A Game for the Walking Wounded


CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Golf doesn’t have an official injury report like other sports, but as the list of walking wounded expanded this week at the Wells Fargo Championship it’s not from a lack of content.

If such a publication existed it would read something like this: Tiger Woods, knee and Achilles, out; Tim Clark, elbow, out; Geoff Ogilvy, shoulder, out; Padraig Harrington, neck, probable; Lucas Glover, stomach, probable; Rocco Mediate, back, questionable; Shaun Micheel, ringing in ears, questionable.

Golf may be a gentleman’s game, but those who play for pay aren’t immune to a metaphorical blow to the gut from time to time. On any given day the Tour’s fitness vans are bubbling over with all manner of aches and pains. So much so that years ago the Tour started sending out two vans, one for working out, one for working on the wounded.

At 7 a.m. Lucas Glover arrived in the latter, “and he said he didn’t feel great,” said his trainer Randy Myers. Sixty-seven strokes later the circuit’s Grizzly Adams stand-in was three strokes off the lead and one more trip to the Port-a-John away from an IV.

Lucas Glover
Lucas Glover shot a 5-under 67 Thursday while suffering from a stomach virus. (Getty Images)
“If you just hang out around the fitness vans, you'll know that guys are always dealing with little bitty things here or there,” said David Toms, T-2 through Round 1. “I don't think the human body is meant to be standing straight up for eight to 10 hours a day and then bending over half of that time hitting a golf shot twisting your body in all kinds of crazy ways.”

Arm-chair linebackers everywhere will scoff at the notion, but there is nothing non-contact about golf, at least not on the PGA Tour level.

“Probably 10 percent of every field deals with injuries,” said Myers, director of fitness at Sea Island (Ga.) Resort. “Everybody is hurt.”

Myers should know he works with perhaps two of the most injury-prone players in the game – Davis Love III and Jonathan Byrd.

That Byrd found his way into a share of second at Quail Hollow, or any tournament for that matter, is something of a medical miracle. In no particular order J-Byrd has struggled with and through a hip surgery, cracked ribs, a shoulder sprain and the occasional lower back ailment.

Clark, the defending champion next week at The Players Championship if he can haul himself off the DL, has been just as star-crossed – sidelined at various stops in his career by a bulging disc in his neck and now an ailing right elbow that may keep him from defending his first Tour title next week.

All total 22 frat brothers are playing under a medical exemption of one form or another this year. From the surreal to the serious, Tour types stretch the bounds of even the best of health plans.

Padraig Harrington has been nursing an ailing neck since The Masters, which he hurt on Thursday while swinging a weighted club left handed. It’s an exercise, he says with only a pinch of sheepishness, that is supposed to help loosen up his chronically ailing neck.

“I couldn’t move my neck to the right at all,” Harrington said. “But now it’s good and I’m doing a lot of work in the gym on it.”

The prognosis for Woods doesn’t seem as optimistic. Last Tuesday he announced he would miss this week’s Wells Fargo event with a knee and Achilles injury. For those scoring at home, that’s four knee procedures and now a second bout with an Achilles injury, the first occurring in 2009, all of which makes next week’s Players a day-to-day decision.

What golf lacks in impact and brute trauma it more than makes up for in repetitive pain. Simply put, a good golf swing is anything but good for the body.

“If your hands are hurting, your elbow, your shoulder, your hips, your back, if anything is hurting it's just a difficult sport to play to me,” Toms said. “You can get a blister on your pinky finger and all of a sudden it's hard to play golf just because of all the feel that goes into golf shots. That's just part of it.”

Toms is no stranger to the fitness or operating table, from wrist surgery in 2003 and a back injury in 2006 to a heart scare at the 2005 84 Lumber Classic where he was diagnosed with Supraventricular Tachycardia.

But if the Tour maintained an official DL it may be named in Micheel’s honor. The 2003 PGA Championship winner has been diagnosed with low testosterone, had shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum in 2009 and may currently be suffering from one of the strangest ailments ever reported – an inner ear disorder called endolymphatic hydrops, a form of Meniere's Disease.

“I move around inside myself,” Micheel said last month at The Heritage. “I know that sounds kind of weird, but it's the best way to describe what's happening to me.”

Micheel had tubes put in his ears to help alleviate constant ringing and twice had to have his eardrums pierced to drain fluid, but he said on Thursday before he teed off at Quail Hollow that he had not seen any improvement.

These guys may be good, and they may also need help getting off the golf course. The only thing missing from a potential Tour injury report is the ubiquitous “oblique” injury. But the year is still young, even if the rank and file isn’t feeling that way.

Follow Rex Hoggard on Twitter @RexHoggardGC