Playing through the pain

By Randall MellAugust 12, 2011, 5:00 pm

2007 Kraft Nabisco ChampionshipRANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Reilley Rankin shows you the bloated blister on her left hand.

It hurts just looking at it.

She shot 3-under-par 69 with that hand Thursday at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, her best score in eight months in an LPGA event, her best in almost three years in a major. She’s tied for seventh.

Rankin pokes the blister with a finger on the driving range and winces.

Reilley Rankin
Reilley Rankin had five birdies and two bogeys Thursday at Mission Hills. (Getty Images)
“If you focus on it, it hurts more,” Rankin says.

Rankin knows all about pain, overcoming it.

A dozen years ago, during a vacation while at the University of Georgia, she broke her back in two places jumping off a cliff into a lake in Alabama. She also broke her sternum. After a couple months in a body brace, two years in rehabilitation, she came back to lead the Bulldogs to the NCAA women’s golf championship.

Rankin, 31, was hurt again last year, but the pain was different, not so visible. You can’t see bruises to the soul. You can’t see how worry and guilt wound the heart.

You can see bad swings, though, and Rankin was making a lot of them, missing the cut in 10 of 13 tournaments, her worst year on tour.

There was too much focus on pain on and off the golf course.

At the end of 2009, Rankin’s mother, Mary, was diagnosed with cancer in her neck.

Reilley’s father, Bill, who works in the restaurant business in South Carolina, didn’t have health insurance.

“Couldn’t afford it,” Reilley says.

Trying to find Mary Rankin help was nightmarish.

“You talk to hospitals, and you realize how much it’s about the money,” Reilley says.

Reilley’s father left his job to nurse Mary. So did Rankin’s sister, Caroline. Reilley led the charge trying to find care and the right treatment. It was maddening work, talking to health-care companies, doctors’ offices. But Reilley never felt like she was doing enough as she played through her mother’s illness. There was guilt feeling that way.

“It’s hard when a loved one’s hurting,” Rankin said. “My mother and father, they gave up so much for me to be able to play golf. We didn’t have much, and they gave up everything for my dream. I knew playing made my mom happy, but I really struggled with that.”

Reilley, with the aid of dear friends, Courtney Trimble, the head coach at the University of Central Florida, and Mary Bryan, the assistant coach there, found Mary Rankin help at Florida Hospital in Orlando. The hospital’s foundation stepped in to cover costs. Reilley’s mother, father and sister moved in with Reilley in Orlando and over several months, the treatment drove Mary’s cancer out.

“The cancer’s gone, but there are other health issues,” Rankin said.

Mary Rankin was well enough last December to watch Reilley play in the LPGA Tour Championship in Orlando. Reilley missed the cut. Her mother hugged her afterward with tears in her eyes.

“Does this mean you have to go to Q-School?” Mary asked Reilley. “It’s not fair, but I believe in you. I know you can do it.”

Believing again. Believing it as much as her mother believes. That’s become Rankin’s quest in rebuilding her game.

Rankin says her swing coach, Gary Gilchrist, is doing as much for her confidence as he is her swing.

“He knows more than my game,” Rankin said. “He knows my personality, what makes me tick.”

Rankin says Gilchrist is making her believe she doesn’t have to be technically perfect to play good golf. That’s what made her 69 Thursday feel so good. She said she put up a score feeling like she wasn’t hitting the ball that well.

“Everybody sees all the talent and ability in Reilley, but she doubts herself,” Gilchrist said.

Gilchrist is turning the focus away from Rankin’s blisters and pain and onto what’s right in her game.

“Gary’s been drilling into me that what I have is good enough,” Rankin said. “He’s building back my confidence.”

Mostly, Rankin says Gilchrist’s helping her play like she did as a junior and in college.

“Play like a kid,” Rankin said. “That’s what I’m trying to get back to doing.”

Rankin’s trying not to focus on the pain anymore, even in her bad shots.

“When you’re a kid and you hit a bad shot, you’re thinking, 'Great, now I get to go play a fun shot from there,’” Rankin said. “It’s about how you handle things, how you respond.”

Rankin knows her 69 was just one round at the Kraft, but it was a big step for her confidence. She reminded herself you don’t have to focus on life’s blisters.

Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

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Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."

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Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:53 pm

Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.

Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member. 

The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.

In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.

"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."

Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.

But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.

"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...

"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."