Having Hit Bottom Verplank Strives for Pinnacle

By Associated PressAugust 10, 2007, 4:00 pm
PGA ChampionshipTULSA, Okla. -- Scott Verplank was signing autographs after a practice round at the PGA Championship when a young boy pulled out an unusual item for him to sign: an insulin pump.
 
It was the kind of moment that gives the diabetic golfer a lift.
 
Verplank has had his share of downers too, fighting through three elbow surgeries that derailed a career seemingly destined for greatness when he came out of Oklahoma State. That made it so much more sweet for him to claim the early clubhouse lead Friday after 36 holes at the year's final major.
 
He ended up two shots behind Tiger Woods, who matched the major championship record with a 63.
 
'I've been so far down at the bottom of the barrel, I know what that's like,' said Verplank, who shot a bogey-free 66 to move to 4-under 136 for the tournament. 'And you can only beat yourself up so much.'
 
Verplank seemed like a surefire star when he became the first amateur in 29 years to win a PGA Tour event by beating Jim Thorpe in a playoff at the 1985 Western Open. A year later, he entered the final round of the U.S. Open one stroke behind leader Ray Floyd but went out and shot a 74. Two decades later, he still considers that his best chance at winning a major -- until now.
 
'My mind-set is maybe I'm a late bloomer,' said the 43-year-old who lives in Edmond in suburban Oklahoma City. 'I was a very early bloomer. I was probably a top-10 player in the world when I was 21 years old ... I've had a lot of landscape in between. Maybe I'll be a late bloomer here.'
 
Verplank's path to stardom was interrupted by the surgeries, two on his right elbow and then one on his left. It was after the second surgery on his right elbow that Verplank thought he had bottomed out. He drove from his home at the time in Orlando, Fla., to Vero Beach for a checkup, believing that it would be only a few more months before he could play again.
 
Dr. Frank Jobe told him it would be an entire year.
 
'I had a two-hour drive back to Orlando, and I'll remember that. That was a pretty tough time,' Verplank said. 'I remember I was feeling pretty sorry for myself for a couple hours. I needed tissues.'
 
Three years later -- just before the 1996 U.S. Open -- he hit another low when he was told he'd have to have surgery again, this time on his left elbow.
 
'That was very disheartening to me because I'd been through a lot of junk and I'd come through it,' Verplank said. 'That took me about a year mentally to overcome that. That just gutted me when I had to go have surgery again.'
 
With what he's been through, Verplank takes joy in giving others a lift. That's why it was so meaningful for him to sign the autograph for the youngster dealing with the same disease Verplank was diagnosed with at age 9.
 
'If it helps that kid, if it gives him some inspiration or it just makes him feel better for a little while, then it's well worth it,' Verplank said.
 
After his third surgery, the 1986 NCAA champion came back to win the 2000 Reno-Tahoe Open and the 2001 Bell Canadian Open to reach four career victories. After that, he didn't win again until this year's Byron Nelson Championship in his native Dallas. He's finished in the top 10 in five of his eight events since.
 
Earlier in the week, Verplank felt more like an accountant, sorting tickets into 15 envelopes to leave at will call for family and friends. Oklahoma State fans called out 'Go Cowboys!' and 'Go Pokes!' to cheer him on at Southern Hills.
 
'My emotions are fine. I've decided I was going to really try to enjoy this week, have a good time here because there's a lot of extra demands that could really wear you out if you let them,' Verplank said.
 
He started with eight pars before charging into the lead with birdies on the ninth, 11th, 15th and 17th holes. He saved par on No. 13 after his 3-iron from the fairway clipped a tree and found the water.
 
'I'm kind of the guy that I only have to hit a couple decent shots to start thinking I'm pretty good again,' Verplank said.
 
By the end of his round, he was atop the leaderboard at a major -- a place many thought he'd reach years earlier.
 
'I didn't think I was going to come out and win every golf tournament because I have other things that I deal with that most other people don't deal with,' Verplank said. 'I'm happy that I've won five times on the tour. I'm disappointed that I haven't won more.
 
'You know, if you can make heads or tails out of that, good luck.'
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - PGA Championship
  • Full Coverage - PGA Championship
  • Getty Images

    Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

    By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

    NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

    Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

    The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

    Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

    The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

    Getty Images

    Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

    By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

    It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

    Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

    The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

    The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

    For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

    Getty Images

    Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

    By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

    After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

    But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

    Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

    Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

    Getty Images

    Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

    By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

    Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

    The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

    “There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

    “To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

    Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

    “To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.