Lately, though, things have been looking up for Sutton. He tied for third two weeks ago at Hilton Head, and he finally sees his way out of this morass. Nick Price saw him struggling on the driving range before the MCI Heritage and gave him a tip. Sutton responded by finishing a tie for third, his best finish in two years.
Sutton was appreciative of Prices help. But he thinks the real problem might have been something else.
He wanted me to keep my arms a little closer to my body, Sutton said of the Price tip. But I think it's more in my legs than my arms ' Ive kept working on trying to slow my legs down a little bit.
Sutton admits was trying something to increase the yardage from his tee shots. It probably all stems from trying to hit the ball harder the last two or three years, he said. I was looking for more distance.
He admits he spent a lot of nights the past year wondering if the effective golf swing would come to him. Sutton was an instant success when he started, winning the PGA Championship in 1983, his second year on tour. But after winning seven times his first four years, Sutton wandered around in futility for eight years with nary a victory. His renaissance came in 1995 when he won again, left him in 96 when he finished 109th, but returned in 98 with a couple of wins.
Then, just as suddenly, it disappeared again the second half of 2001.
I think we all, when you go through a period of time where you cant play the way you know youre capable of, wonder if it's ever going to come back, he said.
Ive worked really hard on it and its been a mystery to me. It seems like all the time Im working on path, path, path with the club. This past week I got home and got to looking at it and I just said, You know what, this is in the legs, it has to be in the legs. Ive worked too hard on the path.
So, Ive just been working on slowing my legs down, and I think were gonna get some results here soon.
The captaincy of the American Ryder Cup team came as a great honor to Sutton last year. He has played on four of the teams and his inspirational leadership was crucial to the squads victory in 1999. He concedes, as many think, that it will be a difficult job, trying to captain the team at the same time hes trying to snap out of the slump.
Im going to focus a lot of my time on playing, he said. But, certainly, being captain of the Ryder Cup is going to take up a lot of time, too. Im just trying to open up enough space to do both.
Im passionate about what I believe. I work hard at what Im trying to do. I spent a lot of time thinking about being on the policy board, what I needed to do or say I didnt have the time to do that.
Sutton, incidentally, has already head-huddled with several past Ryder Cup captains to try to get a win for the 2004 edition.
We had a past captains dinner in Dallas at the beginning of the year in January, and we spent the evening talking about their times as captains and what they thought, he said. They all shared with me what they felt. Ive spent a lot of time talking with Curtis (Strange) and Ben (Crenshaw), some to Lanny (Wadkins).
One thing, though, is totally refreshing ' he is a listener. Im always open to ideas, he said.