He last won a full-field Champions Tour event in 2002 ' in fact, that was the only Champions Tour event he ever had won. But here he was again, talking to the Golf Channels Tom Nettles while holding the crystal trophy at the MasterCard Championship.
Nettles made a big mistake. He noted that Fuzz didnt win last year. Zoeller hurriedly cut him short, reminding Nettles that anyone who has three back surgeries and yet plays professional golf ' that person cant even think about complaining.
Wait a minute! Fuzzy yelped. I won last year! I win every time Im out there playing golf!
Listen, he told Nettles, I dont have to win to keep myself happy. Every day I wake up and have the opportunity to play the great game of golf ' Im winning. I may not have won any hardware (trophies), but Im winning just the same.
That is the essence of Zoeller. He has a back that by now is the consistency of Swiss cheese. Because of it, he cant practice putting ' the stance is much too upright to allow him the repetitive motion of stroking putt and putt after putt. In fact, he cant practice hitting any shot for very long. But after all the knife fights that his back has been through, just the fact that he can tee it up and make a decent living leaves Zoeller overjoyed.
Fuzzy is 52 now, living what so often is called lifes greatest mulligan. Ten years ago, long after the first surgery, it looked like he had finally beaten the pain and stiffness. He finished fifth on the regular tour in money earned, setting a record for the most cash won without a victory. He finished second a remarkable five times without getting to the victory ceremony.
But the next year, the old back bugaboo had him in its grasp again. Zoeller finished 110th and never seriously threatened the young gents thereafter He joined the elders in 2002, managed to win the Senior PGA Championship, and finally got another last week. Mr. Bubbly is on a roll!
Its a crazy game, he said with a shake of the head. When things go like that (as it did last week), all you can do is sit back and enjoy the ride. And sometimes you come out with hardware like this.
Fuzzy was locked in a duel Sunday with his playing partner, Dana Quigley. And yet they chattered incessantly, both truly enjoying the beautiful Hawaii scenery, the marvelous condition of the course ' and their good fortune in playing at such a high level.
Walking off 17, he (Quigley) said, Lets go show em you can have fun and enjoy this game of golf, Fuzz recalled. We were laughing all the way around there.
Quigley, himself a pretty loose guy, agreed that it was about the most relaxed hes ever felt in the cauldron of a golf tournament.
'Fuzzy is the loosest guy in the history of golf,' Quigley said. 'He misses it, he makes it, he still roots for you to knock it in there.
Zoeller has his quiet moments, times when he is deadly serious. And he really isnt that much of a comedian. He is simply in love with life. Give him a golf club and any ol kind of a swing, and stand back and enjoy the man.
And the best part of it is, he never takes himself too seriously. Hes just thrilled to be playing golf.
Having an opportunity to play in the same forum as a Nicklaus, the Palmers, the Players, the Caspers I cant ask for anymore, he said. Theyre a great, tremendous bunch, Ive been with them ' what? ' 31 years now, I think. I cant say enough about them ' theyre just champions.
A lot of people would say that about Fuzzy, too. He cant practice his putting, he cant run five yards ' but he sure enjoys this game.
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