JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Tim Clark will be at the TPC Sawgrass next month for The Players Championship, where last year he captured his first PGA Tour victory with the greatest 36-hole comeback in tournament history.
Whether he plays golf remains the question.
Clark is coping with an elbow injury so severe that he went three months without playing and only teed it up at the Masters because he was stubborn. He had rounds of 73-73 and missed the cut.
“I have had lots of treatment done, everything I can do to get better,” Clark said Tuesday. “It’s been a slow process. I’m hoping I’m able to tee it up at The Players Championship right now. I’m still pretty unsure how it’s going to be by then. Play or not, I’ll be at Sawgrass for the week. I just hope I’ll be able to play.”
Only two other players have failed to defend at The Players – Jerry Pate in 1983 because of a neck injury and Steve Elkington in 1998 because of sinus surgery.
Clark started his season with a tie for 17th at Kapalua and a runner-up finish at the Sony Open. After flying home to North Carolina, he started experiencing pain in his left elbow. The South African tried a cortisone shot, even blood spinning, without much progress. One therapist at Augusta suggested the source might be a pinched nerve.
He hopes that’s the case, although he concedes that diagnosis is “a bit of a question mark.” In some respects, it was an achievement for Clark to finish two rounds at the Masters.
“At no point did I feel very good there,” Clark said. “After Thursday, I really didn’t think I’d be able to play Friday. An hour-and-a-half before the round, we got my arm moving, and it was kind of OK to play. It was more of a case of me being stubborn, not really wanting to withdraw. I was encouraged by the fact that I could finish two rounds, even though I was still in quite a bit of pain, and encouraged that I didn’t shoot a couple of 80s.”
The Players Championship begins May 12, giving Clark three full weeks to try to get ready.
“I think that I have to go in with the same mindset into The Players,” he said. “Even though I’m not at 100 percent right now, I have to plan on playing and probably go through the same process. Even if it’s little sore, get work done and try get to where I can at least compete.”
One shred of good news for Clark is that his wife gave birth to their first child – a boy, Jack, on April 1. Clark’s plan was to compete in the Masters, then take a chunk of time off to be with his family. He’s had plenty of time at home lately.
“Once I get back to health, I’ll be back to playing a lot more,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get better soon. But it’s been nice to spend time at home with the newborn. He’s been great.”
GOING PUBLIC: Royal & Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson believes the PGA and European Tours should start going public with their discipline of players.
The PGA Tour does not disclose when a player is fined, and the European Tour typically keeps such matters quiet. It made an exception when Tiger Woods was shown on TV spitting on the green in Dubai because of the enormous publicity. Woods later apologized on Twitter.
“I would not want to give the impression in any way that the standards of behavior in golf are poor,” Dawson told the Press Association on Tuesday at Royal St. George’s. “I think they are very high, and golf is still held up as a model for many other sports. These particular incidents that we see do get a great deal of publicity and rightly so.
“As regards what the tours’ disciplinary policy should be in terms of whether it should be made public, I think if you look at the wider world of sport, that has become the norm,” he said. “There are many good reasons for keeping it quiet, but I think it’s possibly something that the tours who do that should look at changing, because I think putting these things in the public domain has a lot of benefits – especially now that golf is an Olympic sport.”
NAME GAME: Engraving the name of Louis Oosthuizen on the claret jug has proven far easier than pronouncing it, even in the nine months since the South African won the British Open at St. Andrews.
First came a reporter’s bungled attempt to mention his name during a press conference at the Masters, only for Charl Schwartzel to smile and correct the pronunciation.
Then came this nugget from The Daily Mail.
According to the British newspaper, Oosthuizen was at a PGA Tour event recently when he gave the starter a crash course on how to pronounce his name. Sure enough, the starter nailed it, introducing him as “Loo-ee WEST-high-zen.”
If only he had stopped there.
The starter then saw the initials RSA next to his name – Republic of South Africa – and added, ” … from Russia.”
DIVOTS: Although the Masters said it would look hard at its criteria to keep the field from getting too large, officials says any changes to current qualifications would be announced before it effects the 2012 invitations. In other words, Brendan Steele can count on a trip to Augusta National next year. … The British Open returns this year to Royal St. George’s, an all-male club in England. R&A chief executive Peter Dawson says such clubs in Britain are small in number, are older clubs and it’s up to them how to operate within the law. He told the Press Association: “We don’t use The Open for what I might call social engineering.” … Brendan Steele became the 10th winner of a PGA Tour event this year to be ranked outside the top 100 in the world. … Erik Compton is now 10th on the Nationwide Tour money list. The top 25 at the end of the year earn PGA Tour cards. … David Duval made 17 birdies at the Texas Open, the same as winner Brendan Steele. Duval also had seven double bogeys, which explains why he finished 19 shots out of the lead. … The 10 semifinalists for the Ben Hogan Award as the top college player include three from Oklahoma State – Kevin Tway, Peter Uihlein and Morgan Hoffman.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Of the 17 winners on the PGA Tour this year, only four have ever played in a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup.
FINAL WORD: “The color of the hair.” – Kenny Perry, asked the difference between galleries on the PGA Tour and Champions Tour.