Quick Round with Arron Oberholser

By Randall MellFebruary 11, 2010, 11:44 pm

You can’t surgically re-attach a dream.

That’s the injury that hurts Arron Oberholser the most this week.

To his dismay, he hasn’t been back to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-am since breaking through to win his first and only PGA Tour event there four years ago.

arron oberholser pebbleArron Oberholser won the 2006 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am by five shots. (Getty Images)
Three years ago, hand and back injuries started derailing a promising young career that once saw him climb as high as No. 22 in the Official World Golf Ranking. He has played just 14 events over the last 28 months. Now there’s a new injury testing his resolve and determination.

Oberholser celebrated his 35th birthday in the oddest fashion on Feb. 2. He had surgery to repair a torn labrum and microfracture in his right hip. It’s the fourth surgery of Oberholser’s career. He’s also had multiple hand surgeries.

This week is the toughest of all weeks on the PGA Tour schedule for Oberholser. He loves Pebble Beach, but the former top Northern California amateur and San Jose State standout is on crutches doing two months of rehab in Vail, Colo. That’s where Dr, Marc Philipon surgically repaired his ailing hip. Oberholser grew up playing big events at Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hills and other venues in the Monterey Peninsula.

Oberholser will be watching the action from Pebble on TV this week, but there’s a double whammy to that. There will be lots of talk of the U.S. Open returning to the venue in June. Oberholser knows he will also miss the year’s second major when it comes back to Pebble Beach. He won’t begin hitting golf balls again until sometime around the start of June.

I caught up with Oberholser by telephone in Vail where he’s with his wife, Angie, and their 6½-month old son, Ethan, while he rehabs.

How difficult is it knowing you will miss Pebble Beach twice this season?

Very frustrating because the U.S. Open only comes to Pebble every 10 years. Unfortunately, I’m in the prime of my career and I’m not going to get a chance to play the U.S. Open there. I tried to qualify when it was at Pebble in 2000 and missed it and that was very disappointing. To miss it again, because of an injury, and to know it’s going to be another 10 years before the U.S. Open returns to Pebble, that’s pretty sad. I’ll be 45 when it comes back and who knows if I’ll even be in the game.

How are you coping with that?

It makes me sad. I love Pebble. It’s my favorite golf course in all the world. I have a special place in my heart for the course. I would give up every other Open I’ve ever played in or will ever play in just to play in one Open at Pebble Beach. I seriously would.

With the tournament this week, what memory will come back strongest about your victory at Pebble Beach?

Just that walk up the 18th hole. I remember that vividly, knowing I had a five-shot lead, knowing I’d won the tournament. That was one of the most enjoyable walks I’ve ever had on a golf course. There aren’t a lot of people who get to experience winning a golf tournament at Pebble Beach. I don’t think there’s a better walk.

Your name is among some impressive champions at Pebble Beach. Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Tom Watson are among the greats who have won there. You must be proud, but is there mixed emotions knowing you haven’t had a chance to build on the promise you showed there?

A few people, very few, were talking about my being able to tie Mark O’Meara’s record of five AT&T Pebble Beach titles because of my knowledge of that golf course and of the conditions and weather there. I always played it down, like it’s something to think about way down the road, but in all honesty, who knows? It was a goal of mine to win as many as Mark O’Meara did. It was such an unbelievable feat to win five AT&Ts, but I believed I could have beaten that, if I had stayed healthy. Who knows? I might still have a chance, but I will have to play well into my 40s to have a crack at it.

It’s where I cut my teeth in competition growing up, and it helped propel me to where I am as a golfer. I played a lot of golf at Spyglass Hills and Poppy Hills and around there. Not too many golf courses require as much shot making as those golf courses in that one little area. You have to have every shot in the bag because every day is different. One day it’s blowing 20 mph, the next day it isn’t blowing. One day it’s dumping rain. The conditions and the terrain are so varied. It’s just a phenomenal place to learn how to play because it puts you in so many different conditions you have to be good at.

When can you get back to hitting golf balls?

First week of June. There’s four months of rehabilitation for this. If I wanted to come back quicker, I could do it in three months, but the doctors don’t recommend it. Since I’m already on a medical exemption from the Tour, I am going to take the most time I can to do this right, to get as strong as I possibly can. It’s going to take a couple months to test things out. That’s if my hand gets well. If my hand does well and my hip does well, hopefully I’m going to play all of the Fall Finish events. That’s my goal, to play all of the Fall Finish Events.

Does the frustration of being away make you want to break things? What’s getting you through this?

I just try to occupy my mind with bigger things. I occupy my mind with my family. The most important thing to me is making sure my son is safe and happy and my wife is safe and happy. Then there’s golf. If I don’t get to play another round of golf because of these injuries – and I don’t think that’s the case by the way – it will be sad, but I have a great support system at home and I’m sure there are other things in this world I could be successful at.

So what are you doing with all the time you used to spend on golf?

This has allowed me to watch way too much SportsCenter, and, unfortunately, it’s allowed me to watch way too much Golf Channel because that depresses me even more, watching the guys playing and having a good time, especially watching the guys on the West Coast.

It’s also given me more time to read. I’m not the most voracious reader the world’s ever know, but I’ve started getting into reading some different kinds of books. I’m expanding what I call my worthless base of useless knowledge. I’ve read some fun books. My new son keeps me very, very busy.

Ethan’s birth last summer must have provided some joy in the middle of all that physical pain.

I was so excited about his birth, the fact that I wasn’ t playing really didn’t bother me. It didn’t bother me in the least. It bothered me at the beginning of last year, but as Angie got further into her pregnancy, I got really excited. Golf started to take a back seat. I said to myself. `Whenever I get better, I’ll get better, but something way more important is about to happen in my life.’ I just looked at it that way. I have zero regrets about not being able to play golf because I’ve had six-and-a-half months of being in front of my son almost every day. That’s something most professional golfers don’t get. I don’t think I would give those back for anything. The time’s been invaluable.

So tell us how you like being a dad?

My son’s into everything. He loves to laugh. He’s the happiest kid I’ve ever seen at six-and-a-half months. He’s always got a smile on his face. He’s a people person at six-and-a-half months. He’s such a social baby. He’s not scared of anybody. It’s the neatest thing to see.

So what about those books you’re reading?

I just read this book called “Spark” about exercise and training and how exercise can boost your mind and make you smarter. It shows how the more cardio you do, the more the chemicals in your brain react. They’ve done all these tests on school children and college kids that prove their theory. It was very interesting. Now I’m reading James Dodson’s book about Ben Hogan, which is very inspirational.

You were a broadcast journalism major. How about weighing in on some of today’s big topics in golf? What’s your take on the grooves’ controversy and Phil Mickelson’s use of the Ping Eye 2 a couple weeks ago?

I wish what Phil wishes, that they would close this loophole and get on with it. I wouldn’t play (Ping Eye 2s), but I don’t fault another player for playing them and would never say anything against a player who did because they are approved for play. I just wish the loophole was closed.

Ben Crane didn’t know he won the Farmers Insurance Open because he doesn’t watch leaderboards. What did you think of that?

Ben has done that before. I’ve known Ben since college. He went to Oregon and so did my wife. He is not a leaderboard watcher. He plays his own game. It’s whatever you like to do. I watch leaderboards. I’m a hawk. I really don’t have a problem looking at leaderboards and focusing on my game. Ben found a way to get it done, and it works for him.

What about Tiger Woods? What’s your take on what he’s gone through and how it’s affecting the game?

It’s definitely affected the game. From all I’ve read now that I have a lot of time on my hands, he’s taking a pretty good hit himself and for his family and for the game at large. I hope he comes out of this well. The game misses him. I know the Tour misses him. The game is not as exciting without him. Hopefully, he comes back soon.

Getty Images

Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

Getty Images

Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

Getty Images

DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

“He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

Getty Images

Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.