Green overcomes loss of leg to play golf

By Doug FergusonApril 22, 2010, 1:28 am
Champions Tour

SAVANNAH, Ga. – The first big step in Ken Green’s improbable return to golf came with a severe limp, just like every step since a horrific auto accident that took the lives of his girlfriend and brother and cost Green his right leg.

This was only a pro-am Wednesday on the Champions Tour, yet it carried so much uncertainty.

“All right, guys,” he said quietly to his amateurs as he stood over his opening tee shot. “I don’t know. This might be interesting.”

Even more beautiful than the flight of his tee shot were the ropes lining both sides of the fairway at the Savannah Harbor Golf Resort, indisputable evidence that Green was back on the stage where some thought he might never return.

“I do want to have fun and enjoy it,” Green said. “Because I don’t know how many times I’m going to get the chance to do this again.”

That he is even playing in the Legends of Golf, a two-man team event that starts Friday, is nothing short of amazing.

It was only nine months ago that Green, 51, was headed east on a Mississippi freeway when a tire blew out on his RV, sending it down an embankment and into an oak tree. His girlfriend, Jean Marie Hodgin, and brother, William Green, were killed, as was Nip, his beloved German Shepherd.

Green decided to have his lower right leg amputated a week later. It was his only hope of playing golf again.

“Golf is everything to me,” he said.

Then came another dose of devastation. Three months into learning how to compete with a prosthetic limb that took away so much of his power, Green’s 21-year-old son, Hunter, was found dead Jan. 22 in his dorm room at SMU. An autopsy revealed a combination of alcohol and prescription drugs.

Somehow, he kept moving forward.

“I don’t know how I managed to say, ‘OK, I’m going to still keep fighting the fight and go out there and try to play golf,”’ Green said. “That’s what the Big Guy wants me to do. You do the battle. But it’s a tough one. There’s a lot of crying moments, trust me.”

The battle is nothing new to Green.

He says his stubbornness came from his mother, a single mom working three jobs so her son could play golf. He has done battle with the hierarchy on the PGA Tour and at Augusta National, where Green once celebrated a tee time with Arnold Palmer by drinking a beer walking up the fairway. He managed to win five times on the PGA Tour and play on a Ryder Cup team.

A rebellious nature might have prepared him for times like these.

“From the day I said, ‘Cut my leg,’ there was no doubt in my mind I was going to play,” Green said. “Unfortunately, the mind thinks differently than the body. But I still believe that I can do this and I can pull this off. It’s just going to be a little longer time than I probably would have liked. Realistically, it hasn’t been that long.”

The Legends of Golf is the ideal place to start. It’s a better-ball competition over 54 holes, and he has a polar-opposite partner in Mike Reid, famous for being so gracious after a crushing loss in the 1989 PGA Championship.

They were partners last year, and when Reid heard about the accident, he sent Green a text a month later that said, “We can beat most of these teams on three legs, so get your game ready.”

Over the last two months, as Green questioned whether his game was good enough for this level, he suggested Reid find a partner who could help him. Reid would have none of it.

“It’s easy to say fellowship is more than important than championship,” Reid said.

Green isn’t sure what to expect. He has revamped his swing to play a draw so he can pick up extra distance. The loss of strength in his lower body means he can hit a driver only about 235 yards in the air. He no longer generates as much spin, and Green is still trying to find a comfortable stance for various chip shots.

He shot 68 at The Breakers near his home in West Palm Beach, Fla., but that was from a forward set of tees. Once he felt more comfortable and moved back, Green said he hasn’t broken par.

Then again, par isn’t the issue this week.

“I’m just glad to see him back,” Hal Sutton said. “We all forget how good we have it. It’s like Jackie Burke always says, ‘Much always wants more.’ We’re always wanting more and not counting our blessings for the ‘much’ we have. Ken is a great example for all of us. I’m sure he has more than he thought he would.”

Green never imagined being an inspiration to anyone, but he could feel it when he showed up in Savannah and began running into colleagues he had not seen since the accident.

“Every one of them has literally said, ‘It doesn’t mean a damn thing. It’s just great that you’re here,”’ Green said. “For them to say that has really eased my tension level.”

It used to be hardly anything made Green tense. Two days before the tournament starts, he already is feeling nervous. He is worried that his game is not ready to be showcased in the same tournament as Fred Couples, Tom Watson, or the twosome he will face Friday of Mark O’Meara and Nick Price.

But when his son died, Green realized life can take some cruel and unexpected turns.

“There’s been numerous things that have happened,” he said. “Who’s to say that something else can’t happy where you literally will never have a chance? I want to be able to say I have played, gone out there inside the ropes. There’s a special feel inside he ropes playing golf.”

He wants to play on his own this summer, hopefully the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open in Endicott, N.Y. For now, the thrill is playing on tour with prize money at stake.

This is a big deal for Green, even bigger for those around him.

“It’s easy to say, ‘Boy, this is great for Ken. This is really going to lift his spirits.’ But it’s the other way around,” Reid said. “He’s lifting us. What a measure of courage to be here and to be committed. To see the reservoirs of strength that he’s had to draw from a year ago to now, it lifts all of us. That’s the message that I hope we don’t miss this week.”

Getty Images

McCarthy wins Web.com Tour Championship by 4

By Associated PressSeptember 24, 2018, 2:14 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Denny McCarthy won the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship on Sunday to earn fully exempt PGA Tour status and a spot in the Players Championship.

McCarthy closed with a 6-under 65 for a four-stroke victory over Lucas Glover at Atlantic Beach Country Club. The 25-year-old former Virginia player earned $180,000 to top the 25 PGA Tour card-earners with $255,793 in the four-event Web.com Tour Finals.

''It's been quite a journey this year,'' McCarthy said. ''The PGA Tour was tough to start out the year. I stuck through it and got my game. I raised my level and have been playing some really good golf. Just feels incredible to finish off these Finals. So much work behind the scenes that nobody really sees.''

McCarthy finished at 23-under 261.


Full-field scores from the Web.com Tour Championship


Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, closed with a 69. He made $108,000 to finish seventh with $125,212 in the series for the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200.

Jim Knous earned the 25th and final card from the four-event money list with $41,931, edging Justin Lower by $500. Knous made a 5-foot par save on the final hole for a 71 that left him tied for 57th. Lower missed an 8-footer for birdie, settling for a 69 and a tie for 21st.

''It was a brutal day emotionally,'' Knous said. ''I wasn't quite sure how much my performance would affect the overall outcome. It kind of just depended on what everybody else did. That's pretty terrifying. So I really just kind of did my best to stay calm and inside I was really freaking out and just super psyched that at the end of the day finished right there on No. 25.''

The top-25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list competed against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. Sungjae Im topped the list to earn the No. 1 priority spot of the 50 total cards.

Getty Images

LaCava pushed Woods to work on bunker game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 24, 2018, 1:52 am

ATLANTA – Last week as Tiger Woods prepared to play the season finale at East Lake he sent a text message to his caddie Joey LaCava that simply asked, what do I need to do to get better?

Although when it comes to Woods his proficiency is always relative, but LaCava didn’t pull any punches, and as the duo completed the final round on Sunday at the Tour Championship with a bunker shot to 7 feet at the last the two traded knowing smiles.

“We had a talk last week about his bunker game and I said, ‘I’m glad you kept that bunker game stuff in mind,’” LaCava said. “I told him he was an average bunker player and he worked at it last week. There were only two bunker shots he didn’t get up-and-down, I don’t count the last one on 18. He recognized that after two days. He was like, ‘What do you know, I’m 100 percent from the bunkers and I’m in the lead after two days.”


Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


For the week, Woods got up-and-down from East Lake’s bunkers seven out of nine times and cruised to a two-stroke victory for his first PGA Tour title since 2013. That’s a dramatic improvement over his season average of 49 percent (100th on Tour).

“His bunker game was very average coming into this week,” LaCava said. “I said you’ve got to work on your bunker game. If you had a decent bunker game like the Tiger of old you would have won [the BMW Championship].”

Getty Images

For Woods, is this only the beginning?

By Damon HackSeptember 24, 2018, 1:42 am

If this is Tiger Woods nine months into a comeback, wait until he actually shakes the rust off.

This was supposed to be the year he kicked the tires, to see how his body held up after all those knives digging into his back.

To see if a short game could truly be rescued from chunks and skulls.

To see if a 42-year-old living legend could outfox the kids.

On the final breath of the PGA Tour season, it was Tiger Woods who took ours away.

Playing alongside Rory McIlroy on Sunday at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club – and one group behind the current World No. 1 and eventual FedEx Cup champion Justin Rose – Woods bludgeoned the field and kneecapped Father Time. 

It was Dean Smith and the Four Corners offense.  Emmitt Smith moving the chains. Nolan Ryan mowing them down.

And all of a sudden you wonder if Phil Mickelson wishes he’d made alternate Thanksgiving plans.

Even if everybody saw a win coming, it was something else to actually see it happen, to see the man in the red shirt reach another gear just one more time.

Win No. 80 reminded us, as Roger Maltbie once said of Woods when he came back from knee surgery in 2009: “A lot of people can play the fiddle. Only one guy is Itzhak Perlman.”

It wasn’t long ago that Tiger Woods seemed headed toward a disheartening final chapter as a broken man with a broken body.


Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


He would host a couple of tournaments, do some great charity work, shout instructions into a walkie talkie at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, and call it a career.

There would be no Nicklaus 1986 Masters moment, no Hogan Mystique at Merion.

He would leave competitive golf as perhaps both the greatest to ever play the game and its greatest cautionary tale.

Willie Mays with the New York Mets. Muhammad Ali taking punishment from Larry Holmes.

But then Brad Faxon and Rickie Fowler started whispering at the end of 2017 that Tiger was healthy and hitting the ball hard. 

There was that hold-your-breath opening tee shot at the Hero World Challenge, a bullet that flew the left bunker and bounded into the fairway.

Rollercoaster rides at Tampa and Bay Hill, backward steps at Augusta and Shinnecock, forward leaps at The Open and the PGA.

He switched putters and driver shafts (and shirts, oh my!) and seemed at times tantalizingly close and maddeningly far.

That he even decided to try to put his body and game back together was one of the all-time Hail Marys in golf.

Why go through all of that rehab again?

Why go through the scrutiny of having your current game measured against your untouchable prime?

Because you’re Tiger Woods, is why, because you’ve had way more wonderful days on the golf course than poor ones, despite five winless years on the PGA Tour.

Suddenly, Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour wins is in jeopardy and Jack Nicklaus, holder of a record of 18 major championships, is at the very least paying attention.

Woods has put the golf world on notice.

It won’t be long until everyone starts thinking about the 2019 major schedule (and you’d better believe that Tiger already is).

The Masters, where he has four green jackets and seven other Top 5 finishes. The PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, where he won in 2002 by 3. The United States Open at Pebble Beach, where he won in 2000 by 15.

The Open at Royal Portrush, where his savvy and guile will be a strong 15th club.

But that’s a talk for a later date.

Tiger is clearly still getting his sea legs back.

Getty Images

Nonfactor McIlroy mum after lackluster 74

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 24, 2018, 1:04 am

ATLANTA – Rory McIlroy didn’t have anything to say to the media after the final round of the Tour Championship, and that’s understandable.

McIlroy began the final round at East Lake three shots behind Tiger Woods. He finished six back.

McIlroy closed in 4-over 74 to tie for seventh place.

In their matchup, Woods birdied the first hole to go four in front, and when McIlroy bogeyed the par-4 fourth, he was five in arrears. McIlroy went on to make three more bogeys, one double bogey and just two birdies.


Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


McIlroy was never a factor on Sunday and ultimately finished tied for 13th in the FedExCup standings.

The two rivals, Woods and McIlroy, shared plenty of conversations while walking down the fairways. On the 18th hole, Woods said McIlroy told him the scene was like the 1980 U.S. Open when people were shouting, “Jack’s back!”

“I said, ‘Yeah, I just don’t have the tight pants and the hair,’” Woods joked. “But it was all good.”

It’s now off to Paris for the upcoming Ryder Cup, where Woods and McIlroy will again be foes. It will be McIlroy’s fifth consecutive appearance in the biennial matches, while Woods is making his first since 2012.