Hal Sutton lost $76,667 while making a phone call from the clubhouse yesterday after his final round of the Kemper Open. That was the difference between finishing tied for second with three players, when he dialed the number, and his final position, a two-way tie for fourth.
Still, his weekend was a splendid success. Sutton went from needing a birdie on his final hole at TPC at Avenel on Friday just to make the cut, to a 66-65 the final two days to earn $110,000 and move from 12th place on the PGA Tour money list into the top 10. His performance yesterday, which included six birdies and no bogeys, was the low round of the tournament and put him at 8-under 276.
"I thought if I could get it to 9 under I'd actually win the tournament," he said.
That's why Sutton attacked the hole on No. 18. His ball flew over the green and came within a couple of feet of landing in the scorer's tent. He still saved par.
Sutton, 41, thought that obscure tour rookie Rich Beem might see that posted 9 under and back into a playoff. But Beem held his nerves and finished at 10-under 274, which beat Bradley Hughes and Bill Glasson by a stroke.
"I played good, but it just didn't work," Sutton said. "Out here, when it's your turn to win you do. And when it's not your turn you don't. There's too many good players."
Sutton reached 16 of 18 greens in regulation yesterday. His longest putt was 15 feet, at No. 2. He was as pure tee-to-green on Saturday, but missed "a lot of eight- to 10-footers."
He was 3 over after the first two rounds, which left Sutton both frustrated with himself and angry about the greens at Avenel.
"I can't think of an adjective to describe 'em," said Sutton. "They were pretty ugly, actually bumpy. These greens are as hard as any on tour to putt. I can't tell you how many double-breakers I've had. I've watched great putters miss putt after putt here."
Were Avenel's greens better over the weekend or was his putting more accurate?
"Both," he said.
It nearly was Sutton's turn to win about a month ago. He and Stuart Appleby were tied at the Houston Open, but Sutton bogeyed the 17th. Appleby, playing earlier, made birdie on No. 17 and won.
Sutton's check at the Kemper lifted his total earnings for the season to $973,045. That's about half of what he won last year, when he continued a career comeback by finishing fifth on the money list. He won twice on tour, including The Players Championship.
About a decade ago, Sutton was one of the players who seemed destined for a Hall of Fame career. He won seven events in his first five years on the PGA Tour and outplayed Jack Nicklaus down the stretch to win the 1983 PGA Championship.
After finishing in the top 10 on the money list in 1984 and '85, Sutton gradually slipped. In 1991, he was 185th. A year later, he was 161st. He improved to the top 32 in 1994 and '95, then dropped back to 109th a year later before finishing 54th in '97.
Three years ago, he returned to the swing doctor he'd relied on earlier in his career, Floyd Horgen, one of the few golfers who retire to Montana from Florida.
"And I've been married [after multiple divorces] for the last 5 1/2 years," Sutton said. "I have three beautiful girls, and I want 'em to see their daddy play golf. If I was gonna do that, I had to get into high gear."
CAPTION: Hal Sutton of Bossier City, La., is excited on sixth green after making one of his six birdies during bogey-free round.