Next week Stadler and the rest of his Champions Tour buddies play the final major of the year ' the JELD-WEN Tradition in Portland, Ore. But Stadler has learned one glaring fact ' its very difficult to win when youre playing hurt.
It started in the spring when he first felt the dull ache in the back.
From about the first of May until the end of June, I was playing pretty much hurt when I did play, and I finally just had had enough, Stadler said. I couldn't swing 100 percent, so I withdrew at Laurel Valley - which I think Laurel Valley is a good golf course for me, a lot of left to right, good high ball hitters' course, and when I first saw it, I really liked it.
That was the Senior PGA Championship, the Tours first major of the year. The ache was such that Stadler only played one round there, then withdrew. But he had been feeling the pain before ' he withdrew from Brunos Memorial Classic the previous week before play began. Actually, he had felt twinges back in April.
For the better part of three months, up until the middle of June, Stadler played only sparingly, fearing the worst each time he swung the club. Finally, at the Bank of America Championship the end of June, he was pain-free. After being idle almost six weeks, he came back and finished in a tie for 12th.
I had no pain anywhere, said Stadler.
I've never had back problems before, so I can certainly see what these guys are complaining about all the time with back problems because I've never experienced them and it is no fun. Fortunately, everything is healthy now and it'll be good for the rest of the year.
Its been a long year after last years five-win campaign, but Stadler is still very optimistic. He thinks next year will be another breakout year for him. You get used to being there, it makes it easier to get there, he said.