McCumber Competitve Again - Luckily
As he prepares to play this week's Senior PGA Championship, where he finished in a tie for 10th last year, McCumber has much to be thankful for. A three-time winner on the PGA Tour in 1994 and a 10-time victor over-all, his golfing career was hanging by a thread after several mystifying ailments in the latter part of the 90s.
At one time he could barely walk. He went from one of the best golfers in the world in 94 to a baffled bed patient a couple of years later, various ailments keeping him sidelined up until his rookie year on the Champions Tour in 2002.
In 2001, competing on a medical exemption his last year as a PGA Tour regular, he had tried to play though the ailments but missed the cut in eight of nine starts. But in 2002 he finally was healthy enough to compete in 17 tournaments. In 2003 it was 18. And when the men of the Champions Tour play their first major this year ' the Senior PGA Championship May 20-23 - McCumber will have played eight times in 2004.
And the difference in his health in 2004 as compared to the late 90s ' well, there is no comparison. Considering what it was, what I started with, its wonderful, says McCumber.
McCumber, incidentally, is an accomplished golf architect and actually did the course where the Honda Classic was played for several years ' the TPC at Heron Bay in South Florida. But when his health began to fail, all activities slowed to a crawl.
In 1996 the problems began with persistent throbbing pain in his right shoulder. He still was competing at a high level, finishing runner-up in the British Open. But he eventually had surgery performed on his rotator cuff.
Despite the shoulder surgery, though, something still didnt feel right. While in the process of rehabbing the shoulder, he began having dizzy spells, accompanied this time by pain in his neck. There were all the earmarks of a ruptured disk in his back. But nothing was ruled out and everything considered ' there could have been a tumor, an aneurysm, even multiple sclerosis.
Doctors did an exhaustive number of tests until they finally came up with a diagnosis ' a lesion on his spinal cord. Physicians theorized that the lesion might have started forming as early as 1995. McCumber underwent extensive physical therapy to overcome numbness in his left hand and fatigue in his legs.
You know when you fall asleep sitting in a funny way, he said, and as your legs are waking up, you get that prickly feeling? Thats the way I felt.
But McCumber, who is still in his early 50s, can play golf ' albeit maybe not at the high level he once did.
I think I still drive the ball really well. Im not as long as I used to be, but I feel like under pressure I can still drive the ball in any fairway. Ive always felt that was the best part of my game, he said.
I think I manage myself pretty well. Ive always felt my misses were pretty good. In other words, I dont usually double-cross. I can usually block out half the golf course. Its just the thunder isnt as loud as it used to be.
The Thunder was particularly loud for a man who stands just 5-foot-8. He won Doral in 1979 for his first tour victory. Fifteen years later, he prevailed at the Tour Championship with a 40-foot playoff putt to defeat Fuzzy Zoeller - the last win of his regular career, in 1994.
On the Champions Tour, he has finished inside the top 10 six times, including a tie for fourth at the Tampa tournament last year and a tie for fifth at the season-opener in 2004 at the Royal Caribbean. He finished in a tie for 10th at the Senior PGA last year.
And ' he feels lucky that he can play once again, even if he doesnt quite reach the dizzying heights of 1994. My mother keeps reminding me that its not just the trouble in my spinal cord - its that Im in my 50s, he says with a hearty laugh.
No, he isnt the same Mark McCumber of the 80s and early 90s. But this Mark McCumber isnt bad. He faces the reality and he goes on.
Im left with some things thatll never change, they say, he said. But its so minimal compared to what it was. I can walk around, I can swing a golf club, Ive got a little bit of a ' they call it spasity of rubberiness in my legs.
But ' I mean, Im out here playing and walking. Im very happy.
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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him
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 at Carnoustie. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.
Hauck was one of 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 continuing 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.
Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter
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.
Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose
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.
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.
Rose: T-2 finish renewed my love of The Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Justin Rose made the cut on the number at The Open and was out for an early Saturday morning stroll at Carnoustie when, all of a sudden, he started putting together one great shot after another.
There was no pressure. No one had expected anything from someone so far off the lead. Yet Rose shot 30 on the final nine holes to turn in 7-under 64, the lowest round of the championship. By day’s end he was five shots behind a trio of leaders that included Jordan Spieth.
Rose followed the 64 with a Sunday 69 to tie for second place, two shots behind winner Francesco Molinari. His 133 total over the weekend was the lowest by a shot, and for a moment he thought he had a chance to hoist the claret jug, until Molinari put on a ball-striking clinic down the stretch with birdies on 14 and 18.
“I just think having made the cut number, it’s a great effort to be relevant on the leaderboard on Sunday,” said Rose, who collected his third-career runner-up in a major. He’s also finished 12th or better in all three majors this year.
In the final round, Rose was well off the pace until his second shot on the par-5 14th hole hit the pin. He had a tap-in eagle to move to 5 under. Birdie at the last moved him to 6 under and made him the clubhouse leader for a few moments.
“It just proves to me that I can play well in this tournament, that I can win The Open,” Rose said. “When I’m in the hunt, I enjoy it. I play my best golf. I don’t back away.
“That was a real positive for me, and it renewed the love of The Open for me.”