Fuzzy a Winner Regardless of the Score
On occasion, he can still bring home a trophy. It happened Sunday at the PGA Senior Championship. Nobody did anything particularly outstanding, and thats including Zoeller. But he grabbed the lead and hung on for dear life, and nobody was as good at it Sunday as ol Fuz. And lo and behold, he won himself a Senior major!
Is there anything to dislike about the guy? Maybe to his closest friends, he does something irritating. But to the rest of the world, he just goes about his business, whistling some silly tune while he strolls along. Does he realize the serious of the game hes playing? Probably. But it doesnt make any difference.
Ive watched him up close since his U.S. Open win at Winged Foot in 1984. I cant say I really know Fuzzy Zoeller. I dont know if anybody in the press does. But I dont know if I have ever met anyone in this game who is more pleasant. Now, that doesnt mean he is always funny. Sometimes he doesnt even try to answer your question. But still he smiles. Its the most courteous turn-down youve ever seen. Some guys look gruff even when they are answering.
If hes not a laugh-a-minute guy in the interview room, he certainly is one on the golf course. He chatters incessantly. I wonder what it is like when he is paired with Lee Trevino? And he isnt just yapping to make noise. He reduces golf down to what it was meant to be in the first place ' a game.
Maybe, some think, its just a game because he never had to worry about three squares a day. His family was upper middle class as a youth, and his marriage simply solidified that status. What if golf were his ticket to a meal, some have wondered? Would he have the same slap-happy attitude? Good question. The fact remains, some players who were born with a silver spoon in their mouth are still grouchy. So being well-to-do isnt the answer.
Its just the mans nature. Hes always had a beautiful sense of humor.
Thank God! said Zoeller earlier this year. Have you seen me play golf lately?
Yuks were forthcoming around the room ' isnt there always a lot of yuks when Fuz is present? But Zoeller turned serious for a moment.
If I didnt have a sense of humor, I would not have a club left in that bag out there (meaning that he would have flung every one.) Ive been blessed, Ive had great parents and both of them have great sense of humors. They were very easygoing, and thats kind of the way my life has been. Every once in a while I do get a little fired up. But not the golf course, he said.
Zoeller is a 50-year-old rookie on the Senior Tour, experiencing for the first time the double pro-am. The Seniors often play two pro-ams when they play a three-day tournament. Fuzzy never has a problem with that, unlike a few others.
Ill play three, he volunteered. The regular tour members are required to devote only one day per week to the pro-am.
I enjoy the pro-ams, said Zoeller. I enjoy getting corporate America out of their office and showing them a day of fun. There will be some razzing, yeah. I want them to have a day they will remember, and not necessarily on their golf.
But on the first hole, it is a little weird for an amateur golfer, all of the people standing around. They are thinking, My God, they came out to see me. I always try to make it clear to my amateur golfers ' These people are not here to see you. Just enjoy your game. They know youre worth a damn, so dont worry about it.
In other words, they should emulate Fuzzy. He just doesnt sweat it, and it doesnt matter where it is or what the competition. Before the final day of that 84 U.S. Open, he warmed up for the four-hour round of golfing hell by playing a game of catch with his caddie.
One, its a fastball. Two, its a curveball. Three, its a ' oops, duck!! Its a beanball!!
Now hes on the elder gents tour, where the stories flow like fine wine and the old gaffers relax and spin yarn after yarn. This is so much more Fuzzy. Hes in his element, and if he happens to look up and win one every now and then, well bless em all, anyway.
Everybody else kind of enjoys that 50-yard marker when you get out here, he said. All of a sudden, the ball starts going in the hole again. Like what Ben Crenshaw said - the one thing he really enjoys about the Senior Tour is making the cut.
Meaning, naturally, that EVERYBODY makes the cut at most of the tours events. Not everybody is like Fuzzy, though. Golf - heck, sports as a whole - would be so much better if it were.
Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:
The Monday morning headline will be …
REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.
RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.
MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.
JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.
Who or what will be the biggest surprise?
HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.
LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.
BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.
COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.
Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?
HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.
LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.
BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.
COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.
What will be the winning score?
HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.
LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.
BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.
COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.
Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty
Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.
Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.
This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):
While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:
Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.
McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.
Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.
“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”
McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.
“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”
He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.
Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign
A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.
Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.
Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.
And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”