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Four months after accident, Cauley grateful to play again

By Ryan LavnerOctober 4, 2018, 2:11 pm

Once he regained consciousness, the first thing Bud Cauley noticed was that it was difficult to breathe.

At 11:04 p.m. on June 1, after missing the cut at The Memorial, Cauley was one of three passengers in a BMW M6 that Dublin, Ohio, police say lost control, flew off the right side of the road, hit a culvert and went airborne before slamming into a large tree, flipping onto its right side, plowing over several smaller trees, crossing a driveway and eventually landing in a ditch.

The 20 minutes after the horrifying crash are hazy, but Cauley soon learned of his injuries: collapsed lung, six broken ribs, fractured leg. At the hospital he watched helplessly as doctors tied his arm to the back of the bed, sliced open his chest and inserted a tube to re-inflate his lung.

“Waking up outside of the car confused and in pain, having a hard time breathing, not knowing how badly I was hurt and knowing what quality of life I’d have, that was a pretty scary thing,” Cauley said. “It was the scariest night of my life.”

Four months later, he is playing this week’s season-opening Safeway Open, his first start since the accident. During a phone interview this week, the 28-year-old said that, above all, he feels fortunate – not only that he survived, but that he can even approach this season with a new perspective, after the game he’s played his entire life was nearly taken from him without warning.

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News of Cauley’s serious condition spread throughout the locker room that week at Muirfield Village. Justin Thomas, one of Cauley’s closest friends, was shaken up and said that he thought about him on “every shot.” Jack and Barbara Nicklaus visited Cauley at the hospital, where he stayed for six days.

Cauley couldn’t fly home to South Florida because the cabin pressure in the plane could deflate his lung again. So he drove with his parents to their home outside Nashville, Tenn. He crashed there for a few weeks, spending most of his day icing his leg and blowing into a breathing machine. He took short walks around the neighborhood, helped put together a thousand-piece puzzle, and watched movies and TV shows, though he stayed away from comedies, because it hurt to laugh.

After a month, Cauley began physical therapy in Jacksonville, Fla., where he rode a bike to strengthen his leg, completed core exercises to support his midsection and did light cardio to build up his stamina. He had endured a lengthy rehabilitation process before – he tore the labrum in his shoulder in 2014 – but these injuries created more unknowns.

“The whole thing sucked,” he said, “and some days were better than others. It was mostly me just worrying about it and wondering if I’d ever get back.”

Cauley’s side was so swollen – four of his six broken ribs now had a metal plate – that he could feel it rubbing against his arm when he bent over to address a putt. It was painful to swing a club, and he wondered if he’d have to manage that discomfort forever. Under the supervision of swing coach Matt Killen, he began hitting balls about two months after the accident – first with 30 balls up to a pitching wedge, then with 60 balls up to a 7-iron. Bracing for the possibility of having to change his swing, to move away from pain, he surprised himself with his range of motion and speed.

“It went about as well as I could have hoped for,” he said.

And so Cauley targeted the Safeway for his return to competition. Unlike most who suffered an injury during the season, he didn’t have to take a major medical extension because he still was able to remain inside the top 125 in FedExCup points, enough to keep a full card. He’ll play in Napa, take a few weeks off, then close out the year with three starts in a row, in Vegas, Mexico and Sea Island.

“I couldn’t be more pumped for him,” Thomas said. “He’s worked so hard to be ready for this event, so to have him there is great. Safe to say I’ll be his biggest fan this week.”

After rehabbing his collapsed lung and cracked ribs and fractured lower leg, Cauley said that he feels 100 percent healthy. His main concerns now are managing his excitement and stringing together scores – and he realizes those are good problems to have, after his life-threatening accident four months ago.

“You never think anything bad is going to happen to you until it does,” he said. “It changed my perspective on a lot of things, on just how fragile life can be. One minute everything is fine, and the next you’re worrying about the rest of your life and not being able to do something that I’ve always loved and assumed I’d be doing forever. I definitely don’t take that for granted.”

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Asia offers chance for players to get early jump on season

By Rex HoggardOctober 17, 2018, 6:00 pm

When the field at this week’s CJ Cup tees off for Round 1 just past dinner time on the East Coast Wednesday most golf fans will still be digesting the dramatic finish to the 2017-18 season, which wrapped up exactly 24 days ago, or reliving a Ryder Cup that didn’t go well for the visiting team.

Put another way, the third event of the new season will slip by largely unnoticed, the victim of a crowded sports calendar and probably a dollop of burnout.

What’ll be lost in this three-event swing through Asia that began last week in Kuala Lumpur at the CIMB Classic is how important these events have become to Tour players, whether they count themselves among the star class or those just trying to keep their jobs.

The Asian swing began in 2009 with the addition of the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, although it would be a few years before the event earned full status on Tour, and expanded in 2010 with the addition of the CIMB Classic. This week’s stop in South Korea was added last season and as the circuit transitions to a condensed schedule and earlier finish next year there are persistent rumors that the Tour plans to expand even more in the Far East with sources saying an event in Japan would be a likely landing spot.

Although these events resonate little in the United States because of the time zone hurdles, for players, the Asian swing has become a key part of the schedule.

Consider that seven of the top 10 performers last year in Asia advanced to the Tour Championship and that success wasn’t mutually exclusive to how these players started their season in Asia.

For players looking to get a jump on the new season, the three Asian stops are low-hanging fruit, with all three featuring limited fields and no cut where players are guaranteed four rounds and FedExCup points.

For a player like Pat Perez, his performances last October virtually made his season, with the veteran winning the CIMB Classic and finishing tied for fifth place at the CJ Cup. All total, Perez, who played all three Asian events last year, earned 627 FedExCup points - more than half (53 percent) of his regular-season total.

Keegan Bradley and Cameron Smith also made the most of the tournaments in Asia, earning 34 and 36 percent, respectively, of their regular-season points in the Far East. On average, the top 10 performers in Asia last year earned 26 percent of their regular-season points in what was essentially a fraction of their total starts.

“It's just a place that I've obviously played well,” Justin Thomas, a three-time winner in Asia, said last week in Kuala Lumpur. “I'm comfortable. I think being a little bit of a longer hitter you have an advantage, but I mean, the fact of the matter is that I've just played well the years I played here.”

Perhaps the biggest winner in Asia last season was Justin Rose, who began a torrid run with his victory at the WGC-HSBC Champions, and earned 28 percent of his regular-season points (550) in the Far East on his way to winning the FedExCup by just 41 points.

But it’s not just the stars who have made the most of the potential pot of Asian gold.

Lucas Glover finished tied for seventh at the CIMB Classic, 15th at the CJ Cup and 50th in China in 2017 to earn 145 of his 324 regular-season points (45 percent). Although that total was well off the pace to earn Glover a spot in the postseason and a full Tour card, it was enough to secure him conditional status in 2018-19.

Similarly, Camilo Villegas tied for 17th in Kuala Lumpur and 36th in South Korea to earn 67 of his 90 points, the difference between finishing 193rd on the regular-season point list and 227th. While it may seem like a trivial amount to the average fan, it allowed Villegas to qualify for the Tour Finals and a chance to re-earn his Tour card.

With this increasingly nuanced importance have come better fields in Asia (which were largely overlooked the first few years), with six of the top 30 players in the Official World Golf Ranking making the trip last week to Malaysia and this week’s tee sheet in South Korea featuring two of the top 5 in world - No. 3 Brooks Koepka and No. 4 Thomas.

“I finished 11th here last year and 11th in China the next week. If I can try and improve on that, get myself in contention and possibly win, it sets up the whole year. That's why I've come back to play,” Jason Day said this week of his decision to play the Asian swing.

For many golf fans in the United States, the next few weeks will be a far-flung distraction until the Tour arrives on the West Coast early next year, but for the players who are increasingly starting to make the trip east, it’s a crucial opportunity to get a jump on the season.

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Watch: Woods uses computer code to make robotic putt

By Jason CrookOctober 17, 2018, 3:10 pm

Robots have been plotting their takeover of the golf world for some time.

First it was talking trash to Rory McIlroy, then it was making a hole-in-one at TPC Scottsdale's famous 16th hole ... and now they're making putts for Tiger Woods.

Woods tweeted out a video on Tuesday draining a putt without ever touching the ball:

The 42-year-old teamed up with a computer program to make the putt, and provided onlookers with a vintage Tiger celebration, because computers can't do that ... yet.

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Woods admits fatigue played factor in Ryder Cup

By Jason CrookOctober 17, 2018, 12:35 pm

There was plenty of speculation about Tiger Woods’ health in the wake of the U.S. team’s loss to Europe at last month’s Ryder Cup, and the 14-time major champ broke his silence on the matter during a driving range Q&A at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach on Tuesday.

Woods, who went 0-4 in Paris, admitted he was tired because he wasn’t ready to play so much golf this season after coming back from a fourth back surgery.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

The topic of conversation then shifted to what's next, with Woods saying he's just starting to plan out his future schedule, outside of "The Match" with Phil Mickelson over Thanksgiving weekend and his Hero World Challenge in December.

“I’m still figuring that out,” Woods said. “Flying out here yesterday trying to look at the schedule, it’s the first time I’ve taken a look at it. I’ve been so focused on getting through the playoffs and the Ryder Cup that I just took a look at the schedule and saw how packed it is.”

While his exact schedule remains a bit of a mystery, one little event in April at Augusta National seemed to be on his mind already.

When asked which major he was most looking forward to next year, Woods didn't hesitate with his response, “Oh, that first one.”

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Podcast: Fujikawa aims to offer 'hope' by coming out

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 17, 2018, 12:03 pm

Tadd Fujikawa first made golf history with his age. Now he's doing it with his recent decision to openly discuss his sexuality.

Last month Fujikawa announced via Instagram that he is gay, becoming the first male professional to come out publicly. Now 27, he has a different perspective on life than he did when he became the youngest U.S. Open participant in 2006 at Winged Foot at age 15, or when he made the cut at the Sony Open a few months later.

Joining as the guest on the latest Golf Channel podcast, Fujikawa discussed with host Will Gray the reception to his recent announcement - as well as some of the motivating factors that led the former teen phenom to become somewhat of a pioneer in the world of men's professional golf.

"I just want to let people know that they're enough, and that they're good exactly as they are," Fujikawa said. "That they don't need to change who they are to fit society's mold. Especially in the golf world where it's so, it's not something that's very common."

The wide-ranging interview also touched on Fujikawa's adjustment to life on golf-centric St. Simons Island, Ga., as well as some of his hobbies outside the game. But he was also candid about the role that anxiety and depression surrounding his sexuality had on his early playing career, admitting that he considered walking away from the game "many, many times" and would have done so had it not been for the support of friends and family.

While professional golf remains a priority, Fujikawa is also embracing the newfound opportunity to help others in a similar position.

"Hearing other stories, other athletes, other celebrities, my friends. Just seeing other people come out gave me a lot of hope in times when I didn't feel like there was a lot of hope," he said. "For me personally, it was something that I've wanted to do for a long time, and something I'm very passionate about. I really want to help other people who are struggling with that similar issue. And if I can change lives, that's really my goal."

For more from Fujikawa, click below or click here to download the podcast and subscribe to future episodes: