DUBLIN, Ohio - After four months away from the PGA Tour, Steve Marino is excited to be competing this week at the Memorial Tournament after suffering a bizarre injury.
'Nine holes into the pro-am at Sony [Open in Hawaii], my knee had swelled up,' Marino said Tuesday at Muirfield Village. 'I couldn't even squat down to read my putts.'
He played two more events in pain before returning home. After seeing several doctors and undergoing multiple tests over three weeks, Marino was diagnosed with a bone contusion on the tip of his tibia and femur in his left leg. He was also suffering from avascular necrosis, a lack of blood flow to the area, which impacted his joints.
'It hurt to walk,' he said. 'I didn't know what was going on. I originally thought I was going to miss one or two weeks and be back for L.A. (at the Northern Trust Open). It just took forever for it to heal.'
Four months felt like an eternity for the active Marino. He has averaged 28 starts on the PGA Tour since 2007.
Three weeks ago, Marino got the all clear to return to practice – news he said was 'a weight off (his) shoulders.'
After a false start to the year, Marino feels like he gets to begin anew this week. He has been welcomed back. Since arriving to Muirfield Village, Marino has been like the kid returning to school after a bout with the chickenpox.
“A bunch of guys have come up and said, 'It's great to have you back,' and that made me feel good,” he said.
Marino chose Jack Nicklaus' event as his first event back because he could play and still receive a major medical exemption. The exemption, whose exact length hasn't yet been determined by the PGA Tour, should carry into next season. However, the cushion of the exemption is not on his mind.
'This is one of the best tournaments we play on the Tour,' he said. 'The course is great. It's Jack's tournament. It's just awesome. I missed all these big events and this, to me, is the last real big event left in the year (aside from the majors and FedEx Cup playoffs).'
There is little time to waste. The 32-year-old is entering the prime of his golfing life, but remains winless in his PGA Tour career, earning him the moniker of 'best golfer never to have won on the PGA Tour.'
'I know my game is good and I know that if I play my game, I'll eventually win a tournament out here,' Marino said.
Marino hopes to get back into a groove eventually, but has no illusions of grandeur this week.
“I've made a lot of cuts, and I got on streaks where I'll have a lot of top-20, top-10 finishes in a row,” he said. “I'd like to get on one of those streaks, but I've been out for so long, I don't know what to expect.”
The week's real test will come Monday when he attempts to earn a spot in the U.S. Open through 36-hole sectional qualifying in Columbus.
'That'll be a good test to see how the knee holds up,' he said. 'That might be a little too much, too soon. I'm just playing it by ear, seeing how the knee feels.'
Unclear on his schedule heading into the summer, Marino is choosing to focus on the present.
'I just kind of want to go out and enjoy it,' he said. 'I've learned to appreciate what I have. I'm just going to go out and have fun.'