June 9, 2002
JULIUS MASON: Fuzzy Zoeller, ladies and gentlemen playing in his first Senior PGA Championship. Nothing to it, wins his first. Congratulations, some thoughts on your round today.
FUZZY ZOELLER: I'll be very, very honest with you, I had a tremendous week. I practiced very hard with my daughter last week, and I think practice does pay off, because I started hitting the ball very well Tuesday and it carried right on through. It was exciting. I loved doing battles with these guys, even when you're playing poorly, battles with the guys in your group. There's something special when you're in the winner's circle. Words can't describe it.
Q. It's been so long?
FUZZY ZOELLER: It hasn't been that long now.
Q. Yes, it has. 16 years?
FUZZY ZOELLER: Is that what it's been? Thanks, Jack. It has been 16 years, but in my mind, I knew I still had it. I knew I could do it. Yesterday I kind of threw away a couple of shots. That's just mental errors, you can't make and I didn't make any mental errors today. I made one on 17, tee shot, maybe two all day long, other than that I played a solid round of golf. This is one hard damn golf course, I don't mind telling you. This will wear you out.
Q. Talk about how you played 17. That was a pivotal hole?
FUZZY ZOELLER: I had been driving the ball all day except for the shot at 13 where I tried to play a cut and hit a hook. Other than that, when I'm going well, I'll take the driver, even though it was probably a 3-wood shot. You have to go with the confidence you have, and I had confidence in the driver, and I parked it out in right field. I had no shot to the hole, but I had a shot up the left side of the green. You're trying to play percentages, trying to get an angle to the hole where you can escape with a par, or get a putt for the par, which is what I was trying to do.
JULIUS MASON: Talk a little bit about your birdies and bogeys.
FUZZY ZOELLER: The 1st hole, I hit a sand wedge, it was a 52 degree, kind of a mid-wedge into about eight feet just beyond the hole, and I made that for a birdie there. No. 4, I hit a 5-iron into three feet from 194 yards, I think is what we had going up. And then a bogey on eight. I was kind of caught in between clubs. When you get your adrenaline pumping you should always take the lesser and swing at it, and I took the more and swing easier, but I played a miserable bunker shot. I hit three pretty weak shots. I made five. Still being one under par for nine holes and nobody was really going anywhere. As we said yesterday, the golf course is very difficult to make birdies there are no catch up holes. A lot of par-4's and a couple of par-3s, and very few par-5's to make up the round. So I was happy with 34 on the front nine. And on the back nine, on the 11th hole, I hit a sand wedge in from 90 yards. I think it was, 85, 90 yards, to about eight feet, right behind the hole. Then on 13, I made a very critical putt. I want to say it was a eight, 10-footer for par. Those are the things that happen when you win golf tournaments and you make those putts at crucial times. Everybody says it could be a bogey putt, which it can be or a par-putt or a putt for double bogey that saves those streaks, but my putter saved me. I had to make a 4, 5, 6 footer for par. And then again, at 17, I made a good three and a half, four-footer, and the rest was history. The key shot was the drive on 18. You don't know how narrow that looks when you have a two shot lead trying to figure out how you're going to get your ball down there. The ball is only that big around so it would fit and it did.
Q. I was there when you were walking from the 9th green to the 10th tee, you've been known to interact with the crowd even on the final day of the tournament.
FUZZY ZOELLER: That's fine. Let those people talk to me. I don't mind that a bit. They paid good hard money to come out and watch us and I appreciate that. If I can say a few words back to them and make their day then it's been worth it. They aren't going to disturb me. I wasn't hitting a shot. They could probably even talk to me during the shot today because I was concentrating pretty well today.
Q. Do you draw positive energy from that kind of interaction?
FUZZY ZOELLER: I like to see people have fun and enjoy themselves.
Q. Bobby was just in talking and guys have talked various times this week about what a win by you means to the Senior Tour. When you look at the last five years what you've gone through, what does it mean to Fuzzy Zoeller?
FUZZY ZOELLER: You know my last five years weren't that bad.
Q. Surgeries --
FUZZY ZOELLER: I know, but what the hell, that's part of playing sports. You're going to have injuries. I'm lucky I went to the right people to fix this stuff. Most people go through life and suffer, but I suffered but I found somebody to fix it. I'm one of the fortunate ones. After three back surgeries I'm still out here playing, and I can see winning again because it has been 16 years.
Q. Bobby was just saying that your win today was what the tour needed. Do they look at you as the savior of the Seniors?
FUZZY ZOELLER: I don't know. I'm just one person. I think what we're doing on the Senior Tour, we're doing a lot of positive for the game of golf, and the Senior Tour, by having the fans walk in behind. If you watch senior tours, they get more up close and personal. We're having the Q and A sessions after the Saturday round of golf. We're doing the Internet stuff. That's all positive stuff for golf. We don't want people to think we're clones out there, we want people to know that we're human beings and we all screw up at times. It happens. Let's show them we're people just like they are.
Q. Any key up and downs?
FUZZY ZOELLER: 13 was key. 13 and 17 were the two, and I did get it up and down on 15, from the back bunker. Excuse me, 14. Yes.
Q. How long was that putt?
FUZZY ZOELLER: Maybe six inches, I had a pretty good bunker shot.
Q. Fuzzy, you mentioned you were practicing with your daughter?
FUZZY ZOELLER: My daughter is very talented, Gretchen. She's going to the College of Charleston next year on a school scholarship. I had her butt out there working. She was about to kill me. Usually when I go home, I don't play golf at home, I play so much on the road, that's my time with the family, but my daughter, Gretchen, is fired up. She has the German blood.
Q. She's going to Charleston on a golf scholarship?
FUZZY ZOELLER: Yes.
Q. (Inaudible) Roy Vucinich?
FUZZY ZOELLER: Roy had a funny round today. You never noticed what Roy was doing. He made a couple of long putts. Like Bobby said, there he was. We never noticed him because Wad and I were battling back and forth, and Roy hit a couple of snakey looking tee shots and we thought he was out of there, and he hung in there. He's a very good golfer and he's nice man to golf with. He's a gentlemen.
Q. You've talked with the fans a little bit, you were also puffing that cigarette pretty hard, coming up 17 and --
FUZZY ZOELLER: I was? How the hell would you know that. You haven't left that chair, Jack, as he gasps for air over here. What's your point, Jack.
Q. Did you get nervous?
FUZZY ZOELLER: The only time I got nervous today was the putt at 15 back there. I was a nervous damn wreck, when I screeched a 3-iron back at that hole. My nerves were jumping and after I hit the putt at 15, I was fine, but I was nervous as hell on that.
Q. Any particular reason?
FUZZY ZOELLER: Who knows, because I knew that was pivotal. It was a very big putt. It goes to a two or three-shot lead. That was a big one. It could have made it a heck of lot easier coming in.
Q. How important was it to get off to a good start today. From the first hole you took the lead.
FUZZY ZOELLER: That's what my main goal was to make birdies early. I played the front nine -- I don't know if you watched all week. I played the front nine very well. The back nine is where I've had problems. The front nine was good for me to get out and get in the red, and with the high rough it wasn't going to take a real low score close. I just wanted to get there and get close for the back nine.
Q. Back at No. 8, you said when the adrenaline was pumping you should take the shorter club. You took the longer one instead. Which ones did you take?
FUZZY ZOELLER: Between a nine and a wedge, I had 134 yards with the breeze in my face, but that hole plays downwind. I would have been better off taking the pitching wedge and aiming left of the short -- playing short of the hole, which I did a couple of times, as opposed to squeezing that 9-iron back in the corner there.
Q. Why did you?
FUZZY ZOELLER: How the hell do I know. It's all past history now. I don't know why I did it. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time. I do miss every once in a while. I did miss on that one.
Q. Do you ever have a period where (inaudible)?
FUZZY ZOELLER: What was that again?
Q. Since it's been 16 years, did you ever have a point in the last few years where you wondered if you would ever win a tournament?
FUZZY ZOELLER: I had five seconds. I played so well that year. I had a whole year. It was very good. I won 5 million without ever winning a golf tournament. I wasn't sure I would ever win again. That was some of my best golf for a whole year and never even got -- and then we got a call and we got close, every time I got close, somebody played better. There's always that little doubt in your mind if you can you ever do it again. Once you do it, the second one will be easier, because I've already been through the hunt and it's a great feeling.
Q. What's it like to do it here on this golf course, that's played so hard?
FUZZY ZOELLER: George, this is one difficult golf course. I mean, it really is. It's long, it's demanding, you've got small target greens you have to shot at. Every club in your bag gets hit this week. If a guy coming around and says you have to hit every club, he's the one that was down the road early. Firestone has always been a great facility to play golf in.
Q. I think what George might be suggesting does it mean more or does it give you an extra boost?
FUZZY ZOELLER: I've been fortunate, I won on a couple of pretty difficult golf courses in my time. The U.S. Open courses, those are probably the most difficult of all, but it's like everything else, you get in a rotation. You find a golf course that suits your game, and if you're fortunate to be playing well that week, and that's what happened at Winged Foot. It sets my eye from tee to green very well, so I feel very comfortable on that course.
Q. Wayne Levi talked about how he was maybe deluded in thinking it would be easier out on the Senior Tour when he got out here. Once he got out here that really wasn't the case. What were your thoughts coming out here and why?
FUZZY ZOELLER: That's a good question. People thought I would come out and win immediately. You have to understand over my career I've been a very streaky golfer. I don't know why that is. I catch streaks. I'll run a week or two or three and play very good golf, and get down there like Sally and Andy Chop, and I'll think I just had it, how did I lose it. That's how I've been over my career. These guys are very talented even though they're 50 years old, there's still a lot of talent.
Q. Fuzzy, when did you have your last back surgery?
FUZZY ZOELLER: Two years in October, just minor stuff.
Q. It wasn't like the previous two?
FUZZY ZOELLER: No, I didn't have to be put to sleep this time. I've got two degenerative discs in my neck and they went in with needles and shot some stuff in there and I'm fine. For three weeks, I took a series of shots for three weeks.
Q. (Inaudible) How much is it that 84 you shot a few weeks ago?
FUZZY ZOELLER: The 84 didn't bother me. The way I hit my ball it should have been 94. I'm not going to lie to you. When I finished with an 84, Jay walked up to me on Sunday morning and said, Thank you for not W-Ding. I said Jay, I'm a professional, if I had shot 90, I would have put my score card in there and put my name on it. That's my job. I hit some real ugly looking golf shots there, I really did, and it was cold. No excuses, but cold and windy and I started hitting it sideways and if the wind is blowing, it just magnified my off center shots. I hit it a couple of times where you couldn't find it, so I deserved 84, I really did.
Q. What does it mean to win this particular championship?
FUZZY ZOELLER: You know what, I got very, very close. I got a taste of it down in Atlanta, when Larry Nelson beat me down there. I finished second and I always said this is a professional golfer's tournament. This is one that you would love to win and one you would love to get. Yes, it is a 50-year-old Senior PGA, but that's history, baby. That's in the books now and my name is going to be on it, and it's just a great feeling knowing you've won another tournament. I've been very lucky.
Q. This is like the biggest purse you've ever won. Any thoughts on that?
FUZZY ZOELLER: It is?
Q. Yes. $360,000?
FUZZY ZOELLER: Good God. I didn't know that. No wonder my wife was smiling out there. The money is great, gentlemen, ladies, I have to tell you, but getting my name etched in here means more to me than that money. This is a history plate right here. When I'm dead and gone, my grandkids or somebody else's kids or grandkids will come up and look at those names and my name will be etched on there and that means more than the dollars do.
Q. You won The Masters as a Rookie, you won this event as a rookie, any correlation?
FUZZY ZOELLER: No, I'm just older. There's really not.
Q. Fuzzy, your mom was here. What did that mean to you having her see this? And has she been here all week?
FUZZY ZOELLER: She just came in this morning. They surprised me. My two daughters, Heidi and Gretchen. I have three daughters. They jumped on an airplane and flew up here this morning with grandma. I had no clue that she was coming. It was kind of funny, they were trying to surprise me on the first tee and I snuck down the stairs early and they were all standing downstairs and I looked down, "What the hell are you doing here?" But it's a great feeling. She and my dad were at Augusta, the very first one, and it's great to see her and have her have the opportunity to see me again.
Q. What's her name?
FUZZY ZOELLER: Alma.
Q. How old is she?
FUZZY ZOELLER: 82.
Q. Does it feel better to win? I'm not saying it didn't feel good to win.
FUZZY ZOELLER: It's one of the greatest feelings in the world. The sense of accomplishment is to beat a great golf course, and the other is to beat some of the best players in the world. I know they're 50 years old, but they are the best over 50. And it's a great feeling, it really is.
Q. The first couple of months out here you kept getting asked if you felt any pressure to play well as the new guy, to carry the flag, and you kept making a joke saying I'm making all the cuts out here and kind of dodging it. Was that just your self-defense, looking back now? Did you feel pressure and you just didn't want to talk about it?
FUZZY ZOELLER: What's pressure? It's just a word in the dictionary. There was no pressure on me. Yes, I would love to have one the first week or two out here, but it didn't happen. I think that's where the difference is, when you're a professional and amateur golfer. The professional has the patience to wait, where the amateur does not. The amateur, he goes running to find a guru to fix his golf swing. You just need to have patience with this game, especially in the professional ranks.
Q. Do you have room in your trophy case for that thing?
FUZZY ZOELLER: I'll make room. We'll build a new trophy case.
Q. It's been empty for 16 years.
FUZZY ZOELLER: I'll have to talk to my wife. Since she has all the cash now.
Q. And she was rooting for Bobby?
FUZZY ZOELLER: Did you hear that?
Q. He told us about it.
FUZZY ZOELLER: Bobby, said, "Gee, Diane, thank you. You're the only one who is rooting for me," I just said she is a wiley old tour wife.
Q. Did your daughter help you with the putting stroke? I know you're putting was a problem and now you're putting pretty well.
FUZZY ZOELLER: A lot of people have helped me, People at the club, Covered Bridge, and a guy from California called my caddy Friday night and gave me a tip, he says. I looked at my caddy and said just carry the bag, shut up and be on time. A guy called from some bar out in California and told me my left shoulder was too wide open. I do everything by feel, putting. I'm not sure there is a right or wrong way to putt. I don't think your eyes have to be over the ball. I don't think you have to be square. Everybody has to find their little niche. Peripheral vision in my eyes with putting means a lot. My peripheral vision is very shallow so I have to open up to see the line. So whether it's right or wrong, I don't know. That's just the way I putt.
Q. When did you and Chi Chi get close? What's your relationship now?
FUZZY ZOELLER: My very first professional tournament, I won down in Puerto Rico and I won $4,000, and Chi Chi handed me the check and I handed it right back to him, and I said the kids need it worse than I do. And that's how Chi Chi and I started and that was in 1974, I think it was.
Q. How close are you guys still? Do you golf together?
FUZZY ZOELLER: Chi Chi and I had Eddie Elias who was here in Akron, we worked with Eddie Elias Enterprises for years up until Eddie passed away. So we've very close.
Q. Will this change your scheduling and what you'll do the rest of the year now?
FUZZY ZOELLER: I hope not. I don't think so. Why would it change it.
Q. I don't know if you want to play more events, less events?
FUZZY ZOELLER: I'm going to stick with what I've got. People asked me if I'll try the other tour, and I'm strictly a Senior Tour player now. I told the commissioner that and everybody else, my life is on the Senior Tour. It's fun.
Q. Because of the relationship you had with Eddie Elias, was there something special about it being in Akron?
FUZZY ZOELLER: It's funny. Our offices were here, Eddie taught me a lot, did a lot for Fuzzy Zoeller and Fuzzy Zoeller's family over the years. It is kind of funny we are back in Akron, even though Eddie is not with us. I know Eddie is with us. He's up there with my dad in the heavens, it's a great feeling to know that it all started right here.
Q. Do you think the bar is open at covered bridge?
FUZZY ZOELLER: Do you want me to make a phone call right now? I can do this. I have high tech technology here. We'll call Covered Bridge and I will open the bar.
JULIUS MASON: George, I think he's serious.
FUZZY ZOELLER: George, will you do me a favor. Would you give me some cash and get me out of the jam I'm about to get in? I might have a little pull in the pro shop. The dining room I have no pull in. They're going to love hearing from me, you know that. "Davie, this is a professional speaking to you. Do me a favor. The press is sitting here and I'm doing this press interview, the B.S. you have to do after winning a tournament, and they want me to open up the bar at Covered Bridge. So open it up. It's on me." This could really hurt me, you know that. That's all the part of building a golf course, having fun with the members. God love them. "Tell them I'm going to give them a one-hour run from 6:00 to 7:00. Open it up and put it on my ticket".
JULIUS MASON: They're saying, "Congratulations. We love you. We're partying tonight."
FUZZY ZOELLER: There you go. The bar is open.
Q. Who's David?
FUZZY ZOELLER: That's my assistant.
Q. What's his last name?
FUZZY ZOELLER: D-r-a-h-a-m.
JULIUS MASON: Fuzzy has a pretty busy agenda tonight. Thank you very much for coming down.
FUZZY ZOELLER: Thank you, all.
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