Snyder returns to Tour after six years of medical mysteries

By Jason SobelMay 16, 2012, 4:05 pm

IRVING, Texas – Joey Snyder III woke up early Monday morning in his family’s Scottsdale, Ariz., home and explained to his two young daughters that he needed to go to work.

Sophie, 5, and Caroline, 3, were confused at first, then upset that their dad was leaving. They didn’t understand. They couldn’t understand.

One of the most commonly asked questions in our society is, “So, what do you do for a living?” yet for so many of us the answer is an enigma wrapped in a conundrum.

All across Hollywood, there are actresses who spend their days reciting lunch specials for 10 bucks an hour. Check into your local Jiffy Lube and a race car driver may change your oil filter. Even serious artists are biding their time as sandwich artists.

For the past six years, Snyder has been a PGA Tour golfer who doesn’t play golf.

It wasn’t always this way. After nine years of trying to reach his dream, the Arizona State University alum finished T-13 at Q-School in 2004, earning full-time status for the 2005 season. His rookie campaign was an unabashed success, as Snyder made the cut in 20 of 31 starts, earning more than $1 million and – most importantly – keeping his card for the next season.

His sophomore year, though, didn’t go nearly as smoothly. Snyder missed his first five cuts of the season, and  then on March 5, while hitting balls on the practice range at Doral, he started feeling intense pain in the right side of his neck and right shoulder.

“Rocco Mediate was next to me and he just started picking up all my practice balls and putting them in his pocket,” Snyder recalls. “He’s like, ‘Dude, go home.’”

What followed next was a confluence of medical head-scratchers and misdiagnoses that were as confounding as the injury itself.

It took six weeks for Snyder to get in to see a top neurosurgeon, who assured him that the problem wasn’t with his neck – but did assure him that he couldn’t pinpoint the issue.

That became a recurring theme. A shoulder specialist would send him to a neck specialist, and then the neck specialist would send him to a spine specialist, only to have the spine specialist send him back to a shoulder specialist. It was a never-ending cycle of appointments and tests, all to no avail.

Within two years of first being injured, Snyder guesses he underwent about 10 MRIs. Still, no answers.

Like a 36-handicap hacking away at the range, Snyder was ready to try anything.

“I went to see – you name it,” he says. “All kinds of different crazy gurus of body mechanics. I went to a guy up in Minneapolis, Minn., who Arron Oberholser had seen. Literally, it was shock therapy. Tried to do it and it just didn’t fix it.”

Four months of that. Three months with another doctor. There were even procedures done to potentially alleviate the pain. In late-2009, Snyder underwent surgery for a sports hernia, and then was told immediately afterward that he needed to have surgery on his right hip, as well. Neither solved the problem. He still couldn’t swing the golf club.

All during this time, he heard the whispers from fellow PGA Tour members. When a player with full status is injured, he not only receives a medical extension which allows him to resume playing privileges once healthy, but also a monthly stipend during that absence.

The cases are few and far between, but Snyder wouldn’t have been the first player to extensively milk an injury in order to keep receiving paychecks without actually having to play any golf.

“Most of the players were very supportive,” he says. “But some guys do question whether you’re staying at home, living off disability because you can. I’ve heard everything. For a guy like me, I’m pretty honest. It’s hard not to have Mickey Mouse ears when it comes to that stuff. It definitely hurts your feelings, but there’s part of you that understands it.

“I mean, gosh, they haven’t seen me in six years. I kept telling them, ‘I would love to come back. Believe me, I didn’t try this long to get out here just so I could sit at home.’”

Finally, on March 5, 2010, exactly four years to the day of his last PGA Tour round, he was diagnosed with adhesive capsulitis – more commonly known as frozen shoulder. The affliction baffled doctors for so long because the nerve in his shoulder was fully engulfed in scar tissue due to so much golf.

“I told the doctor, ‘You’re going to have to forgive me, but I’ve heard that people can fix me and nobody’s done it, so I want to see that this is the right diagnosis,’” he recalls. “The doctor said, ‘On behalf of the medical community, I want to apologize to you. This should have been something that was fairly easy to diagnose, but we missed it, because of all the neurological signs and all the referred pain.’”

Snyder underwent surgery to fix the problem, albeit not without further complications. He played in five Nationwide Tour events last season – missing the cut in each one, but posting scores between 70-73 in all 10 rounds – and felt more pain, so he had another procedure. He had wanted to return earlier this year, but again had the injury flare up.

Now, though, it’s gone – at least for the time being. All of the doctor visits, all of those diagnoses and tests and procedures, they were done for the main goal of returning to his job.

On Thursday, Snyder will compete on the PGA Tour for the first time in 2,265 days, part of the Byron Nelson Championship field. He has 25 starts in which to earn $647,466, which would give him the equivalent of 125th on the money from the 2006 season.

Of course, the Tour has changed since then. Sure, there are many familiar faces, but gazing out upon the practice range this week, Snyder says he only recognizes most of the younger players from watching them on TV.

As for his game, Snyder maintains there are no expectations for his return engagement.

“Everything is feeling pretty good,” he says, “but don’t get me wrong – the game has still got a little bit of rust.”

Meanwhile, Sophie and Caroline – along with Snyder’s wife Dana – will be watching from home, still not exactly sure why their father is gone or what his job really entails.

“I’ve been at home every single day of their lives. It’s been great. It’s been the only thing that’s kept me sane,” he explains. “They said, ‘Daddy, why do you have to go?’ I told them, ‘This is what Daddy does for a living. I know you haven’t seen it, but hopefully you’ll get to see what Daddy does.’”

For the past six years, Snyder has been a PGA Tour golfer. This week, he finally gets a chance to play that role.

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Watch: Wagner saves season with walk-off eagle dunk

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 18, 2018, 2:45 am

Johnson Wagner kept his FedExCup Playoff hopes alive on Friday at the Wyndham Championship ... and he did it in dramatic fashion.

Needing a birdie on his final hole of the day to make the cut on the number, Johnson used a 9-iron from 153 yards out to dunk his approach for eagle to get inside the cut line.

Johnson's eagle at the last gave him a 66 for the day and earned him two more rounds to try and get inside the FedExCup top 125 for next week's start of the postseason, The Northern Trust.

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S.H. Park, Salas co-lead rain-soaked Indy Women

By Associated PressAugust 18, 2018, 1:42 am

INDIANAPOLIS - Sung Hyun Park relied on the same, steady style that has helped make her one of the LPGA's top players. When her putts kept rolling in Friday, she was virtually unbeatable.

Park shot a 9-under 63 for a share of the lead with Lizette Salas during the suspended second round of the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

''The best round of the year,'' the South Korean player said through an interpreter. ''My putting overall was what really helped.''

Salas, the first-round leader after a 62, had a 69 to match Park at 13 under at Brickyard Crossing. Danielle Kang and Nasa Hataoka were two shots back.

''It was going to be hard to top that 62 yesterday but I stayed patient,'' Salas said. ''This was a completely different golf course, so I had to change my mentality a little bit and I had to forget about the 62 in a way and just go back to what I was doing.''

Park has two majors and four overall LPGA victories the last two years, winning the U.S. Women's Open and CP Women's Open last year and the Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic and KPMG Women's PGA Championship this season.

Nothing rattled Park on a sticky, overcast day.

''I worked on my short game the most, especially measuring the distances,'' Park said. ''It paid off.''

After more rain drenched the already saturated layout around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Park completed the round by putting out in a downpour that forced the afternoon groups to contend with a delay of nearly four hours.


Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship


In between the showers, the world's fourth-ranked player performed like a two-time major champion.

She birdied three of the first five holes to reach 7 under, started the back nine with three straight birdies then took the lead with her ninth and final birdie of the day on the par-4 17th.

Salas took a different tack one day after tying Mike McCullough's course-record 62.

Rather than take advantage of the course's soft greens, the 29-year-old American needed patience Friday. She opened with 12 consecutive pars then made three straight birdies on Nos. 4-6. After her first bogey of the tournament, on the par-4 eighth, Salas closed out the round with another birdie to tie Park.

Salas hasn't won since the 2014 Kingsmill Championship, but she's developed a real affinity for the Indy course where she's had five consecutive sub-par rounds dating to last year's fifth-place finish.

Kang, who kept Salas composed during a 77-minute rain delay Thursday, had a 68 to get to 11 under.

''I've been giving myself a lot of birdie chances,'' Kang said. ''That was my goal this week. I just have been feeling like I was in a little bit of a funk, so I told my caddie we were just going to pick a number, play my game, forget all the swing thoughts, forget everything and just kind of play it by feel.''

Kang hasn't recorded a bogey over the first 36 holes and is in contention for her first tour victory last year's KPMG Women's PGA Championship.

Hataoka shot 69.

Angel Yin, the 19-year-old Californian who was tied for second with Hataoka after the first round, was 10 under with eight holes left. Yin was tied for fifth with Thidapa Suwannapura of Thailand and Amy Yang of South Korea, who also had eight holes to go.

Defending champion Lexi Thompson started on the back nine and birdied the par-3 12th and the par-4 16th. She was 6 under with 10 holes remaining in the second round.

And the course could change dramatically as it dries out.

Saturday's forecast calls for partly cloudy conditions with highs in the low 80s and Sunday is supposed to be mostly sunny with highs in the mid-80s.

Park promises to be ready for whatever weather arrives.

''I'm going to do really well,'' she said. ''I feel really good about my game, especially my short game. And it's just about the weather now, so hopefully the weather is good.''

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Snapshot of 2018 U.S. Amateur semifinalists

By Ryan LavnerAugust 18, 2018, 1:39 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – A U.S. Amateur Championship that began with 7,463 entries has been whittled down to just four players.

Saturday morning’s semifinals not only will determine the two finalists for the most prestigious title in amateur golf, but also the players who will receive a likely invitation to the 2019 Masters and U.S. Open – the greatest consolation prize in all of sports.

It's Devon Bling vs. Isaiah Salinda. 

And Cole Hammer vs. Viktor Hovland. 

Here’s a snapshot of those left competing at Pebble Beach:



DEVON BLING

In Bling’s player profile, he wrote that his mother, Sara, always wanted to see him compete in USGA championships.

Unfortunately, she never got the opportunity – she passed away in 2013, to a mysterious ailment, when Devon was only 13.

“It took us totally by surprise,” he said Friday night. “In an instant, she was there and totally healthy, and the next day she was gone.”

The sense of loss was massive – Sara was always there, shuttling Devon to tournaments, walking with his group, supporting him.

“Losing her was extremely difficult for my family,” he said. “I know she’s still in my heart and looking down on me, and I’m just hoping to make her proud.”

Bling, now a sophomore at UCLA, has blossomed into a solid player who had yet to take his star turn. That’s beginning to change here at Pebble Beach, where his brother and father are whooping for his many great shots.

They had plenty of reason to cheer Friday, after Bling flipped a late deficit and beat Davis Riley, 1 up, to advance to the semifinals.

Bling led at only one point all match – when it mattered most, after the 18th hole.

He took an aggressive line on the par-5 finishing hole, taking driver left of the tree in the middle of the fairway, while Riley, playing conservatively after twice putting driver into the water during practice rounds, flared his long iron into the greenside bunker. Bling rifled his approach into the greenside bunker and splashed out to 3 ½ feet for the decisive birdie.

“I couldn’t be happier,” he said.



VIKTOR HOVLAND

Most golf fans’ only introduction to Hovland came last month. Playing on a sponsor exemption at the European Open, the Oklahoma State junior double-pumped during his backswing, regrouped and then drilled his tee shots.

It was a swing drill that had crept into his full swing.

“That helped for a little while,” Hovland said. “I found the center of the clubface and found the shot that I could hit on almost every hole.”

Aggressive, straight tee balls have been the key to his success this week at Pebble Beach. He’s been able to set the tone and continue to apply pressure on his opponents by consistently finding the fairway.   

Paired with a scorching-hot putter, Hovland sure doesn’t have the look of a player who counts only one tournament title outside of his native Norway.

He's been manhandling his opponents at the U.S. Amateur.

After trouncing Austin Squires, 7 and 6, on Friday – matching the largest margin of victory in a U.S. Amateur quarterfinal – Hovland has now led after 45 of 57 holes.

He led throughout a Round of 16 thumping of Kristoffer Reitan.

He led throughout a quarterfinal dismantling of Squires, too.

In his last two matches, he’s a combined 9 under par and has won 16 of his last 23 holes.

“I think I’ve definitely had the game to win more, but I’ve made a few bad decisions here and there and it adds up to you start being too far behind,” said Hovland, who won a college event last season at the Floridian. “My putter also hasn’t been good enough. My ball-striking hasn’t been super flashy, but it’s been consistent. It’s hard to win tournaments if you’re not putting well.”

He's swinging freely and making plenty of putts so far.



COLE HAMMER

The hottest player in amateur golf ran his match-play record this year to 17-1 after a 3-and-2 victory over Alex Fitzpatrick.

Playing the younger brother of 2013 U.S. Amateur champion Matt Fitzpatrick, Hammer went 3 under for his first five holes Friday and never gave his opponent a chance. He kept the ball in play, putted for birdie on nearly every hole and scrambled on the rare occasion he was out of position. In a near-impossible spot short and left of the ninth green, he played a soft pitch that landed on the crest of the hill and funneled into the cup for an unlikely birdie.

“It was one of those one-in-a-million shots that just happened to go in,” he said.

They all seem to be dropping recently.

The incoming freshman at Texas won the Azalea Invitational at the start of the year, teamed with Garrett Barber to take the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, reached the semifinals of the U.S. Junior, went wire to wire at the Western Amateur and now has reached the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur.

“I’ve played a ton of match play this year and come back from deficits,” he said, “and that speaks to the confidence I have and knowing I can get it done.”



ISAIAH SALINDA

After narrowly escaping in his Round of 16 match, Salinda once again dodged a worthy opponent on Friday afternoon.  

Salinda built a 4-up lead through five holes but was only one hole clear as he headed to the back nine. On six separate occasions, Gordon hit the lip of the cup on a putt or chip, allowing Salinda to stay in front down the stretch.

On 16, the Stanford senior finally put Gordon away: From 150 yards, he hit a controlled 9-iron that landed in the perfect spot, spun left and came within an inch of dropping for eagle. The conceded birdie gave him a 2-up cushion that he used to eventually win, 2 and 1.

“He’s a really good player,” Salinda said, “and I expected him to fight back.”

Salinda, who recently won the Pacific Coast Amateur, is playing in his first USGA event. Six times he’s been the first or second alternate out of a U.S. Junior or U.S. Amateur qualifier in Northern California. The trick this time was to head to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he qualified after playing the Trans-Miss Amateur.

Salinda won’t need to worry about qualifying next year – he’s already exempt into next year’s event.

He could earn a spot in even bigger events – the 2019 Masters and U.S. Open – with another win Saturday.

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Garcia among bubble boys keeping playoff hopes alive

By Randall MellAugust 18, 2018, 12:34 am

Sergio Garcia gave himself a chance to keep his perfect FedExCup Playoffs record going with his rally Friday at the Wyndham Championship.

D.A. Points moved into position to make a historic leap into the postseason.

And Johnson Wagner dunked his last shot of the day from long range to keep his hopes of making the playoffs alive.

But the day didn’t end nearly as well for Tyrone Van Aswegen’s FedExCup hopes.

Van Aswegen didn’t do himself any favors trying to hold on to the 125th spot on the FedExCup points list. He missed the cut by a shot.

Only the top 125 advance to The Northern Trust and next week’s start to the playoffs.

Van Aswegen wasn’t alone among “bubble boys” missing the cut. No. 122 Jhonattan Vegas, No. 123 Seamus Power, No. 124 Martin Piller, No. 126 Chad Campbell and No. 127 Robert Garrigus all failed to make the weekend.

Garcia is among 13 players who have advanced to the FedExCup Playoffs every year since they began in 2007, but his run was in jeopardy of ending starting the week. He’s 131st on the FedExCup points list

With a 65 Friday following his opening round 66, Garcia is in more than a great position to advance. He’s in position to win the Wyndham. He is tied for fourth, five shots off the lead. The day ended with Garcia projected to move up to 118th on the FedExCup points list.


Wyndham Championship: Full-field scores | Full coverage

Current FedExCup points list


“I'm just going to try to keep building on the things that I did well these first two days,” Garcia said. “Whatever happens, happens. Like I said at the beginning of the week, if I have a great weekend, then it will be great. If I don't have a great weekend, it will still be great because

I'll get to rest.”

Points started the week 214th on the FedExCup points list. With back-to-back 64s, he trails only Brandt Snedeker going into the weekend. He can crack the top 125, but only with a win. Nobody has ever started the Wyndham Championship that far back in points and qualified for the playoffs. Davis Love III was 186th when he won and advanced in 2015.

Wagner, 136th on the FedExCup points list, went to spectacular lengths Friday to keep his playoff hopes alive. He was outside the cut line until holing his 153-yard approach at the last.

Bill Haas, who is among those 13 players to have qualified for the playoffs every year, started the week 150th in points. He can keep his perfect playoff record going with a big weekend. He shot 68 Friday to make the cut. He’s tied for 52nd in the tournament.