Sutton ready for debut

February 11, 2009|By JOHN REGER

Though the break from the game of golf wasn’t what Hal Sutton wanted when it happened, it turned out to be the best thing to happen to the new member of the Champions Tour.

Sutton, who will be playing at the Toshiba Classic March 6-8, is readying for his debut at the Newport Beach Country Club, which will be part of his first full year on the Champions Tour.

The golf world had heard little from Sutton, who walked away from the game four years ago, partly because of the criticism he received as captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup and partly because of where he thought the game was headed.


“I didn’t necessarily agree with the direction golf was going, but maybe golf was evolving and Hal Sutton wasn’t,” Sutton said. “That’s what four years away from the game will do for you. It will make you sit back and take a look at what really is important.”

By 2005 Sutton was showing burnout on an otherwise stellar career. He played in 10 events, made the cut in just two of them. The combination of playing poorly and not agreeing with the tour’s emphasis on long hitters was the impetus for Sutton to retire from the PGA Tour.

“If I was in charge I wouldn’t have moved the game in the direction it was going but I wasn’t, that’s OK,” Sutton said. “I think it’s just the evolution of the game. It’s not one person’s decision. It was multiple decisions made by a few. It is what it is.”

Though he played once in 2006, missing the cut at the Nissan Open at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, he didn’t so much as pick up a club until last year.

“When I left it, I left it,” Sutton said. “I didn’t play at all. That was really good. It was a cleansing process for me.”

Sutton instead decided to focus on his family and building golf courses. One of his designs, the TPC Treviso Bay in Naples, Fla. is the host site for the Champions Tour’s The ACE Group Classic hosted by Peter Jacobsen. Sutton has committed to that event as well, which is the week prior to the Toshiba Classic.

“I was excited to hear that it was going there,” Sutton said. “I think it’ll be fun to compete in an event there.”

Competition is fun to Sutton again and working on his game, rather than trying to change it, is his focus.

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