PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA (AP) — When Hal Sutton won the 1983 PGA Championship at Riviera Country Club north of Los Angeles by one stroke over Jack Nicklaus, the Golden Bear resorted to his crystal ball.
“This will be one of many major titles for you,” Nicklaus said that day to the 25-year-old Sutton, adding that given the game he possessed, he might be the “Next Jack” and become the game’s dominant force.
While that never happened — Sutton never won another major – they are the only players in Players Championship history to win the PGA Tour’s main tournament twice, with all four victories coming on Monday.
“Wow, that’s impressive.” Monday finishes are uncommon, and we each achieved it twice,” Sutton said by phone. “That’s not horrible standing next to Jack.”
In the second year that the tournament was held at TPC Sawgrass, Sutton won the event. Seventeen years later, he won the 2000 Players Championship by one stroke over Tiger Woods with his “be the correct club today” on hole 18.
“Winning a golf event is difficult enough when you have to play four days, but adding the fifth day makes it even more difficult,” said Sutton, 63, a 14-time PGA Tour winner, former Ryder Cup captain, and 1983 PGA of America Player of the Year.
Sutton stated that his mindset on Mondays was different.
“In the first one, I was chasing the lead, and in the second one, I was sitting on the lead,” Sutton explained.
Sutton won by one shot over Bob Eastwood in 1983 after coming back from four strokes behind with a final-round 3-under-par 69 on Monday.
Sutton explained, “My mentality was to basically string one excellent stroke after another good one and see what happens.” “It wasn’t blowing as fiercely as it had been (on Saturday of this year), but it was windy.” On 17, I hammered an 8-iron into the centre of the green, which rolled back to about six inches from the hole.
“Believe me when I say that I wasn’t shooting for the flag.”
Sutton was ranked No. 11 in the world heading into the Players seventeen years later. Woods was the world’s best golfer by a whopping ten points. Woods, who had only been on the PGA Tour for four years, had already won 19 of his record-tying 82 championships, including three in 2000, going into the Players. He had won two of his 15 majors; later in 2000, he would win three majors in a row.
Sutton held a three-shot lead on the 12th hole when play was stopped on Sunday due to another storm.
“My thought was that I had to go to the 16th hole with a three-shot lead,” Sutton explained. “Because I might not go for the green in two at 16, whereas he probably will, which means he could make eagle while I could make par.” That is exactly what occurred. I got to 17 with a one-shot lead when he made eagle and I made par.”
Sutton’s historic call from the center of the fairway on 18 was the result of both players parring 17. He pulled a 6-iron from 178 yards away from the flag. “Be the proper club today,” Sutton shouted emphatically as the ball sailed toward the flag. It was, as it came to a halt 10 feet away from the hole. Sutton had to two-putt after Woods went over the green but chipped to less than a foot. Yes, he did.
“It was fantastic. “I had never stated in my life, ‘be the proper club today,'” Sutton said. “But I knew I had the perfect yardage; I knew nothing could stop me from winning the tournament when I hit it.” A gust of wind was the only thing that could detract from the shot. That’s why I said what I did; I didn’t want to be caught off guard.
“It was a very different experience playing alongside Tiger. At the moment, he was dominating everyone. Colin Montgomerie mentioned that week that we were all competing for second place. Davis held a three-shot lead the week before, but Tiger closed the gap and prevailed.
“At the moment, Tiger needed to be defeated. I felt the strain of being the boss and trying to outsmart him. It added to the pressure, and the victory felt even greater.”
Sutton received $126,000 for his victory in 1983, making him the first six-figure winner in The Players. He earned $1.08 million seventeen years later, becoming The Players’ first seven-figure winner.
“I think back to those tournaments all the time whether the PGA Tour is playing on Monday or not,” Sutton said. “When you’ve had success on a demanding course like the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, against the best field in golf, you don’t forget you won there.”