Duke overcomes another injury in lifelong battle

By Damon HackJune 9, 2016, 12:15 am

One year before he shot the round of his life, Ken Duke was sitting in a parking lot in Phoenix, facing his professional mortality.

What started out as an ache in his heel had grown into excruciating pain. He called PGA Tour officials to explore the possibility of a major medical exemption.

He had already overcome Scoliosis as a boy to forge an unexpected PGA Tour career, but maybe this foot injury would finally be his end.

“I couldn’t walk,” the 47-year-old Duke said in a recent telephone interview, just days after his brilliant 65 on a brutally-difficult third round of The Players. “It felt like I stepped on a sharp pebble in my shoe. My trainer thought stretching and massages would work it out. We tried tennis balls. Frozen water bottles. It just never cut it.”

Through the recommendation of his manager, Duke sought out a foot specialist to treat what was diagnosed as plantar fasciitis.

“We looked at him and determined that we could help him with some stem cell therapy and get him back playing right away rather than a more invasive procedure,” said Dr. Stephen L. Barrett of the Innovative Neuropathy Treatment Institute in Phoenix. “Mr. Duke’s problem was very straightforward. He had a very significant amount of degeneration in the plantar fascia, so we knew that we needed to do some kind of regenerative medicine to try to grow new tissue and restore that rather than just to treat him symptomatically.”

Duke was out of action less than a month.

He later received similar treatment for a balky wrist. He also began endorsing a product, BioD, a company based in Cordova, Tenn. that is developing regenerative medicine derived from placental tissues. (Duke is in the field at this week at the Fed Ex St. Jude Classic in nearby Memphis).

FedEx St. Jude Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Duke’s comeback from his foot injury is just the latest in a life beset by physical challenges. As a seventh-grader in Arkadelphia, Ark., doctors diagnosed him with Scoliosis, a curvature of the spine that, untreated, could have led to severe heart and lung problems.

The corrective surgery included the attachment of a 16-inch metal rod to his vertebrae that remains to this day.

“I’m still in awe that I’m playing golf because of the Scoliosis,” Duke said. “When I overcame that then this [foot injury] comes about and you’re like ‘Oh boy, what’s next on the list?’ You hear about guys being in pain on the PGA Tour? I’m that guy. You just do what you can do. You don’t complain, you just go forward.”

Says Scott Brown, the 2013 Puerto Rico Open champ: “I’ve known Ken since we were on the Web.com Tour. With what he’s had, battling Scoliosis and being as good a ball-striker that he is, it’s just incredible.”

At one point embarrassed to share his story of Scoliosis, Duke these days is both vocal and visible about his journey, fully aware of the inspiration others receive.

He has visited children with Scoliosis, donated to the Jackson T. Stephens Spine and Neurosciences Institute, and to the charities of the Travelers Championship, which he won in 2013, at age 44, in his 187th start.

Duke is also effusive inside the ropes, quick to share a laugh with the gallery or a dance move after holing a shot.

“I have so many people pulling for me,” he said. “I’m lucky I have my life.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.