The bad news for the 47-year-old Bryant is that a sixth surgery is on the way.
Bryant, whose three PGA Tour titles include a six-shot victory over Tiger Woods at the 2005 Tour Championship, is preparing for surgery on his left wrist that most likely will keep him out the entire year.
“The only chance I have is to get surgery,” Bryant said.
He felt pain in the wrist toward the end of 2008, tried to play through the injury most of last year and finally shut it down after the John Deere Classic in July.
“I didn’t know how bad it was until I had an MRI,” Bryant said from his home in Florida. “I tried to rest it extensively, I had it in a cast for a while and had no success at all.”
He spent last weekend in New York meeting with Andrew Weiland, the same doctor who treated the wrist injuries of Jim Furyk, Trevor Immelman and Luke Donald. Bryant said he has extensive loss of cartilage in his left wrist, causing the bones to shift. He said doctors planned to fuse the bones.
Bryant had rotator cuff surgery in 1992, the first of three elbow surgeries in 2000, and knee surgery in 2006. The son of a Baptist minister, he studied sociology at New Mexico State and never dreamed he would ever learn so much about anatomy.
“I know a lot about knees, shoulders, elbows, and I’m getting an education on wrists,” he said. “I think I could pass a pretty good test on bones. No brain surgery yet. Luckily, I’ve stayed away from that.”
SPONSOR HELP: The PGA Tour embarked on its “Sponsor Value Program” last week at the Sony Open, when 15 players not eligible for the pro-am met with sponsors and clients at breakfast, for clinics, just about anywhere.
Even a local driving range. That’s where Mark Calcavecchia wound up.
“The Ala Wai driving range at the most played course in the world,” Calcavecchia said.
Calcavecchia thinks the program is a good idea, although it apparently wasn’t the smoothest of starts. For one thing, he didn’t see any sponsors on the public course. He did meet a man with tattoos on every inch of his body, and three other “clients” in tank tops and sandals.
“What am I going to tell him? Get some cleats for your flip flops?” he said.
Calcavecchia, Justin Rose, Ben Curtis and a host of others will find themselves doing that a lot this year. They are in that group low enough on the money list that they won’t always be eligible for pro-ams. That leaves out those at the bottom of the money list – Rich Beem, who is supremely gifted at sponsor functions, and even some of the rookies who could learn early the importance of sponsors.
“I think it’s a much-needed thing right now,” Rose said. “What I don’t 100 percent agree with is that if you fall into that category where you’re just missing the pro-am, you’re going to get hit up every week. But listen, even if that’s the case, I’m still happy to do it.”
His recommendation was to establish a rotation of players not in the pro-am.
“We knew going in we would have a learning process the first part of the year,” said Rick George, the tour’s chief of operations. “There’s real positive things, and things that are not so positive. We’ll get it worked out.”
PLAYER ADVISORY COUNCIL: Steve Stricker is among 16 players named to the Player Advisory Council, which serves as a liaison between players and the policy board on competition matters.
He also is in the running to be a co-chair, which eventually would put him on the policy board. The election ends at Pebble Beach.
“I’ve never been on any board,” Stricker said. “What would I bring? A level head. I’m not very extreme. I think I get along with everybody, and guys would feel comfortable discussing whatever issue they have.”
Other PAC members are Rich Beem, Jonathan Byrd, Steve Flesch, Harrison Frazar, Jim Furyk, Jeff Gove, Paul Goydos, Jerry Kelly, Scott McCarron, Joe Ogilvie (former board member), Sean O’Hair, Brett Quigley, Kevin Streelman, Mike Weir and Mark Wilson.
LONGEST DRIVE: PGA Tour rookie Troy Merritt deserves credit for the longest drive of the year—not off the tee, but on the way to the golf course at the Sony Open.
Going with familiarity, Merritt decided to stay with his fiancee at Turtle Bay Resort, where he played a college tournament while at Boise State. He had a deluxe room on the top floor at a reasonable rate.
Trouble is, Turtle Bay is on the other side and other end of Oahu from Waialae.
Merritt said it took him 1 hour, 40 minutes to drive to the course for his opening round at the Sony Open. The good news? It was a beautiful drive on a two-lane coastal road. And he opened with 65.
Merritt couldn’t help but consider the Sony Open as coming full circle. He remembers telling his mother after the college tournament, “The next time I’m over here will be for the Sony Open.”
“Kind of funny that’s how it worked out,” he said.
SLOW START: Going into the third week of the PGA Tour, only five players have perfect attendance. Brian Gay, Jerry Kelly, Matt Kuchar, Bo Van Pelt and Pat Perez played both Hawaii tournaments, and they are entered in the Bob Hope Classic.
DIVOTS: Dave Kindred, who has spent nearly 50 years writing about sports and has covered 75 majors, has been selected for the PGA Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism. He will be honored April 7 in Augusta, Ga., at the Golf Writers Association of America annual awards dinner. … Joe Steranka, the PGA of America chief executive, begins his one-year stint as chairman of the World Golf Foundation. Previous chairmen were Royal & Ancient chief Peter Dawson, and USGA executive director David Fay. … Jessica Korda, the 16-year-old daughter of former Australian Open tennis champion Peter Korda, broke the scoring record at the 84th Sally Championship with a 13-under 275. She set another record with a 62 in the third round.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Five players competing in their first PGA Tour event at the Sony Open all made the cut – Troy Merritt, Brian Stuard, Blake Adams, Jerod Turner and Aaron Goldberg, who is not a PGA Tour rookie but made it through Monday qualifying.
FINAL WORD: “It’s like you misspelling your first word of the year.”— Justin Leonard, on missing the cut in the Sony Open.