A bet, a root canal and one Fuzzy Zoeller

The night before the final round of the 2003 Principal Charity Classic, Fuzzy Zoeller had a toothache. One root canal later, he was back on the course – with a local dentist in tow: “It was just like Rocky,” he said. And just like Fuzzy. Read more from Rick Brown.

Fuzzy Zoeller made a bet with John Daly. It was more like a wake-up slap in the face.

Daly was living hard and fast, and his friends were concerned about him. I’ll bet you $150,000 you don’t make it to 50 years old, Zoeller told Daly.

Well, he did. Daly turned 50 last month, and is now a rookie on the PGA TOUR Champions. The bet, by the way, has been paid off.

“Yeah, he (Zoeller) even said he thought it was 40,” Daly said. “I told him to just give me a bottle of your Fuzzy’s Vodka and we’ll call it even.”

Daly and Zoeller will both be in the field for the upcoming Principal Charity Classic. Both men are characters, fan magnets and two-time major champions. A collective career Grand Slam, if you will.

Zoeller won the 1979 Masters and the 1984 U.S. Open, in a playoff over Greg Norman. Daly went from no-name to big name with his victory in the 1991 PGA Championship, and added the 1995 British Open in a playoff with Costantino Rocca.

While this will be Daly’s first trip to town, Zoeller is a Des Moines veteran. He’s played in the event every year since 2003.

Zoeller is so popular that a bobblehead in his likeness was made in 2012. Zoeller admitted then that his days as a contender were in the rear-view mirror.

“I’m at the back door, and I’ve got one step out,” Zoeller said that year. “I’ve done it my way. As far as my career, I can’t complain. I’ve enjoyed every doggone minute of it.”

Some crazy things have happened during Zoeller’s 39-round Principal Charity Classic career.

In 2003, Zoeller experienced tooth pain the night before the final round. A call went out to Des Moines dentist Bob Margeas. You need a root canal, Margeas told Zoeller. Margeas called a friend, Ty Erickson, a West Des Moines endodontist. Erickson did the root canal.

Zoeller decided to play the final round.

“I had nothing else to do,” Zoeller said.

Margeas followed Zoeller around during that final round, giving him four injections to numb the pain while he shot 73.

“He said, “Give me what you got,’ ” Margeas said. “It was just like Rocky. ‘Come on, Mick, cut me.’ ”

Zoeller also had the craziest ace in Principal Charity Classic history in 2006. It came at the 16th hole at Glen Oaks. His tee shot stopped left of the pin, in the second cut of rough.

“I was already thinking about my next shot,” Zoeller said. “I started walking and asked my caddie for my sand wedge because I figured I was going to chip it.”

Zoeller was behind some bushes, and didn’t see his ball start to roll after a 10-second delay.

But roll it did, right into the cup. Zoeller heard the crowd erupt, and raised his arms in triumph.

“It was a great shot, let me tell you,” Zoeller said. “I hit such a crappy shot to get it to where it was going. It’s a crazy game. I’m glad I don’t have to do this for a living.”

For the record, Zoeller hit a 7-iron on the 163-yard hole.

Back then, 45 PGA TOUR Champions players would put $100 each into a hole-in-one pool. So Zoeller got his $100 back, as well as $4,400 more from his competitors.

“Think I’m going to make ESPN’s worst shots of the day?” he asked.

When the Principal Charity Classic was played in 2005 at Tournament Club of Iowa in Polk City, Zoeller left his mark there, too.

After making a 15-footer to save par at No. 9, his final hole of the tournament in Sunday’s final round, Zoeller acknowledged the gallery by taking a bow. Then he threw his putter into Burt’s Pond, which runs along the hole. Witnesses reported Zoeller showed good balance and a perfect follow-through on the toss.

Back at Glen Oaks in 2011, Zoeller followed an opening 81 with a 70.

“When you get older, stuff just happens,” Zoeller said.

Off in the first pairing with Jim Gallagher, Jr., in the second round, the two played in 2 hours 49 minutes. They went in to eat lunch after signing their scorecards. Breakfast was still being served.

Zoeller will be back this year. Though winning is out of the picture, there’s always a chance that he’ll do something to be remembered long after he retires from the game.

By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter