Hal Sutton won the rich, highly regarded Tournament Players Championship in March, leads the PGA Tour money list with $277,384 this year, but still is not satisfied with his results on the tour.
"I'm satisfied with the way I'm playing," Sutton said, "but I am falling short of the goal I set for myself this year. I want to win a major championship."
With the Masters, U.S. and British opens already by the boards, the only major left is next month's PGA Championship at Riviera Country Club near Los Angeles. "I hate to fall short of a goal," Sutton said.
People have said it about other promising PGA players, now they say it about the blond, determined Sutton, 25, who last year broke Jerry Pate's rookie earnings record with $237,434. They say he is the next Watson or Nicklaus.
"All of the great players in golf have seemed to have a very determined, almost steely look in their eyes when they are on the golf course," said Steve Rankin, publicist for the PGA Tour. "Ben Hogan, Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus. It appears that they can look right through you because of their high level of concentration. I notice the same look in Hal Sutton."
"It's flattering that people think that I might be the next Nicklaus; that's great," said Sutton. "If I can't live up to being the next Nicklaus, I'll at least know I've done the best I can. I don't think anyone can dominate the tour like in the past. At this point of the season the last two or three years, the leading money winner would be close to $350,000. I've won $278,000."
"I think Hal's No. 1 strength is his determination to be successful," said Marty West, a teammate on the 1979 U.S. Walker Cup team. "He's not flamboyant or flashy. He's just a down-home type of guy, unpretentious."
Sutton is not scratching to earn a living. His hard-driving father Howard is a multimillionaire oilman and Hal often flies to tournaments in a plane they jointly own.
The original plan for Hal was to be a golfing gentleman in the mold of Bobby Jones--successful in business with a knock-em-dead amateur golf game--but after losing in the first round the defense of his 1980 U.S. Amateur championship, Sutton scrapped that idea and earned his PGA Tour card.
Howard Sutton sometimes scolded his son in public when he viewed what he thought to be less than a total effort by his son on the course.
"He'd say, 'Come on, get your fanny in gear,' " said Hal. "He'd still do it, if he thought he could get away with it. But you look at any great athlete. Without exception, one of the parents has been instrumental in their success. Look at (John) McEnroe, his father. Look at (Jimmy) Connors, his mother."
Sutton, is a solid ball striker who has molded his swing with the help of Jimmy Ballard and Floyd Horgen, golf coach at Centenary College. "When I start doing something wrong, I practice until I get it right," said.
Sutton bristles knowing some have questioned his putting ability: "Some people label me as a weak putter. I'm not being cocky when I say this, but you don't lead the money list by putting badly."
Sutton said winning the money title is important to him, and he will play a heavy schedule the rest of the season.
But he is going to give the PGA Championship his best shot. "I am going to take next week off, go home to Shreveport (La.) and get ready for the PGA," he said.