Senior PGA Championship

Interview with Fuzzy Zoeller
Wednesday, April 30th, 2003

In a news conference at Media Day for the 64th Senior PGA Championship, defending champion Fuzzy Zoeller discussed topics ranging from what makes Aronimink a special challenge to whether tour players should have equipment restrictions.

PGA PRESIDENT, JACK CONNELLY: Last year, Fuzzy's victory allowed him to have his name added to a most distinguished honor role of champions having captured the Alfred S. Bourne Trophy at Firestone Country Club. He said later that the week he enjoyed in Ohio felt like yesterday. He felt like he could do no wrong with his swing and his putter, and it was a magical week as we all witnessed. His coolness under pressure of a Sunday in the title hunt was the same coolness he shown while he won 10 tour victories, including the 1979 Masters and 1984 U.S. Open. It was the same success story that helped him earn a berth on three Ryder Cup teams.

Last year's two-stroke victory ended a 15-year tour victory drought that he believes opened up a new chapter of golf for him. His victory also made him one of 11 players to mark their first victory on the Champions Tour in a major championship.

Our defending champion continues to be one of most popular individuals in the game, and we are proud to have him back and represent us so well as defending champion. So, ladies and gentlemen, it would give me great pleasure to present a great guy, a great defending champion, Mr. Fuzzy Zoeller.

FUZZY ZOELLER: Thank you, Jack. Thank you. I'm just sitting here thinking, I don't know what the hell I'm going to do, I don't have any notes. (Laughter). Jack, thank you very much, that was six miles and 928 yards too long. Before I would say anything, I would like to thank the members here at the club for giving us an opportunity to play such a terrific golf course, and I mean that. They have to step aside for a whole week and this place is absolutely spectacular.

So, Jimmy, the whole staff here at the club, I don't know how you pat them on the back enough, buddy, but it's going to be a thrill for all the folks who come out here. You're not going to hear one bad thing about this golf course. It is spectacular, immaculate. It is a great venue for a major championship. Birdies are not going to be too many, I don't think. Maybe if we can get it 4, 5, 6 under par is a pretty good number from what I've seen. We have only two par 5s, and one par 5 we tried to play as a par 6 today, didn't we? Joe, you were out there, you saw it. But, spectacular. That's about all I can say.

Now, it's been a great honor for me last year just to get in a position to win this golf tournament. I have been one of the fortunate ones, these majors seems like the first time I play them, I always seem to do fairly well in them. I've been lucky. Winning the Professional Golfers Association Trophy is special because I am a professional golfer and I absolutely do love the game of golf. I don't mind telling you, I would do anything I can to promote this crazy game. Play it every day if I get a chance, an opportunity; if I can take a fishing rod with me, I'd do that, too. I guess my job, supposed to go over my round of golf?

JULIUS MASON: Beautiful human being you are, I like the way you rolled into that.

FUZZY ZOELLER: What hole, the yardage -- thanks, Casey. I knew there was a reason I brought you up here. The first hole, it's a lot of shots here at Aronimink and I want people to understand, a lot of shots are uphill. Even though you think you are hitting downhill, they are uphill shots. So yardages, if it says 150, you'd better play it 155, 160, always add that little extra length. The boys had a little trouble today. I'm sure you all did coming up, sport.

Other thing I saw on this golf course, you never want to short-side yourself. What I mean by that if the pin is tucked on the left, you don't want to miss it to the left; you want to miss it to the right. But this is going to be a challenge. I'm telling you, this is absolutely spectacular. From the tee to the green, the fairway, the driving is beautiful.

First hole, I hit a driver and 6-iron to about 30 feet and I 2-putted for par. Now, this is after coming from Birmingham this morning and chomping down an egg sandwich, no practice ball. So I thought that was pretty good, folks, walking right on the tee and firing a driver, 6-iron at it.

No. 2, pulled my second shot, 2-putted, left the putt short like I did all day long. It's a great little hole. The next hole, this is where we lost the hole, Tommy, is the next hole. If I hit it over 220 yards, that's a big drive for me. I was in such shock that I made a putt. We won that hole, too. That's where Tommy Roy pressed the first time, I think.

But I will tell you, I did 3-putt the par 3, No. 5. I drive it every hole, and I think that's the great thing about this golf course is that you can drive the ball on every hole. But the new courses they are building today, the architects kind of dictate what you do, hit 2-irons here, hit a 3-iron over there, hit a 4-iron in there. But you can drive it on every hole there except the par 3s. That one par 3 was driver, No. 8, down the hill. I 3-putted the 5th. I basically hit all the greens and just kind of 2-putted. It was not a real thrilling round of golf. I did bogey the 18th hole for us, so I did shoot 1-over-par 71. How's that?

JULIUS MASON: That's a fast hole-by-hole, Fuzzy.

FUZZY ZOELLER: I would much rather sit out there and watch paint dry than the way I played golf today. Honest to God, it was a beautiful thing. We did hit a lot of greens; we did do a lot of 2-putting. I got up and down on 10 from the fringe. The guys, the players they are going to love it. If you could have the tournament tomorrow out there, that course is in shape to do it, it really is.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would just like to say, thank you all. I'll go out here and try not to shank my chip shot. I want everybody in this room to win. It's tremendous just being the champion and hopefully I can come back here and drive the ball like I did today. I think I can wiggle my way around this golf course.

JULIUS MASON: Any questions from anybody out in the audience, please raise your hand high.

Q. 4, 5, 6 under, you really think that will win the tournament?

FUZZY ZOELLER: Yeah, from what I saw today. You have to understand, we have one local guy that plays on our tour that's a member here. There's not a lot of birdie holes. I just don't see guys shooting this course out, at this length, 7,000 yards. At that time of year, you can catch a little rain and get it soft, it might possibly go lower. But I do see the greens betting a little firmer and a little faster and players are going to have to dictate where they put that ball on those greens.

Q. The greens, they have sort of a Pinehursty crown to them, do you play a lot of courses with that?

FUZZY ZOELLER: You see a lot of these type of greens on the older-style golf course, you don't see it on the new style. New styles are more abrupt. These are very subtle mounds and they really flow in the green. It makes it kind of a green there -- you might have three greens all in one. This day and age when they build golf courses now, everything has to be real abrupt or just real sharp.

It's a masterpiece. It's a masterpiece, and you know what's really nice about it is that Ron Prichard didn't screw it up.

Q. Compare playing on an old course like this, let's say a modern course like Valhalla not too far from your home, with your particular game, how does that set up for you?

FUZZY ZOELLER: Again, I think the key to players, any golfer is what the golfer sees from the tee to the fairway. Does the golfer have a really good feeling about how he feels when he stands up hitting that tee shot out there?

Really, honest to God, I had a tremendous feeling when I stood on the tee I could see, and I felt what you had to do with every shot that was played.

Some of these courses today, they put these big huge bunkers in to where you can't see fairways and then you stand up there and you always have that little doubt in your mind, and usually when you get a player with a little bit of a doubt in his mind, you've got him in a bag. But when you can see what you're shooting out, it's nice. We don't play courses like this very often.

Q. (Inaudible.)

FUZZY ZOELLER: I understand. The old school, you could stand on the tee and you knew where the ball could be shot at and where you work away from. That's the way it used to be.

Q. How does this course compare to Firestone last year?

FUZZY ZOELLER: Well, Firestone, as far as length, I think it will play very, very similar. They are both about 7,000 yards. Firestone might have been just a little bit longer, but Firestone you have some par 5s, except for 16, that you can kind of go at. I think Firestone's greens are a little bit smaller.

I don't know, they are very good golf courses. To me, golf courses are like people; they all have different personalities. There are some that you go and you really enjoy playing, and there are some that just have you handcuffed all week long.

I don't know, I've got two courses here back to back, and I think I'm very lucky that this is a course that I feel very good on. I felt very, very good at Firestone last year, and I have that similar feeling right here, because of the tee shots that I have to hit. I like the look that I'm seeing.

Q. Do you think the bunkers are going to come into play very much on this course?

FUZZY ZOELLER: Bunkers going to play a big part -- the ones off the tee.

Q. Are they in play?

FUZZY ZOELLER: Ask Jack. He was in one about every hole the first six holes. (Laughter.)

Gosh, I got to see a lot of bunker shots. The only shot I hit was the one on 18 and I skulled it out of there but I had kind of a weird lie. Most of the bunkers, the sand is a little loose right now. Hopefully it will tighten up just a smidge. But they are difficult. They should be half a shot penalty, which is probably what it is. But, it is a hazard, so you try to avoid those hazards.

Q. Recently, Hale Irwin and Tom Kite, Tom Watson got invitations to the U.S. Open and exemptions to play. As a former winner, would you have liked to have gotten an exemption or are you just as happy to stay away from that kind of course?

FUZZY ZOELLER: Why in the hell do you want me to go play a golf course 7,500 yards? Think about it. That is a long golf course. Trust me, if the invitation ever did come, I would take it, yes. I would go out there and eat a piece of humble pie or five or six days.

Those three guys want to play. They love playing that format. They love the difficulty of it, the challenges of it, even though I don't think they can win, I'll be honest with you. I don't think they hit the ball as far as the young guys do today or as high, which is what it takes now. You have to be straight up there to win those type of tournaments.

But it would still be a thrill to go back. Being a past champion of the U.S. Open, having the opportunity to go back, I don't think any of us would ever turn it down.

Q. Let me just ask, also, your comments after your first couple of rounds at Augusta, 7,500 yards, seven par 5's, are you hoping for drier conditions next time around?

FUZZY ZOELLER: Really, honestly, I think they have lost the luster at Augusta. You don't have the roars anymore. The excitement of the tournament is lost. They made the course so long.

For example, No. 11, I'll just give you one hole out of the box. The year I won, No. 11, the longest club I hit into No. 11 was a 4-iron, because it was into the wind, and that was on the second day. In the playoff, I hit 8-iron.

Friday morning when I went out there, I just stood all over a driver, and these guys will tell you, I don't hit the ball too short. I stood over the driver and I had 252 yards to the pin. My God, that's a whole full 3-wood. I was hitting 3-wood into that hole. It's not because I'm a short hitter. They have moved it back so far that I think they have just lost it.

No. 7 is another hole. 7 used to be like a 1-iron down into the fairway and maybe a nice 9-iron, a little 8-iron, big hitters could hit wedge. I took driver and 4-iron at the same hole. Big differences there. I think they need to bring the roars back. I like to hear that Amen Corner going crazy, people making birdies and eagles, but you're not hearing that.

Q. Were you kidding when you said you used a driver on the 8th hole, the par 3?

FUZZY ZOELLER: I should have because my 3-iron didn't get there. (Laughter.)

You know what, that is a very good hole, but again, this golf course, if you look at the greens and the shots that have to be played into the greens, the greens are very receptive to like a 3-iron shot. Even though you are coming down that hill, the green slopes from the back to the front, so it will hold a 2-iron or a 3-iron shot or even a 4-wood.

Whereas, today, when the architects for some crazy reason, when they build golf courses, they slope them the other way. They want to make it more difficult for you. I think they are trying to make us all make bogeys and look like fools out here.

This is a masterpiece here and the members here, the people in this area who get an opportunity to play this course, keep in the back of your minds, this is one of the best ones.

Q. Back to Augusta. Because of the rain earlier in the week, the rough was higher than what the membership or officials wanted, did that not bring a lot of the field back to the tournament and it wasn't quite the length game that it normally is there because all of a sudden the rough was a little deeper?

FUZZY ZOELLER: I don't know, how many inches of a rough do you need? It gives you a nice look. It looks good on TV. But that grass was only about an inch deep; it's not really what you would call rough.

Mike Weir played very, very well. If you notice, any time a guy wins he putts very well. Mike Weir made a lot, a lot of 6-, 8-, 10-footers sometime for bogey and a lot for pars and birdies.

With the mud that the guys had to play with, deal with, he was just the lucky one. And Len Mattiace got it going the last round.

Q. What are your recollections of playing in Philadelphia years ago?

FUZZY ZOELLER: Every golfer whoever played there at White Marsh stopped -- and I can't remember the little ? Madres. Everybody knows about it, that was the absolute best little spot. What a fancy little joint, but they had the best sandwiches and I think any golfer who ever played in it, stopped at that delicatessen at one time or another during the day. They stopped like seven days in a row, just boom, boom, boom. That is one thing I remember; that, and that stupid fourth hole, the par 3. It's the hardest damn par 3 I've ever played in my life.

Q. Would White Marsh Valley be a good course for a Senior Tour event?

FUZZY ZOELLER: Oh, yeah, sure. Champions Tour, Senior Tour, it doesn't bother me to be called senior now. But most of the guys on the Champions Tour have won, so it's a very good name for it.

Q. Do you think with renovation if this tournament goes well, could it be in the running for a U.S. Open or PGA?

FUZZY ZOELLER: If we have a good tournament, a very competitive tournament, and this one over to my left does his job, yeah, it will be right up in there. There's no excuse for it. That angle on 17, if you don't get that, you're going to screw the whole thing up for us. (Laughter.) Yeah, it will.

Q. It could host one?


Q. To Mr. Goldbeck, if all goes well, do you hope to keep the profile high? DICK GOLDBECK: We have a rich tradition with the PGA and going forward, it will benefit the members and but bring the course back to its classic, rather the finest players and champions.

Q. This is basically the general area that Jim Furyk grew up in, 30 miles west of here, but considering his crazy golf swing and success he's had on the PGA Tour, can he win majors?

FUZZY ZOELLER: Oh, you look at golf swings, what is a good golf swing? Have you ever thought about it? Hell, I don't know. Maybe Jim Furyk is doing it the right way, I don't know. I was always taught and brought up, a golf swing is something you develop and you just try to repeat over and over again. Yes, his might look a little weird, but he does the same thing over and over again. He probably looks like a good golf swing, my eyes, but, yeah, Jim Furyk will win. He drives the ball well enough, he'll find a golf course, again, that suits the eye. Really, when you stand on a tee and you look down that fairway, you look to be able to see what you're looking at and he will find that and he'll catch fire with that putter. He's a very, very talented player.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about the state of the Champions Tour, going through a rough patch and maybe what responsibility you feel as a personality to play well?

FUZZY ZOELLER: Well, you know, I really can't say we've been going through a rough deal. I think our TV contract kind of made it a little rough on us, but it looked like a good decision at the time. So, who is to blame? Nobody. It's one of those things; we shot at something; didn't work. Trying to get it to back to where it should be, which is the Golf Channel for us, the Champions Tour, except for our major tournaments and major tournaments should be on our major networks.

But the game of golf itself and the Champions Tour is really blossoming. It's the only place that I know where it's very, very fan-friendly. When I say that, you can get to the players. All you have to do is walk up and the players will stop and talk. They will BS with you, whatever you need, we'll do, because we're trying to promote this game. Like I said, only for people who are a little bit older -- make sure the kids get involved, too.

Q. There's been some discussion about the equipment and in this day and age they are hitting the ball so much further over the last several years, are we getting to the point where it's got to be some limits placed on the equipment?

FUZZY ZOELLER: We already have limits, I think. At least that's what I've been told.

As far as golf equipment, it's like metal woods, metal woods are something new. When I was younger, I had an old blockhead. You go up to the driving range, ugly old square-looking head with a shaft in it. That was a metal head and that's one of the first ones that came out. What the manufacturers have done is taken those metal heads and made them look like golf clubs.

I think players are better today and players are better in every sport. It's not only our sport, football, they are bigger, they are faster, they are stronger, baseball, it's track, it's field. You name it, they are better.

Now, get to the golf ball, yes, the golf ball needs to be calmed down. That's where the problem lies. I think the USGA is not keeping real good tabs on that, and I hate to point them out, but they are our governing body about rules. They are the ones we look to to make sure these things stay at a nice level. But I think the manufacturers today are light years ahead of the USGA as far as how far a ball can go and how fast.

I'm telling you, when you hear players talk on TV about spin ratio and the lift of a ball, my God, they are into it. They know if they don't spin it very much, it's going to go further so the ball needs to be calmed down just a little bit.

Q. How did you get the name Fuzzy?

FUZZY ZOELLER: Well, that's my initials, FUZ. I was named after my dad, which is Frank Urban Zoeller, Junior. He went by Frank and I went by Fuzzy. I had a teacher in first grade, a nun who called me Frank and she always wondered why I never listened. (Laughter.) Excuse me, I mean, nobody ever called me Frank. Hell, I've always been called Fuzzy.

Q. The Tournament Players Club in Memphis, do you have any good memories of that experience?


Q. I thought you would probably say, no and I would say, "I feel the same way."

FUZZY ZOELLER: You're a typical architect. Gotta love you.

Thing I can't understand is why you and I and Hubert (Green) stood out there on the tees, and it was always muddy, why did you always get me to hit the shot? (Laughter.) Okay, I see what it was. Reason why we do that -- that was fun, and it turned out to be great, a club that's doing very, very well. Membership is full and they love the golf course, I will tell you that. You did a great job, buddy.

JULIUS MASON: Ladies and gentlemen, we are looking at the clock, we'll have one more question over here.

Q. Today is the first time you played Aronimink, and if it was, what did you consider our signature hole?

FUZZY ZOELLER: Well, today is not the first day. I've come up here with the Occidental and we've done a couple golf outings. When you go corporate outings, you're in a cart -- you're flopping here, jumping there. You don't really play all the holes. You might play 10 of the holes to get to every group, to get pictures taken and rub the elbows and BS, and that goes with corporate golf, corporate America.

Yeah, I would say, the hole that's probably the most difficult is No. 8, I'll be honest with you. What a great-looking par 3. That is a tough one. And coming down the stretch, if the pin is on the left-hand side on 17, I think you'll be seeing a lot of banana balls coming out of there. I don't think you'll see too many guys trying to shoot it over there.

Q. As an architect, where do you feel the strength in this golf course lies? You said you feel very comfortable off the tee, where do you feel the strength lies?

FUZZY ZOELLER: The strength is from the second shot in. Remember, you've got to drive your ball out there to be able to get that second shot. You are not going to be able to do it from the rough, so you have to be able to get your ball in the fairway, and to hit those little sections. And you know how it is, they are little sections, they have got like three different little greens on each green, so you've got to hit that one little section there and stay below the hole.

JULIUS MASON: It's time for Philadelphia media to try to win some prizes for your charities, if you would. Thank you very much for joining us. We'll see you outside.

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