Lietzke ranks 18th on the money list, and the worst he had had done in two full seasons previously was seventh. He played just 10 events in a partial year just after he turned 50 and still finished 16th. But a frozen shoulder in the off-season has proven a little more to come back from than he had imagined.
It kept me from being healthy all the way into mid- or late April, said Lietzke.
I tried to play in three or four tournaments when it was still stiff. Gary Player was out-driving me about 45 or 50 yards (Player averages 250 per drive). I could only fly the ball about 210.
Lietzke sat out all the Florida tournaments and the tournament in Mexico trying to rest the shoulder ' a period of five weeks. He tried to come back for two weeks when the tour went to California, but he soon realized he needed additional rehabilitation.
So its been a short season for me of playing healthy golf, he said. Ive played OK a few weeks. But my consistency hasnt been real good this year.
Lietzke was completely blindsided by the freak condition. During the off-season he noticed the shoulder was stiffening a bit, but since he doesnt practice in the off-season, he thought nothing of it.
I just thought it was natural stiffening from not playing any golf, he said. I started getting ready in January, and I found I couldnt bring the club any further back than about like Allen Doyle does. And my follow-through was about like Allen Doyles.'
A baffled Liietzke went to the doctor to try to ascertain what was wrong.
'I was afraid there was damage in there ' arthritis, bursitis, I was ready to hear all those things. But the first thing the doctor said was, Weve done all these tests and youve got a perfectly healthy shoulder.
I said, Doc, I cant raise my shoulder higher that this, said Lietzke, indicating a position below his head. Then he told me about this frozen shoulder deal.
They cant explain why it happens. It just goes stiff, and it wont loosen up until the body decides its time. Its might take three months, six months, two years, but eventually it will loosen up.
Lietzke got a pain injection in March and the shoulder completed its loosening-up process in late April. Now, hes just waiting for his golf game to return.