Healthy Gulbis looking to challenge


Good news if you’re a Natalie Gulbis fan.

Her troublesome back isn’t just feeling better as she prepares to tee it up this afternoon at the CVS/ pharmacy LPGA Challenge.

“I feel great,” Gulbis said by telephone a couple hours before her 2:50 p.m. (ET) tee time. “This is the best I’ve felt in years out here on tour.”

Gulbis, who will be mic’d up for tonight’s Golf Channel telecast (7:30-9:30 p.m. ET), didn’t have the most promising start to the year. She had to cancel a scheduled appearance at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando in January to undergo laser surgery on the bothersome discs in her lower back. This was after she withdrew from the final two events in '09 with back issues.

Though Gulbis had to withdraw from the Ricoh Women’s British Open in August with her back acting up, she says that was because she felt so good she was playing too much.

“It was my seventh event in eight weeks,” Gulbis said. “It was just too much for me, but I took a week off and the next week I was back out practicing and feeling great.'

Gulbis says the laser surgery helped immensely.

“I’ve had back problems since I was a junior player,' she said. 'I was a gymnast as a kid, and that didn’t help.

'The laser operation, not only did it improve my back, it’s improved my overall quality of life. Whether that was sitting on plane without pain, or sitting in a movie theater, or picking up my 2-year-old niece, just the little things I wasn’t able to do without pain, I can do again.” 

Gulbis is hoping it adds up to a strong finish to the 2010 season. She’s 57th on the LPGA money list, her lowest ranking in nine seasons on tour. She's looking for her first top-10 finish this year. She says her back feels so good, she'll be making the long flight to play the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia next week and the LPGA Hana Bank in South Korea the week after.