DUBLIN, Ohio – Ken Duke opened the Memorial Tournament with a 5-under 67, a strong round for any player but an even more remarkable score for someone who nearly pulled the plug on his season last month.
Duke has been plagued all year by plantar fasciitis and a bone spur in his left heel, and the injury has led to dismal results. Duke has missed nine of 14 cuts since January, including a stretch of six in a row, as treatment options that included stem cell therapy failed to produce results.
With his exemption for winning the 2013 Travelers Championship expiring at the end of this season, Duke considered shelving his clubs and asking the PGA Tour for a major medical extension before trying one last treatment option before the Wells Fargo Championship.
“If it did not come through, I was going to shut it down,” Duke said. “It was kind of scary to be honest with you, because all I know how to do is play. That’s what I’ve always done for 20 years. I really didn’t know what I was going to do.”
While Duke missed another cut in Charlotte, the pain began to subside and he finally made a cut last week in Dallas, where he closed with a 66. He carried that momentum into the opening round at Muirfield Village, where he is playing on a sponsor exemption and grabbed a share of the early lead.
“I’m not a long hitter, so I have to hit a lot of fairways and just pick my poison,” he said. “It’s great just to have a good score.”