Imagining an injury-free season for Snedeker

By Rex HoggardDecember 11, 2013, 4:53 pm

On a cold and rainy Atlanta morning Brandt Snedeker proves that his patience, or maybe it’s his perspective, remains even if his health continues to be a moving target.

Snedeker is on his way to a commercial shoot when the inevitable question arrives – How are you feeling?

“My knee is almost to 100 percent . . . no pain,” he allows in a relaxed, if not rehearsed, tone.

For the six-time PGA Tour winner questions about his health have become part of the process, as ubiquitous as the daily injections of Forteo he’s been enduring for the last nine months.

His most recent dust up with his doctors occurred early last month when he landed awkwardly jumping off a Segway during a corporate outing in China and was diagnosed with a strained ACL and bruised tibia in his left knee.

The knee injury, which did not require surgery, forced Snedeker to withdraw from the Australian PGA and last week’s Northwestern Mutual World Challenge but at “almost 100 percent” he left no ambiguity when asked if he’d be ready for the 2014 opener in Maui.

“Oh yeah,” he says. “I’ve spent enough time in doctor’s offices. For the first time in my career I’m doing everything I can to be fit and play a full season.”

Avoiding the DL for an entire calendar, an afterthought for most players, lingers in the cold December air for a long moment as one recalls Snedeker’s frequent trips in and out of MRI machines and operating rooms throughout his career.

“Sneds” earned his Tour card in 2006 after finishing ninth on the Tour money list despite missing more than a month after breaking his collarbone when he tripped over a tree root.

In ’09, he missed more than two months with a rib injury; underwent left-hip surgery to repair his labrum in ’10 and was back in the Vail, Colo., clinic less than a year later for the same procedure on his right hip. Early last year, doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., informed him he was suffering from a condition called low bone turnover.

This diagnoses lead to the daily Forteo injections in his stomach beginning in March. Forteo is an anabolic osteoporosis treatment designed to increase bone mineral density.

Doctors told Snedeker it would take about two years for the Forteo to make a difference and recent checkups have indicated there has been a “slight increase (in his bone density), which is good,” he says.

All of which made his Segway scare somehow seem less threatening. In a curious twist, the injury forced him to rest and rehab instead of spending countless hours on the practice tee.

Although Snedeker and swing coach Todd Anderson have invested a good amount of time honing his prolific action, few players not named Vijay Singh spend as much energy in pursuit of perfection.

“Competing for Brandt is so physically demanding and it takes its toll. We’re trying to get him on a pitch count and get him on a hitting regimen,” says Snedeker’s trainer Randy Myers. “You see it in every sport. Certain guys have a propensity to overwork and he does that.”

This most recent medical misstep, however, has tempered that natural instinct and required Snedeker to spend more time in the gym than at the golf course.

The 33-year-old father of two has also been forced to temper his “type A” ways. Life has a tendency to do that.

“Last year near the end he was disciplined making sure he got his rest,” Myers says. “He’s always been the guy who is trying to prove something.”

There is also something to be said for Snedeker’s perspective after 2013. Following a scorching start, the emotional plateau of the Masters – where he began the final round tied for the lead but struggled to a closing 75 on Sunday – was followed by a less than stellar finish in the FedEx Cup playoffs.

To Snedeker, the ebb and flow of 2013 is a fitting metaphor for his career, periods of brilliance framed largely by injury-induced lulls. For a player who is prone to self-examination, however, that assessment is neither critical nor contrived.

“It was the best season of my career,” says Snedeker of his second consecutive two-win campaign. “It was a learning season to find my way back. It’s the way golf goes. I’m going to have ups and downs in my career.”

So the question remains, imagine what Snedeker – perhaps the hottest player on the planet through the first month and a half of last season (he finished third, T-23, runner-up, runner-up and won in his first five events of 2013) – could accomplish if he could stay clear of the doctor’s office?

“It would be amazing if I could make it through a whole season without an injury,” he admits. “I would love to play the right schedule for me and see what I could do.”

That prospect warms the December chill – no doctors, no DL. Amazing indeed.

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Stenson leads strong cast of Bay Hill contenders

By Ryan LavnerMarch 17, 2018, 11:38 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Henrik Stenson has a tortured history here at Bay Hill, a collection of close calls that have tested his mettle and certainly his patience.

Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational won’t get any easier. Not with a course that is already firm and fast and fiery, just the way the King would have wanted it. And not with 13 players within five shots of the lead, a group that includes Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler and, yes, even Tiger Woods.

Without his best stuff Saturday, Stenson still managed to edge ahead of Bryson DeChambeau to take a one-shot lead heading into the final round. It’s familiar territory for the Swede, who posted four consecutive top-10s here from 2013-16, including a few agonizing near-misses.

Three years ago, Stenson appeared on his way to victory when he was put on the clock on the 15th hole. Rattled, he three-putted the next two holes and lost by a stroke. The following year, he was tied for the lead with three holes to play, then hit it in the water on 16 and bogeyed two of the last three holes.

“It wouldn’t be the only tournament where you feel like you’ve got some unfinished business,” Stenson said, “but I’ve been up in the mix a few times and we’re here again, so of course I would like to see a different outcome.”

What will be interesting Sunday is whether history repeats itself.

Neither Stenson nor DeChambeau is quick-paced, with DeChambeau even acknowledging that he’s one of the game’s most methodical players, stepping off pitch shots and checking (and re-checking) his reads on the green. With so much at stake, it’s not a stretch to imagine both players grinding to a halt on a course that got “crusty” in the late-afternoon sun.

“We’ve got a lot of guys behind me,” DeChambeau said, “so I’ve got to go deep tomorrow.”

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The 24-year-old earned his breakthrough victory last July at the John Deere Classic, but that was one hot week as he tried to play his way out of a slump.

Even this week’s performance was unexpected, after he withdrew from the Valspar Championship because of a balky back.

Last weekend he underwent an MRI (clean), didn’t touch a club for three days and showed up here cautiously optimistic. His ball-striking hasn’t suffered at all – in fact, he’s ranked fifth in strokes gained-tee to green – and now he’s relishing the chance to take on some of the game’s biggest names.

“Whatever happens,” he said, “it’s going to be a great learning experience.”

Of the 13 players within five shots of the lead, 10 are Tour winners. That includes McIlroy, whose putter has finally come alive, and Rose, who shot a third-round 67 to move within three shots, and Fowler, whose game is finally rounding into form, and also Woods, who has won a record eight times at Bay Hill. 

Even if he doesn’t pick up a pre-Masters victory – he’s five shots back, the same deficit he erased here in 2009 – Woods has showed flashes of his old self at one of his favorite playgrounds, whether it’s the blistered 2-irons off the tee, the daring approach shots or the drained 40-footers.

“I’ve got a chance,” he said.

And so do the rest of the major champions and PGA Tour winners assembled near the top of the leaderboard.

It should be a wild final round at Arnie’s Place – even if Stenson, for once, is hoping for a drama-free Sunday.

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DeChambeau uses big words to describe back injury

By Will GrayMarch 17, 2018, 11:24 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Bryson DeChambeau needed just 30 seconds of explaining the state of his lower back to send the media center at the Arnold Palmer Invitational spinning.

DeChambeau shot an even-par 72 in the third round at Bay Hill, and he will start the final round one shot behind Henrik Stenson as he looks to win for the second time in his young PGA Tour career. DeChambeau’s strong play this week comes in the wake of his decision to withdraw from last week’s Valspar Championship because of a bad back.

DeChambeau is no stranger to new vocabulary words or adopting a scientific take on matters, and it was when he delved into the details of his injury that things got interesting.

“It was because my quadratus lumborum wasn’t working. My iliacus, longissimus thoracis, they were all kind of over-working if you want to get technical on that,” DeChambeau said. “But they weren’t working very well, and I overworked them. Pretty much my lower right back was hurting and I rested it. How about that?”

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DeChambeau tied for fifth at the Waste Management Phoenix Open last month, but he has struggled to find results in the weeks since. One of the keys to a quick recovery between Innisbrook and Bay Hill was some time on the couch this past weekend and a binge session of The Walking Dead on Netflix.

“I literally didn’t do anything, and that’s really the first time I’ve done that in my entire life. I’ve never actually taken three days off where I didn’t touch a club,” DeChambeau said. “So that was unique for me and actually took me some time to acclimate to that, my body to get comfortable to get in a rested state. And then once it was finally able to rest, it healed a little bit and I was able to make a run for it this week.”

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Woods fielding Masters practice-round requests

By Will GrayMarch 17, 2018, 10:50 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Heading into what is likely his final competitive round before the Masters, Tiger Woods is starting to set up his schedule for the days leading into the season’s first major.

Woods has won the Masters four times, most recently in 2005, and in the wake of a runner-up at the Valspar Championship and a strong showing at the Arnold Palmer Invitational he’ll head down Magnolia Lane with more momentum than he’s had in years. As a result, it’s not surprising that he has received more than a few inquiries about a possible practice round at Augusta National Golf Club during Masters week.

“I’ve gotten a couple requests here and there,” Woods said with a grin after a third-round 69 at Bay Hill.

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Woods has played the Masters only once since 2014, but don’t expect him to try out some unfamiliar pairings on Tuesday and Wednesday amid the azaleas. Woods still plans to rely on a rotation he’s had for several years, playing with former champs Fred Couples and Mark O’Meara. O’Meara, who received his green jacket from Woods in 1998, plans to make this year his final Masters start.

“I traditionally have played with Freddie, if he can. We’re hoping he can come back and play again and play Augusta. I’ve played with Mark just about every single year,” Woods said. “It’s generally been those two guys, and those are the two guys I’ve grown up with out here on Tour. We sit next to each other actually at the champions’ dinner, and so we have known each other for a very long time.”

While Woods is no stranger to fielding offers for tips and advice from younger players, especially on a course he knows as well as Augusta National, one top-ranked name continues to stick out among the requests he’s received in recent weeks.

“Just the normal JT (Justin Thomas),” Woods said. “He’s always trying to get some practice rounds in.”

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Stenson one clear of loaded leaderboard at Bay Hill

By Nick MentaMarch 17, 2018, 10:10 pm

Four of the top 15 players in the world and two men with stellar amateur resumes will do battle Sunday to win Arnold Palmer Invitational. Here’s how things look through 54 holes at Bay Hill, where Tiger Woods sits five back at 7 under par.

Leaderboard: Henrik Stenson (-12), Bryson DeChambeau (-11), Rory McIlroy (-10), Justin Rose (-9), Ryan Moore (-9), Charley Hoffman (-8), Rickie Fowler (-8), Talor Gooch (-8), Ben An (-8)

What it means:  For the second straight day, Stenson (71) will go off in the final pairing with DeChambeau (72), after both players failed to separate themselves from the field in Round 3, shooting a combined 1 under. Stenson really should have a win at Bay Hill by now. He finished in the top-10 four years in a row from 2013-2016, with three top-5s. The closest he came to victory was in 2015, when he lost to Matt Every by one shot after being put on the clock and three-putting the 15th and 16th greens. If he’s finally going to close the deal Sunday, the world No. 15 will need to hold off challenges from three of the top 13 players in the OWGR – No. 5 Rose, No. 7 Fowler and No. 13 McIlroy – and two men who won both the NCAA individual championship and the U.S. Amateur – DeChambeau and Moore.

Round of the day: John Huh and Austin Cook both made the 1-over cut on the number and shot 66 Saturday to move into a tie for 18th at 5 under.

Best of the rest: McIlroy, Rose and Jason Day (-5) all signed for 67. McIlroy remains in search of his first worldwide win since he walked away from East Lake with the Tour Championship and the FedExCup in 2016.

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Biggest disappointment: Fowler was 11 under for the week but dropped three shots in his last two holes. He failed to get up and down from the front bunker at 17 and then had his ball almost fully bury in the lip of a greenside trap at 18. With only a small portion of the ball visible, Fowler took two to get out of the sand and two-putted his way to a double-bogey 6, dropping him to 2 under for the day and 8 under for the championship.

Shot of the day: Woods’ 210-yard 5-iron from the fairway bunker at the par-5 16th:

Quote of the day: "I'm going to have to shoot a low one tomorrow, and probably get a little bit of help. But my responsibility is to go out there and shoot a low one first." – Woods