'Nice to see you guys in the press room. This is my first visit in here this year,' he said to a hearty round of laughter from the assembled hacks. Hal was obviously in a good mood after shooting his second straight 66 at Doral Friday. And he obviously was in a good mood to be back on the East Coast after the PGA Tour had started the first couple of months out West.
Sutton had back and ankle problems toward the end of 2000, maladies guaranteed to greatly hamper your effectiveness. He had won the TPC in a torrid shootout with Tiger Woods and added the Greater Greensboro Chrysler Classic mid-year. Then he suffered his physical ailments and was quiet the second half of the year. Ditto the West Coast this year.
'Let's have three cheers for some heat,' he said after traipsing around in Doral's 85-degree temperatures. 'We have been in the cold. It is nice too sweat a little bit.'
As expected, Sutton and the players from the east have a decided preference for Bermuda greens and the eastern courses. Putting was a huge problem for Sutton out west. At Doral there were no worries, mate. He sank `em like he was putting at 10-feet holes, making a couple of 20-footers Friday and a pair in the 12-15 foot range.
'The West Coast is tough,' said Sutton, the admiration apparent for the first eight winners.
'You play a lot of courses, multiple courses, you are not putting on the same set of greens every day. The greens are all different, and some are like putting through a gravel pit.
'If you get off to a poor start, not making anything, trying to make some putts, some times you feel like talking to yourself out there.'
Stewart Cink echoes the feeling. A resident of Atlanta, Ga., a graduate of Georgia Tech, he is as East Coast as the Boston Red Sox. 'I'm a huge fan of Bermuda,' said Cink. 'I grew up mostly on Bermuda. I never realized they could get it this good a shape until I first came to Doral. It is awesome to see roll out here.'
Of course, your preference undoubtedly is shaped by your region of the country. 'I am sure the guys of the West Coast would argue the other way,' said Cink, recognizing regional preferences.
But Sutton doesn't like the West Coast grasses. And he doesn't leave any doubt about that.
'I hate putting seaside poa annua greens,' he said. 'There is an awful lot of that on the West Coast.'
Sutton gave more than a passing thought to the injuries that handicapped him toward the end of last year. He's in his 40s now, mindful that the body doesn't rebound from injuries the same way it does in the 20s. To put it mildly, it was a tremendous relief to shoot numbers like he has posted at Doral.
'I was concerned,' he says, his face darkening for a moment at the thought of Hal Sutton reduced to also-ran. 'Every time I turned around, it was something different happening.
'I got that tendonitis in my left ankle. I think that caused a lot of the other problems. In hindsight, I would have been better off if I took five or six months off right after I detected that tendonitis and let it heal. But I didn't.'
Of course not. You wouldn't think that Matt Dillon would let a little ole' ankle injury stop him. Or James Arness, for that matter. Hal Sutton wasn't going to, either, come hell or high wedges.
[Read Hal Sutton's Bio Here]