American professional golfer who has won ten PGA Tour events including two major championships. He is one of three golfers to have won the Masters Tournament in his first appearance in the event. He also won the 1984 U.S. Open, which earned him the 1985 Bob Jones Award.
Frank Urban Zoeller earned the nickname ‘Fuzzy’ due to his initials and it is a name that has stayed with this highly popular player throughout his career. Zoeller joined the tour in 1975,although he had actually turned pro two years earlier,and first caught the eye at the 1976 Quad Cities Open. A magnificent round of 63 was all the more remarkable for the fact it finished with eight consecutive birdies which equalled the record held by Bob Goalby.
Fuzzy won his first tour event with his success at the 1979 San Diego Open and then pulled off a shock victory at the Masters of that year. Going into the final round he found himself six strokes behind Ed Sneed who,with just three holes to play and a three shot lead,appeared to have one hand on the trophy. It was not to be,however,as Sneed bogeyed each of those last three holes to join Zoeller and Tom Watson in a play-off. All three men parred the first extra hole and Fuzzy then kept his cool to roll in a birdie putt at the second hole to secure his first major championship.
In doing so he became only the third man to win the Masters on his debut appearance and the first since Gene Sarazen way back in 1935. The only other player to have achieved such a feat was Horton Smith the previous year to Sarazen although this was the first ever Masters to be played. That Masters triumph guaranteed Fuzzy his Ryder Cup debut but it was something of a disappointment for the man from Indiana as he could muster only one point from a possible five in the American’s 17-11 success.
After his Masters victory of 1979 the first three years of the new decade were something of a disappointment for Fuzzy Zoeller,although there was a fine performance at the 1981 PGA Championship where he finished second to Larry Nelson. Fuzzy’s total of three under par was four shots back on his fellow American whose pair of 66’s in the middle two rounds proved to be decisive. In 1983 Zoeller was victorious at the Sea Pines Heritage and Panasonic Las Vegas Pro Celebrity Classic earning himself a return to the Ryder Cup team in the process. It proved to be a thrilling encounter although Fuzzy,after his defeat in partnership with Gil Morgan in the first day four-balls,did not re-appear until the final day singles. In the first match of the day he earned a vital half point against the brilliant Spaniard Seve Ballesteros to help the Americans to the narrowest of victories at 14 1/2-13 1/2.
Fuzzy Zoeller was to enjoy a fine year in 1986 with victories at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am,Sea Pines Heritage and Anheuser-Busch Golf Classic to his name. Therafter he suffered a downturn in fortunes before enjoying something of a resurgance in the early-mid 1990s. There was,of course,the odd notable performance along the way including an 8th place finish at the 1988 U.S. Open where he was six strokes behind the winner Curtis Strange. In the same event two years later he was 8th once again this time finishing four shots back on the surprise champion Hale Irwin. In the 1991 PGA Championship Fuzzy carded rounds of 72,73,74 and a fine closing effort of 67 to finish in a highly creditable 5th place at two under par.
Three years later Zoeller was to enjoy a highly profitable year without actually winning a tournament. His five runner-up finishes was the most since the six apiece that those legends of the game Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer had back in 1964. Zoeller’s total of $1,016,804 gave him a 5th place finish in the U.S. Money List in what was his best performance since his second place behind Hal Sutton back in 1983. Fuzzy’s Indian Summer continued at the 1994 Open at Turnberry (see photo above) where he enjoyed his best ever finish of third with a score of nine under par. That total included two magnificent middle rounds of 66 and 64 but the tournament was won by Nick Price who played some quite sublime golf to return rounds of 69,66,67 and 66 for a total of 12 under par.
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