McCumber Competitve Again - Luckily
As he prepares to play this week's Senior PGA Championship, where he finished in a tie for 10th last year, McCumber has much to be thankful for. A three-time winner on the PGA Tour in 1994 and a 10-time victor over-all, his golfing career was hanging by a thread after several mystifying ailments in the latter part of the 90s.
At one time he could barely walk. He went from one of the best golfers in the world in 94 to a baffled bed patient a couple of years later, various ailments keeping him sidelined up until his rookie year on the Champions Tour in 2002.
In 2001, competing on a medical exemption his last year as a PGA Tour regular, he had tried to play though the ailments but missed the cut in eight of nine starts. But in 2002 he finally was healthy enough to compete in 17 tournaments. In 2003 it was 18. And when the men of the Champions Tour play their first major this year ' the Senior PGA Championship May 20-23 - McCumber will have played eight times in 2004.
And the difference in his health in 2004 as compared to the late 90s ' well, there is no comparison. Considering what it was, what I started with, its wonderful, says McCumber.
McCumber, incidentally, is an accomplished golf architect and actually did the course where the Honda Classic was played for several years ' the TPC at Heron Bay in South Florida. But when his health began to fail, all activities slowed to a crawl.
In 1996 the problems began with persistent throbbing pain in his right shoulder. He still was competing at a high level, finishing runner-up in the British Open. But he eventually had surgery performed on his rotator cuff.
Despite the shoulder surgery, though, something still didnt feel right. While in the process of rehabbing the shoulder, he began having dizzy spells, accompanied this time by pain in his neck. There were all the earmarks of a ruptured disk in his back. But nothing was ruled out and everything considered ' there could have been a tumor, an aneurysm, even multiple sclerosis.
Doctors did an exhaustive number of tests until they finally came up with a diagnosis ' a lesion on his spinal cord. Physicians theorized that the lesion might have started forming as early as 1995. McCumber underwent extensive physical therapy to overcome numbness in his left hand and fatigue in his legs.
You know when you fall asleep sitting in a funny way, he said, and as your legs are waking up, you get that prickly feeling? Thats the way I felt.
But McCumber, who is still in his early 50s, can play golf ' albeit maybe not at the high level he once did.
I think I still drive the ball really well. Im not as long as I used to be, but I feel like under pressure I can still drive the ball in any fairway. Ive always felt that was the best part of my game, he said.
I think I manage myself pretty well. Ive always felt my misses were pretty good. In other words, I dont usually double-cross. I can usually block out half the golf course. Its just the thunder isnt as loud as it used to be.
The Thunder was particularly loud for a man who stands just 5-foot-8. He won Doral in 1979 for his first tour victory. Fifteen years later, he prevailed at the Tour Championship with a 40-foot playoff putt to defeat Fuzzy Zoeller - the last win of his regular career, in 1994.
On the Champions Tour, he has finished inside the top 10 six times, including a tie for fourth at the Tampa tournament last year and a tie for fifth at the season-opener in 2004 at the Royal Caribbean. He finished in a tie for 10th at the Senior PGA last year.
And ' he feels lucky that he can play once again, even if he doesnt quite reach the dizzying heights of 1994. My mother keeps reminding me that its not just the trouble in my spinal cord - its that Im in my 50s, he says with a hearty laugh.
No, he isnt the same Mark McCumber of the 80s and early 90s. But this Mark McCumber isnt bad. He faces the reality and he goes on.
Im left with some things thatll never change, they say, he said. But its so minimal compared to what it was. I can walk around, I can swing a golf club, Ive got a little bit of a ' they call it spasity of rubberiness in my legs.
But ' I mean, Im out here playing and walking. Im very happy.
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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.