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.

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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.