SYDNEY – As if Fred Couples didn’t have enough injuries to deal with, Hunter Mahan withdrew from the Australian Open early Friday with an ailing right shoulder, the byproduct of an ongoing spine issue.
Mahan had trainers work on his shoulder before his tee time at The Lakes but decided it was best to rest the injury with next week’s Presidents Cup looming and the U.S. team already facing the possibility of a last-minute replacement.
Steve Stricker has not played since The Tour Championship because of a neck injury and Couples had said that if Stricker is unable to play next week at Royal Melbourne he would call for Keegan Bradley to replace him.
“It came on Wednesday night, and Thursday it wasn’t great,” Mahan told The Associated Press. “Today was the worst it has been. The more I keep swinging, the worse it gets. But I don’t see this being a long-term problem for next week.”
Mahan, who opened with a 73 on Thursday in Sydney, said he plans to play the matches but did leave the possibility open that he may need to be replaced. “If Fred has to call (Bradley), then . . .”
According to Mahan’s trainer Dr. Craig Davies, it’s a similar injury to the one he sustained prior to last year’s Ryder Cup. “He’s extremely mobile in his thoracic spine and rotates a lot through there so on occasion he exceeds normal tolerance,” Davies said.
Davies plans to fly to Australia to treat Mahan and also said he expects him to be “100 percent” for the Presidents Cup.
If either Mahan or Stricker can’t play Bradley would need to make the trip to Melbourne from Florida, where he is at home after two weeks in China. Couples told GolfChannel.com last week that he would also consider playing either of his assistant captains, John Cook or Jay Haas, if Bradley was unable to make the trip in time.
“I would have to get the grace of the guys on the team, but I would not want one of Norman’s guys to have to sit,” he said.