Having Hit Bottom Verplank Strives for Pinnacle

By Associated PressAugust 10, 2007, 4:00 pm
PGA ChampionshipTULSA, Okla. -- Scott Verplank was signing autographs after a practice round at the PGA Championship when a young boy pulled out an unusual item for him to sign: an insulin pump.
 
It was the kind of moment that gives the diabetic golfer a lift.
 
Verplank has had his share of downers too, fighting through three elbow surgeries that derailed a career seemingly destined for greatness when he came out of Oklahoma State. That made it so much more sweet for him to claim the early clubhouse lead Friday after 36 holes at the year's final major.
 
He ended up two shots behind Tiger Woods, who matched the major championship record with a 63.
 
'I've been so far down at the bottom of the barrel, I know what that's like,' said Verplank, who shot a bogey-free 66 to move to 4-under 136 for the tournament. 'And you can only beat yourself up so much.'
 
Verplank seemed like a surefire star when he became the first amateur in 29 years to win a PGA Tour event by beating Jim Thorpe in a playoff at the 1985 Western Open. A year later, he entered the final round of the U.S. Open one stroke behind leader Ray Floyd but went out and shot a 74. Two decades later, he still considers that his best chance at winning a major -- until now.
 
'My mind-set is maybe I'm a late bloomer,' said the 43-year-old who lives in Edmond in suburban Oklahoma City. 'I was a very early bloomer. I was probably a top-10 player in the world when I was 21 years old ... I've had a lot of landscape in between. Maybe I'll be a late bloomer here.'
 
Verplank's path to stardom was interrupted by the surgeries, two on his right elbow and then one on his left. It was after the second surgery on his right elbow that Verplank thought he had bottomed out. He drove from his home at the time in Orlando, Fla., to Vero Beach for a checkup, believing that it would be only a few more months before he could play again.
 
Dr. Frank Jobe told him it would be an entire year.
 
'I had a two-hour drive back to Orlando, and I'll remember that. That was a pretty tough time,' Verplank said. 'I remember I was feeling pretty sorry for myself for a couple hours. I needed tissues.'
 
Three years later -- just before the 1996 U.S. Open -- he hit another low when he was told he'd have to have surgery again, this time on his left elbow.
 
'That was very disheartening to me because I'd been through a lot of junk and I'd come through it,' Verplank said. 'That took me about a year mentally to overcome that. That just gutted me when I had to go have surgery again.'
 
With what he's been through, Verplank takes joy in giving others a lift. That's why it was so meaningful for him to sign the autograph for the youngster dealing with the same disease Verplank was diagnosed with at age 9.
 
'If it helps that kid, if it gives him some inspiration or it just makes him feel better for a little while, then it's well worth it,' Verplank said.
 
After his third surgery, the 1986 NCAA champion came back to win the 2000 Reno-Tahoe Open and the 2001 Bell Canadian Open to reach four career victories. After that, he didn't win again until this year's Byron Nelson Championship in his native Dallas. He's finished in the top 10 in five of his eight events since.
 
Earlier in the week, Verplank felt more like an accountant, sorting tickets into 15 envelopes to leave at will call for family and friends. Oklahoma State fans called out 'Go Cowboys!' and 'Go Pokes!' to cheer him on at Southern Hills.
 
'My emotions are fine. I've decided I was going to really try to enjoy this week, have a good time here because there's a lot of extra demands that could really wear you out if you let them,' Verplank said.
 
He started with eight pars before charging into the lead with birdies on the ninth, 11th, 15th and 17th holes. He saved par on No. 13 after his 3-iron from the fairway clipped a tree and found the water.
 
'I'm kind of the guy that I only have to hit a couple decent shots to start thinking I'm pretty good again,' Verplank said.
 
By the end of his round, he was atop the leaderboard at a major -- a place many thought he'd reach years earlier.
 
'I didn't think I was going to come out and win every golf tournament because I have other things that I deal with that most other people don't deal with,' Verplank said. 'I'm happy that I've won five times on the tour. I'm disappointed that I haven't won more.
 
'You know, if you can make heads or tails out of that, good luck.'
 
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    Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

    Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

    Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

    As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

    "That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

    Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

    Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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    Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

    If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

    Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

    But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

    Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

    Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

    Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

    Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

    Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

    Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

    Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

    Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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    Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

    Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

    “It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

    Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

    “What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

    Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

    “When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.