He was stronger than anchovy soup. He turned a killer tournament record into a smudge mark. He blew away the next closest player by three shots, the guy behind him by eight. For four days on a golf course harder than calculus, he never scored worse than 68. He made hatfuls of birdies and only six bogeys. He vaulted to No. 2 on the money list, had the fans eating out of his divots and proved to everybody from the Klondike to the Keys that he is back better than ever.
And he lost by only four.
Just Fuzzy Zoeller's luck. He sings the best aria of his life the day Caruso is in town. He shoots 20 under par and loses big to Greg Norman, who didn't do anything all that special last week in Ponte Vedra, Fla., except maybe turn The Players Championship into the Texas Open, aggravate whatever ulcers Deane Beman was just getting over, and basically establish himself as the 500-pound gorilla for next week's Masters.
What Norman really did was go out to what used to be the Mean Deane Dome, the Stadium Course of the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass, and slip it a Mickey. He threw a record-tying 63 and three no-worries-mate 67s at it for a preposterous 24-under-par 264, which whomped what any other winner had done there by half a dozen shots. It was a four-day Greg Gala, featuring a birdie every three holes, 66 straight bogeyless holes, 49 splendid marches down middles of fairways (out of a possible 56), 2,011 women swooning, and exactly one (1) measly bogey. That bogey ended Norman's streak of 92 straight holes without one, going back a week to the Nestle Invitational at Bay Hill, and breaking a record held previously by President Bush.
How's this for Fuzzy logic: What Zoeller did would have won all but seven 72-hole events last year and every other TPC in history, would have had him stuffing the trophy crystal into his bag and telling blondes in sashes to kiss the other check awhile. Instead he wound up as just another minnow caught in the jaws of a Shark.
So, Fuzz, is that the best you've ever played and not won?
"Son," said Zoeller, "that's the best I've ever played and had absolutely no chance of winning."
The big, blond Ozzie is getting scary good. Here are seven of the big-time tournaments he has entered since missing the cut at last year's U.S. Open at Baltusrol: the British Open, the PGA, the 1993 Tour Championship, the '93 Taiheiyo Masters in Japan, the '94 Dubai Desert Classic, the '94 Johnnie Walker Classic in Thailand and last week's Players Championship. And he has gone 1, 2, T2, 1, 2, 1 and 1 and made, oh, god, you don't want to know how much money. For his win on Sunday he got another 10-year PGA Tour exemption, which he certainly needed since he'd used up almost eight months on the last 10-year exemption he got, for winning the British.
But that's not the scariest part. Norman has gone on chum frenzies before. What's scary is that he is 39 years old and may be running out of dumb. With a five-shot lead on Sunday at the Kate-Moss-thin par-5 16th, Norman had 228 yards to the pin with his second shot—water to the right of and behind the green. Any other day, Norman would have put a death grip on a three-wood and gone for it. In fact this day he would have gone for it. "God, I'm swinging so good," he thought to himself. "And this is just a juicy little sliding three-wood." But his caddie, Tony Navarro, smothered the big clubs with his body.
Navarro knows. Nobody ruins a happy ending like Norman. He lost the 1984 U.S. Open at Winged Foot in an 18-hole playoff. In 1986 he led the Masters, U.S. Open and PGA, all on Saturday night, and lost them all. He led last year's PGA at Inverness on Saturday night and lost it. He led last year's Tour Championship at Olympic with seven holes to play and blew it by pumping shots over greens. He has flown over more greens than Air Florida. For crying out loud, last year he had a chance at the Players on Sunday and lost it for keeps when he hit his iron into the water on 17.