf course and doesn’t get mad too often.”

Which is precisely the perception Zack holds of himself.

“I’m easy-going as a person. I don’t worry very much. Probably the same as a golfer,” Sucher said.

“I usually stay pretty positive. Getting angry really doesn’t help much.”

Watching him golf, you’d never know if Zack had just made an eagle or a double-bogey. He smiles after a made putt the same as he smiles over a missed putt, joking that he knows “the hole will get in the way sooner or later.”

Zack Sucher
Zack Sucher has made the cut in three of eight events in 2011.

I caught up with Zack during his most recent Hooters Tour event at Golden Hills Golf and Turf Club in Ocala, Fla.

Heavy rains hit the Ocala area, delaying the first day of play and soaking the course so much so that a ‘lift, clean and place’ rule was in effect the morning after the storm.

Due to the Thursday storms, Sucher completed his second nine holes of his first round the following day where he observed the ‘lift, clean and place’ rule.

Zack finished his first 18 at Ocala with a 3-over 75 and after a 30-minute intermission, was back on the tee for his second 18. Having been made clear to all the players – Zack included – the ‘lift, clean and place’ rule would not be in effect for afternoon play.

On Zack’s first hole of his next 18, his drive found the fairway. He walked up to his ball, leaned over, picked it up and instantly knew he had made a mistake.

“Woops,” he laughed as he was assessed a one-stroke penalty.

With a smile on his face, he replaced his ball, knocked it on the green and two-putted for a five.

“I picked my ball up today and said ‘Crap. What am I doing?’” he recalled after the round.

Later that day, Zack told me about another hiccup he had recently – grounding his club in a hazard, and ultimately making a 10 on the 18th at Palmetto Hall Plantation Club in Hilton Head, S.C. during an eGolf Professional Tour event.

Coincidentally, the 10 he made on 18 at Palmetto Hall Plantation Club was not the first 10 he made on that hole during competition; he managed to perform the same feat during a high school match.

How, you ask?

“I hit in the woods, right, off the tee to avoid water on the left. Then I tried to get it around the trees up by the green, and I hit it in the water, took a drop, then hit another one in the water. And then I thought I could play it from the water, so I got down in there, grounded my club on my way walking in, and then I got out and knocked it on and made the putt for a 10.

'I haven’t played that hole very well,” Sucher said as he made light of the situation.

Zack assured me he is usually more on-the-ball with his game and that he really can’t recall making many mistakes like these ever before in his career.

“I haven’t done a whole lot of things like that. I haven’t had a whole lot of penalty shots,” he said.

While some might mistake Zack’s free-flowing, laissez faire attitude on the course for a man lacking passion, heart or competitive fire, Zack will be the first to tell you that’s hardly the case.

“I want to beat everybody,” Sucher said.

“Where I have an advantage over other players would be my mental game. Staying pretty mellow the whole round…I pretty much enjoy it the whole time. A lot of guys you watch out there don’t look like they have a lot of fun.”

It doesn’t take much convincing to know Sucher has fun on the course. It’s safe to assume anyone who plays with a yellow golf ball, marked with cartoon characters likes to have fun.

Zack Sucher
Zack Sucher has had the same cell phone since high school.

“I’d play with a pink golf ball if they’d come out with one. I’m hoping they come out with one soon,” Zack said, not worried about the perception others may hold of a man playing a pink golf ball.

“I wouldn’t care. As long as it goes the same (distance).”

Off the course, Zack exudes the same smooth-sailing, easy-going temperament as he does while on the course.

In a society and times driven more so by gadgets and gizmos than ever before, Zack still uses the same phone he’s had since high school.

No camera, no Internet, no games, no gimmicks. His cell phone is as basic as it gets.

The reason: “I fish and kayak a lot and if I have it in my pocket and accidentally drop it, I don’t want to have to worry.”

And while the 24-year-old’s year in golf hasn’t been all he could have hoped for, he says he’s not too worried.

Zack has played in six Hooters Tour events, one eGolf Professional Tour event and the Nationwide event in Bogota, Colombia. He has missed the cut in all but three Hooters Tour events.

“I’m hopeful,' he said. 'I kinda need to do good early; make money early and you get into a lot more events.”

While Zack Sucher may be on-par with ‘The Big Easy’ in a lot of ways, it’s simply a matter of time before we find out if ‘The Big Easy-Going’ can storm the game of golf in much the same way as Ernie Els.

Whether he gets there or not, we’ll know one thing for sure – wherever he is, whatever he’s doing, Zack will be doing it with a smile on his face.

Thompson wins Race, loses tournament after short miss

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 8:52 pm

The drama went down to the very last hole in the LPGA's final event of 2017. Here's how things ended up at the CME Group Tour Championship, where a surprising miss from Lexi Thompson opened the door for Ariya Jutanugarn to win in dramatic fashion:

Leaderboard: Ariya Jutanugarn (-15), Lexi Thompson (-14), Jessica Korda (-14), Pernilla Lindberg (-13), Eun-Hee Ji (-13)

What it means: There were scenarios aplenty entering the final round, with nearly every season-long accolade still hanging in the balance. Thompson appeared set to take them all as she sized up a 2-foot par putt on the final hole - a stroke that looked like it would take her to world No. 1 for the first time. Instead, the putt barely touched the hole and allowed Jutanugarn to rally to victory with birdies on the closing two holes. Thompson still took home $1 million for winning the season-long Race to the CME Globe, as it was a reverse scenario from last year when Jutanugarn won the $1 million but not the final tournament.

Round of the day: Sei Young Kim made the day's biggest charge, turning in a 6-under 66 to close the week in a share of 11th at 10 under. Kim made eight birdies during the final round, including five over her first eight holes en route to her lowest round of the week while erasing a third-round 75.

Best of the rest: Jutanugarn seemed like an afterthought as the tournament was winding down, but she kept her hopes alive with an 18-foot birdie on No. 17 and then capitalized on Thompson's mistake with a clutch birdie on the difficult final hole. It capped off a final-round 67 for the Thai who now ends what has been a tumultuous season with a smile on her face.

Biggest disappointment: Thompson faced heartbreak after the penalty-shrouded ANA Inspiration, and she again must handle a setback after essentially missing a tap-in with everything on the line. Thompson can enjoy a $1 million consolation prize along with the Vare Trophy, but a tournament win would have clinched Player of the Year honors as well as her first-ever trip to world No. 1. Instead, she now has the entire off-season to think about how things went awry from close range.

Shot of the day: There were only three birdies on No. 18 during the final round before Jutanugarn laced one down the fairway and hit a deft approach to 15 feet. The subsequent putt found the target and gave her win No. 7 on her young LPGA career.

Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

"I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.

"I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.