Hill also began to play a less hectic golfing schedule. "I used to play every week," he said, "so when I was at a tournament my temper and my nerves built to the point where they, well, exploded and got me in trouble. Now when I feel that I'm ready to hit the ceiling I pick up my clubs and fly home for a week and let it happen there."
The players on tour always recognized Dave as a sound player (sand play is his only technical deficiency) who would start to win when he controlled his actions and his attitudes. "He's always had one of the three or four best swings on the tour," Jack Nicklaus says. Hill, in fact, has an obsession for finding the perfect golf swing. "I want to get to the point where I master the golf ball the way Hogan masters it," Hill says. "Out here the golf ball is usually the master. Like with Arnold Palmer. He can hit only a hook. I want to be able to hit the ball perfectly every way."
Hill hit enough shots perfectly last year to win three tournaments, the Vardon Trophy (for having the lowest stroke average per round) and more than $150,000 in official prize money. He was fined one time last year, and he was not permitted to play in the National Airlines tournament, but in general, he was a new Dave Hill. One incident at the end of the year did detract from the new image, however. Playing for the U.S. against Great Britain in the Ryder Cup matches in England, Dave became piqued when an R and A official made a ruling that later turned out to be incorrect. He was loud in his objections ("The only way they'll get me there again is if I die and they ship my body there by mistake"), and for the rest of the matches the British galleries treated him very unkindly.
This year Dave was a model of decorum on tour until that day at Hazeltine. "You really had to be there to appreciate what happened," he said. "I had finished my round, and I had had a few drinks when they came to bring me into the press room. Someone asked me how I found the course, and I said I had been looking for it since I arrived. Then the writers started to fly questions at me, and, well, I answered them. I meant everything I said. However, I know that I really should not have said those things about another golfer's course. What I really was doing, I thought, was taking a shot at the USGA and Mr. Jones."
Despite the moos and the cowbells that have followed him on tour since Hazeltine, Hill has retained his cool—especially in public. He refuses to answer provocative questions at press conferences, but he will speak frankly in the locker room. Last week at Westchester, for instance, he was incensed at his caddie ("I hit 25 practice balls, and he found only five of them") and at Chi Chi Rodriguez Friday ("After Mr. Hogan left our threesome Mr. Rodriguez put on a stage show"). However, after shooting his 63 on Saturday and a 71 on Sunday that earned him $6,910 for four days, very little bothered Dave Hill—not even the smog.