Rory McIlroy’s ankle injury heading into the final two majors of the year raises questions about which hobbies star athletes should avoid. It also brings to mind an entertaining conversation a decade ago among Tiger Woods, Darren Clarke and Thomas Bjorn.
They had finished lunch in the clubhouse lounge at Firestone, and Woods was regaling his European pals about his adventures under the sea. A master diver in his spare time, Woods told them the best way to witness ocean life was to dive without a regulator and hold one’s breath as long as possible because bubbles would scare the fish.
“The only problem is that when you don’t make any bubbles,” Woods said, “the sharks come around, too.”
At this point, Bjorn raised those thick eyebrows and replied, “Just be careful down there. Our future earnings depend on you.”
McIlroy hurt himself only while running toward a soccer ball in Northern Ireland over the weekend. He is out of the Scottish Open, and the image of McIlroy on crutches in a walking boot on his left foot put his appearance at St. Andrews in serious doubt.
Was it a mistake for him to be playing soccer? Compared with other injuries to golfers, this would be considered one of the safer sports.
—Phil Mickelson closed with a 64 at Torrey Pines and was off to a strong start in 1994 when he went skiing in Flagstaff, Arizona. He fell and slid into a tree, breaking his upper left leg. He missed the Masters for the only time as a pro and was out for nearly three months.
Asked earlier that year about the risks of skiing, Mickelson told The New York Times, “Obviously, it’s not very intelligent in our sport because we don’t get guaranteed money. On the other hand, I’m 23 and don’t want to live my life being afraid of getting hurt.”
—Ernie Els was tubing in the Mediterranean during a family holiday in 2005 after the British Open when his body twisted one direction and his left leg went the other. He ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee and had surgery, ending his streak of 50 consecutive majors. Els was No. 3 in the world. He was out for more than four months, returned in December and won the Dunhill Championship in South Africa.
—Lucas Glover was in Hawaii for the start of the 2012 season when he slipped off a paddle board, something he said he had done “a thousand times.” Except this time, his foot caught the edge of the board, and he sprained his medial collateral ligament in his left knee. He stayed in Hawaii for two weeks trying to play, but didn’t make his season debut until the Florida swing. Glover didn’t register a top 10 until a year later in Florida.
—Chris DiMarco, a playoff loser to Tiger Woods in the 2005 Masters and runner-up to Woods a year later in the British Open, fell during a ski trip at the end of the 2006 season. A flask in his backpack jabbed him in the ribs, and the injury nagged him the rest of the year. DiMarco at one point took a cortisone shot for his left shoulder. Within a year, he was out of the top 100 in the world and never got back.
—Jim Furyk was tailgating at a Baltimore Ravens game in 2000 when he rushed over to intercept a football being tossed around. He slipped and landed on his wrist and missed just over two months, including a pair of World Golf Championships and the Tour Championship.
The moral to these stories: Accidents happen.
HARD LUCK KISNER: At least Kevin Kisner is in good company.
When he lost in a four-man playoff at The Greenbrier Classic, Kisner became the first player since Horton Smith in 1937 to lose three playoffs in one year. The difference is that Smith already was a two-time Masters champion at this point and won three PGA Tour events that year.
Kisner is still looking for his first win. And in each playoff, he lost out to a birdie.
He made birdie on the 18th in regulation and in the sudden-death playoff at Hilton Head, only for Jim Furyk to win with a birdie on the second extra hole. At the Greenbrier, David Hearn and Danny Lee advanced in the playoff with birdies (Lee won with a par on the next hole). And at The Players Championship, Kisner matched birdies with Rickie Fowler on the island-green 17th during a three-hole playoff to force sudden death, where Fowler won with another birdie on the 17th.
“I keep knocking on it, I’ll be there soon enough,” Kisner said. “I keep playing well, I’ll win one of them.”
It’s not a total loss.
Kisner ended last year ranked No. 236. Now he’s up to No. 36. He is playing three majors this year (after playing only one in his career going into this season). And the playoff loss at Greenbrier pushed his season earnings over $3 million. His career earnings going into this year was just over $1.5 million.
He has two more majors this year and has, in effect, locked up a spot in his first World Golf Championship.
DUBAI BONUS: The European Tour will award a bonus to the top 15 players in its Race to Dubai series provided they play in three of the four Final Series events — the Turkish Airlines Open, HSBC Champions, BMW Masters and DP World Tour Championship.
The winner of the Race to Dubai receives a $1.25 million bonus, plus an additional 50 percent of the bonus ($625,000) if he plays in at least three of those final events. The bonus bump is a sliding scale down to an additional 10 percent of the bonus for 15th place.
Because of the incentive, however, the bonus money will no longer be considered official money and will not be added to the Race to Dubai rankings.
DIVOTS: The Old White TPC at the Greenbrier Classic (par 70) has produced 15 rounds of 62 or lower dating to 2010, the most of any on the PGA Tour. TPC Summerlin (Las Vegas) and TPC John Deere are tied among courses that have a par 71 for most rounds of 62 or lower with 11. And the leader for a par 72? PGA West (Humana Challenge) with seven rounds at 62 or lower. … Chad Campbell is showing small signs of a resurgence. He has finished out of the top 125 the last two years and used his one-time exemption from career money this year. Campbell is No. 97 in the FedEx Cup with seven weeks remaining. … John Peterson is No. 81 in the FedEx Cup, the highest place among players who have not recorded a top 10 this year. Peterson has three top 20s and has missed only three cuts.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Tiger Woods finished six shots off the lead at The Greenbrier. It was the first time he finished within single digits of the winner since he was nine shots back at Doral in March 2014.
FINAL WORD: “This golf game is not that complicated. People make it complicated.” — Lee Trevino.