But what he had seen made him shake his head. The same week that he broke the record, Greg Norman obliterated it.
In 20 years out here, I havent seen anyone play as well for 72 holes, said Zoeller. I got beat by the best player in the world.
Zoeller had shot 268 for the tournament, breaking Nick Prices record of 270. But in 1994, that wasnt nearly good enough. Norman shot a 264, smashing Prices 18-under-par record by six shots and shooting 24-under.
Then-commissioner Deane Beman was equally impressed. I think this is one of those records that will never be beaten, he said.
Norman obviously agreed. I think this is in my top three of four weeks of golf, said the two-time British Open champion.
Certainly there were mitigating conditions that might have aided the record low scores. There were calm conditions all week long until the final day, and then the breezes were relatively light. Thunderstorms lashed the course, leaving the turf relatively soft. But spectators saw an exhibition of shot-making that is rare indeed from both Zoeller and Norman.
In the opening round, Norman didnt come close to making a bogey while sizzling with a 63 that tied the course record set by Fred Couples in 1992. Ive had 63s before, but sometimes you have to work hard for them, Norman said. This was an under-control 63.
But by the end of the second round, postponed by thunderstorms and finished on Saturday, Norman was already at 11-under. After lunch, he came out for Round 3 and continued his assault on the course. Zoeller briefly tied him for the lead after birdies at 10 and 11, but Norman quickly righted the ship with three birdies before the end of the round. He shot 67, Zoeller shot 68, and by now it had become a two-man race.
Norman went into Sundays action ahead of Zoeller by four strokes. He quickly upped it to seven with birdies on the first two holes. Zoeller bogeyed the first, and the outcome was never in doubt.
Norman made his first bogey of the tournament at the 13th, where he missed the green with the only really bad swing I make all week. He still had a five-stroke lead as he prepared to play the par-3 17th, the lake being the only remaining hazard. But Norman made birdie on a 9-iron to two feet, then made the triumphant walk up the 18th fairway. Waiting for his on the green, ready to cool him off with a towel, was Zoeller.
Norman was 39 years old, No. 1 in the world, and then at the peak of his golfing prowess. But never was there such a destruction of a golf course as Norman made of the TPC at Sawgrass.