Balancing a Pro Career On a Motorcycle
You can imagine the scene he is whipping down the highway, scarf flying from his neck, outfitted in his leathers, when suddenly his bike is sideswiped by a drunk motorist and he is sent flying.
Well, Sammy Rachels story isnt quite so dramatic. His motorcycle, in fact, was parked in his driveway back home in DeFuniak Springs, Fla. It was last June, and he had just finished taking a spin. He engaged the kickstand, started to walk away, then came back for something he had forgotten.
Suddenly, however, his glove got caught in the handlebars and he went topsy-turvy over the thing, landing unceremoniously in an awkward heap.
It was basically a Keystone Kops fall ' a clumsy, simple fall, said Rachels.
It actually started to fall over and I tried to grab it ' tried to let it go and it snagged me, just tripped me over. It was more embarrassing than anything else. Its amazing that it ended up doing what it did. Ive fallen a lot worse than that over the years and havent gotten anywhere near that kind of damage.
Rachels, who talks like the good ole' boy that he is, severely sprained his shoulder. Playing a tournament was impossible for the remainder of 2003.
I might as well have tried to tackle Bo Jackson, he said. Because I just fell on it ' in an awkward manner. I lost my balance, and when I fell I hit the edge of the tank with my rib cage.
Now, youve got to realize the predicament in which Sammy finds himself. He was a 10-year journeyman on the regular tour, a tortured soul who labored throughout with a bad back. He underwent four surgeries, and when he was 35 he figured he had had enough. He went home to a club pros job in his hometown.
By the time he was 50, though, he had made an uneasy peace with his spine. He decided to follow his lifes dream and give it one big shot. He entered the Champions Tour qualifying school - and was one of eight who made it!
Then he stunned everyone ' not the least himself - when he won twice the first year (2001), then again in 2002. He had played seven events in 2003 when Clumsy Man took over. His ungainly sprawl meant that last year was a wipeout. And that means that his two-year exemption from his last victory runs out at the end of this year. Rachels didnt earn nearly enough during his PGA Tour career to earn permanent status on the Champions Tour.
I CANT quit - thats my problem right there, he said. Im a member of the What-Have-You-Done-For-Me-Lately club. If youre not on the all-time money list I just have to keep playing and hope that I can figure out how to do it.
And thats become particularly difficult since he learned at the start of this year that he had more than injured just his shoulder.
I went so long without playing, Rachels said. I rehabbed the hell out of my shoulder, and when I started back up my shoulder was fine, but this is what hurt.
This is the rib area. Hes gone to a dozen doctors trying to figure out what the lingering pain was, had bone scans, X-rays, blood work and the prevailing theory was that he also suffered cartilage damage in the Great Bike Caper.
So the next question is, how do you rehab your ribs?
You dont! Rachels said bluntly. Theres nothing you can do. I tried to strap them up and that hurt me worse! So they put me on a steroid pack to see if thatll do it. Maybe thatll take care of some of the inflammation in the cartilage area.
But this is getting serious. Time is rapidly running out for Sammy. Hes a professional golfer, hes proven he can be a darned good one, but if he isnt well enough to get it done this year, its all over. It will be back to Q-School, back to Square One. It may be back to the settled life of a club pro.
It just changes the way you move so much, Rachels explained his difficulty. So this year has really been a disappointment so far.
Disappointment is hardly the word for it. Sammy has started nine tournaments, and his best finish is a tie for 20th. The last four starts he has finished T48, 68th, T44 and T42. But ' there is hope. He has noticed the pain is beginning to give up its grasp on Rachels torso.
My backs a little sore, but thats an old enemy. So that ones fine, he said. Its these things up here (the ribs) that are giving me such a fit this year.
Rachels needs to finish in the top 30 to come back next year. He is 59th. But he still has more than half the season to climb the ladder, so maybe he can do it. After all, before the injury, he finished 18th and 23rd in the rankings.
Oh ' and the motorcycle? Wife Pia stepped in and 'made arrangements' until Rachels has ended his golfing career.
My wife blames it on the motorcycle, but it could have been a wheelbarrow. I mean, I just fell!
Im not allowed to ride it anymore, he said with a wry grin. My youngest sons got it now ' for safekeeping!
Email your thoughts to George White
Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.
While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.
He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.
"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."
Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.
"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."
Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot
When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.
Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.
"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"
The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.
Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.
"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.
Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.
"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."
Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.
Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.
"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."
Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.
"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."
LPGA lists April date for new LA event
The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.
When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.
The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.
The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.