From Brain Surgery Back to PGA TOUR
Demsey walked past Tiger Woods on his way to sign his scorecard after the third round of the Wachovia Championship. They were teammates at the 1994 World Amateur Team Championship in France, where the United States won by 11 shots.
'It was good to catch up with him,' Woods said. 'He was one of the best putters.'
As he stood on the steps of the Quail Hollow clubhouse, Phil Mickelson saw the 34-year-old Demsey and came over to bump fists. They played one year together at Arizona State. Mickelson won the NCAA title as a senior, Demsey won it the next year as a sophomore.
'Very talented golfer,' Mickelson said.
Also playing that week was Justin Leonard, one of Demsey's teammates at the 1993 Walker Cup, where the United States set a record for the largest margin of victory (19-5) against a Great Britain & Ireland team that included Padraig Harrington.
'He had the best-looking swing of anyone,' Leonard said. 'He had a pretty sweet motion.'
They all went on to win majors and play in the Ryder Cup.
Demsey had brain surgery twice to remove a tumor the size of a golf ball.
'It puts things in perspective,' Demsey said. 'I used to live and die on every shot. It's still my job. It's what I love to do. It's not quite as important to me as it was before all this. But I feel real lucky to be able to play golf for a living, especially
after back problems and a brain tumor. I have nothing to complain about.'
Back injuries slowed his momentum out of college. The real jolt came five years ago when he missed the cut in half his starts on the Nationwide Tour while coping with constant pressure in his left sinus. An MRI revealed a large tumor going into his brain, requiring two operations to remove it.
A month ago, he found out the tumor had returned. All indications are that it is benign.
'I'll have to go in for radiation at some point,' Demsey said. 'It's a slow-growing tumor. It just needs to be managed.'
He continues a slow road back to the PGA TOUR, where everyone figured he would be all along.
Demsey tied for 23rd at the Henrico County Open in Virginia, then decided it was too far to drive to the next Nationwide Tour stop in Arkansas. Instead, he stopped off in Charlotte, N.C., to try to qualify for the Wachovia Championship, and earned a spot in a playoff.
It was his first time on the PGA TOUR in 10 years.
His previous start came at the Las Vegas Invitational in 1997, his final event of his only year in the big leagues. Demsey was four shots off the lead until shooting 81 in the third round to miss the cut by one shot in the 90-hole event.
'I took this for granted,' he said. 'I didn't think it was that big of a deal. But after playing the Nationwide Tour, and being away from this, it was a reminder that this is where you want to be.'
Through it all, Demsey never complained about why his career took such a hairpin turn. The back injuries were one thing. Demsey won't forget the voice mail his doctor left on his cell phone after the '02 season.
'He said there was a very large tumor behind my left sinus going to my brain,' Demsey said. 'That was tough to hear.'
He got married 24 days before the first surgery in January 2003, and doctors had to go back in at the end of the year to remove the remaining 20 percent of the tumor. He still feels numbness in his face, although he doesn't think it affects his game. Next up is Cyberknife treatment, a powerful radiation that attacks tumors without having to cut open his skull for a third time.
Demsey doesn't look different from other golfers, at 6-foot-2 with a fluid swing. The only difference is when the temperatures dip below 65 degrees, and he pulls a ski cap over his head. It leads to some peculiar stares.
'I've got some titanium in my head, so my head still gets cold,' he said. 'People give me a hard time.'
He doesn't take time to tell them his story, that he was one of those can't-miss kids who never anticipated brain surgery, and who refuses to give up his dream even as his peers are enjoying success he figured would belong to him.
He doesn't waste time wondering how his career might have turned out, if not for the brain tumor.
'I just have faith it's going to work out,' he said. 'I guess there's a chance it can still cause problems, but I feel like I'm in good hands.'
Demsey now is back on the Nationwide Tour, playing this week in the BMW Charity Pro-Am in Greenville, S.C. He probably won't try another Monday qualifying on the PGA TOUR, preferring instead to concentrate on getting his card. He is 34th on the Nationwide money list, and the top 25 are exempt to the big leagues next year.
He used to see Mickelson quite a bit when they belonged to the same golf club in Scottsdale, Ariz. Mickelson has moved back to San Diego, but he still tries to keep in touch.
'He's a great player,' Mickelson said. 'His day will come.'
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...
Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).
Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.
It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard
On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...
There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.
He sure looks like the real deal, though.
His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.
Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner
Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2
With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.
He picked up one more No. 2, too.
The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.
In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.
Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.
“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”
Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.
Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.
He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.
Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title
Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.
Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.
His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.
“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."
Tom Brady, postgame, on wearing the wrap on his hand: “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) January 22, 2018
Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.
Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.
Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:
Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)
What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.
Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.
Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.
Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.
Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.
Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:
Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry