Snyder returns to Tour after six years of medical mysteries

By Jason SobelMay 16, 2012, 4:05 pm

IRVING, Texas – Joey Snyder III woke up early Monday morning in his family’s Scottsdale, Ariz., home and explained to his two young daughters that he needed to go to work.

Sophie, 5, and Caroline, 3, were confused at first, then upset that their dad was leaving. They didn’t understand. They couldn’t understand.

One of the most commonly asked questions in our society is, “So, what do you do for a living?” yet for so many of us the answer is an enigma wrapped in a conundrum.

All across Hollywood, there are actresses who spend their days reciting lunch specials for 10 bucks an hour. Check into your local Jiffy Lube and a race car driver may change your oil filter. Even serious artists are biding their time as sandwich artists.

For the past six years, Snyder has been a PGA Tour golfer who doesn’t play golf.

It wasn’t always this way. After nine years of trying to reach his dream, the Arizona State University alum finished T-13 at Q-School in 2004, earning full-time status for the 2005 season. His rookie campaign was an unabashed success, as Snyder made the cut in 20 of 31 starts, earning more than $1 million and – most importantly – keeping his card for the next season.

His sophomore year, though, didn’t go nearly as smoothly. Snyder missed his first five cuts of the season, and  then on March 5, while hitting balls on the practice range at Doral, he started feeling intense pain in the right side of his neck and right shoulder.

“Rocco Mediate was next to me and he just started picking up all my practice balls and putting them in his pocket,” Snyder recalls. “He’s like, ‘Dude, go home.’”

What followed next was a confluence of medical head-scratchers and misdiagnoses that were as confounding as the injury itself.

It took six weeks for Snyder to get in to see a top neurosurgeon, who assured him that the problem wasn’t with his neck – but did assure him that he couldn’t pinpoint the issue.

That became a recurring theme. A shoulder specialist would send him to a neck specialist, and then the neck specialist would send him to a spine specialist, only to have the spine specialist send him back to a shoulder specialist. It was a never-ending cycle of appointments and tests, all to no avail.

Within two years of first being injured, Snyder guesses he underwent about 10 MRIs. Still, no answers.

Like a 36-handicap hacking away at the range, Snyder was ready to try anything.

“I went to see – you name it,” he says. “All kinds of different crazy gurus of body mechanics. I went to a guy up in Minneapolis, Minn., who Arron Oberholser had seen. Literally, it was shock therapy. Tried to do it and it just didn’t fix it.”

Four months of that. Three months with another doctor. There were even procedures done to potentially alleviate the pain. In late-2009, Snyder underwent surgery for a sports hernia, and then was told immediately afterward that he needed to have surgery on his right hip, as well. Neither solved the problem. He still couldn’t swing the golf club.

All during this time, he heard the whispers from fellow PGA Tour members. When a player with full status is injured, he not only receives a medical extension which allows him to resume playing privileges once healthy, but also a monthly stipend during that absence.

The cases are few and far between, but Snyder wouldn’t have been the first player to extensively milk an injury in order to keep receiving paychecks without actually having to play any golf.

“Most of the players were very supportive,” he says. “But some guys do question whether you’re staying at home, living off disability because you can. I’ve heard everything. For a guy like me, I’m pretty honest. It’s hard not to have Mickey Mouse ears when it comes to that stuff. It definitely hurts your feelings, but there’s part of you that understands it.

“I mean, gosh, they haven’t seen me in six years. I kept telling them, ‘I would love to come back. Believe me, I didn’t try this long to get out here just so I could sit at home.’”

Finally, on March 5, 2010, exactly four years to the day of his last PGA Tour round, he was diagnosed with adhesive capsulitis – more commonly known as frozen shoulder. The affliction baffled doctors for so long because the nerve in his shoulder was fully engulfed in scar tissue due to so much golf.

“I told the doctor, ‘You’re going to have to forgive me, but I’ve heard that people can fix me and nobody’s done it, so I want to see that this is the right diagnosis,’” he recalls. “The doctor said, ‘On behalf of the medical community, I want to apologize to you. This should have been something that was fairly easy to diagnose, but we missed it, because of all the neurological signs and all the referred pain.’”

Snyder underwent surgery to fix the problem, albeit not without further complications. He played in five Nationwide Tour events last season – missing the cut in each one, but posting scores between 70-73 in all 10 rounds – and felt more pain, so he had another procedure. He had wanted to return earlier this year, but again had the injury flare up.

Now, though, it’s gone – at least for the time being. All of the doctor visits, all of those diagnoses and tests and procedures, they were done for the main goal of returning to his job.

On Thursday, Snyder will compete on the PGA Tour for the first time in 2,265 days, part of the Byron Nelson Championship field. He has 25 starts in which to earn $647,466, which would give him the equivalent of 125th on the money from the 2006 season.

Of course, the Tour has changed since then. Sure, there are many familiar faces, but gazing out upon the practice range this week, Snyder says he only recognizes most of the younger players from watching them on TV.

As for his game, Snyder maintains there are no expectations for his return engagement.

“Everything is feeling pretty good,” he says, “but don’t get me wrong – the game has still got a little bit of rust.”

Meanwhile, Sophie and Caroline – along with Snyder’s wife Dana – will be watching from home, still not exactly sure why their father is gone or what his job really entails.

“I’ve been at home every single day of their lives. It’s been great. It’s been the only thing that’s kept me sane,” he explains. “They said, ‘Daddy, why do you have to go?’ I told them, ‘This is what Daddy does for a living. I know you haven’t seen it, but hopefully you’ll get to see what Daddy does.’”

For the past six years, Snyder has been a PGA Tour golfer. This week, he finally gets a chance to play that role.

Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

And that’s a magic word in golf.

There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

Parity was the story this year.

Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.

Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

“I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

“He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.

Vegas lists Woods at 20-1 to win a major in 2018

By Will GrayNovember 22, 2017, 12:53 pm

He hasn't hit a competitive shot in nearly a year, but that hasn't stopped one Las Vegas outlet from listing Tiger Woods among the favorites to win a major in 2018.

The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook published betting odds this week on dozens of players to win any of the four majors next year. Leading the pack were Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at 3/2, with Rory McIlroy next. But not far behind was Woods, who has been sidelined since February because of a back injury but was listed at 20/1.

Woods will make his much-anticipated return next week at the Hero World Challenge, and next month he will turn 42. Next summer will mark the 10-year anniversary of his last major championship victory, a sudden-death playoff win over Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open.

Here's a look at the odds for several marquee players on winning any of the four biggest events in golf next year:

3/2: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth

5/2: Rory McIlroy

7/2: Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day

9/2: Justin Rose

5/1: Brooks Koepka

15/2: Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey

10/1: Adam Scott

12/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Thomas Pieters, Patrick Reed

15/1: Daniel Berger, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Patrick Cantlay, Branden Grace, Kevin Kisner, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson

20/1: Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Tony Finau, Martin Kaymer

25/1: Ryan Moore, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Chappell, Bryson DeChambeau, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Charley Hoffman

30/1: Pat Perez, Gary Woodland, Bernd Wiesberger, Brian Harman, Padraig Harrington, Emiliano Grillo, Ross Fisher, Si Woo Kim, J.B. Holmes