By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
HUMBLE, Texas -- A shot at another Masters.
It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t know if his left wrist will hold up through tomorrow. Or that he’s playing two weeks in a row for the first time in, oh, six months. Or that three weeks in a row would be seriously uncharted territory at this point in his career.
If Scott Verplank wins the Shell Houston Open, he’ll be there. Even if, he said, they have to pull him to the first tee on a stretcher.
He’s not kidding.
Given the past six months, that’s not out of the question. The man who has spent a career playing on guts and overcoming enough to make most people throw their hands up and walk away is pushing through the pain once again. But that hasn’t stopped him from throwing out back-to-back 65s at Redstone and going into the final round sharing the lead with Phil Mickelson. Watch: Verplank eagles the par-4 10th
This time, it’s Verplank’s left wrist. In layman’s terms, he has a degenerative bone issue. He’s had regular MRIs, arthrograph MRIs. Cortisone shots. Ice. Heat. You name it.
"The tissues are good, but the bone doesn't look very good," he said. "That's why I had this loss, kind of sapping of strength.
"I talked to my doctor on the way down here. He had sent my stuff off to another guy (at the Steadman Clinic) in Vail, you know, trying to find someone -- my problem so far is I haven't been able to find anybody that wants to operate on it because nobody ever had to do that to a guy that needs it to work, for sure.
"So right now it's like I'm not hurting myself. They just said it's how much you can put up with."
Verplank’s pain tolerance is in another stratosphere. Two right elbow surgeries. A shoulder problem. A bout with plantar fasciitis in his right foot. A lifetime battling Type I diabetes.
"I've always -- I put up with a lot of stuff, so the pain is not the thing that has really bothered me," said Verplank, whose last win was an emotional one at the 2007 HP Byron Nelson Championship the year after Nelson passed away. "The pain obviously bothers everybody in different ways, but the thing that's bothered me with my golf has been kind of loss of stability.
"So, what I've been struggling with, I can go and feel pretty good for two, three days, you know, at home and then kind of be real sore, and if I try to hit balls, I just don't have good stability in my left wrist. I start hitting some funny-looking shots.
"These young guys are too good to come out and compete with if I'm hitting a bunch of if funny-looking shots. Been very pleased that I've held up really well. I hit the ball today pretty good."
On Saturday, he missed just one fairway and one green. The style of play that convinced Curtis Strange to make him a captain’s pick – as a Ryder Cup rookie – in 2002. The same style that led to a T18 finish at the 2010 Masters, aT8 there in 2003 and T7s at both the U.S. and British Opens (2007, 2001, respectively).
Yet there was a question whether or not he could play two weeks in a row. He finished T38 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational Sunday, then came to Houston hoping the wrist would hold up. The last time he tried to go back to back was in late February when, after finishing tied for 29th at the Mayakoba Golf Classic, he tried to tee it up at the The Honda Classic.
"I was down there at Honda until Thursday," he said. "I tried -- I tried to warm up every single day, never got off the range. I hit balls for like 15 minutes on Thursday at a tee time with Davis. It was in the first round. Out there hitting balls. About 11:30, I'm done, can't do it.
"It's been -- it's pretty hard for me to be there and to give up, you know. Knock on wood right now, I'm okay. Hopefully, it will -- like I said, I just need stability."
He’s changed his weight lifting routine and that’s helped him get the strength back in his wrist capsule.
"In the last three, four weeks, I've been able to start doing stuff where I can at least hold on to some strength," he said. "I can just tell by the way I hit shots. So it's better now than it's been in six months. Hopefully, it will continue that way.."
He still has to ice the wrist several times a night and get treatment in the fitness trailer, but he’s ready to test it against long-time friend and Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teammate Mickelson.
But before that? Well, he was going to settle in and watch a little NCAA semifinals on the TV. And, of course, call home. His youngest had just sent him a picture of her new fish.
"To go with six horses, two dogs and a cat," he chuckled.
What pain? Who’s talking ice, physical therapy or a stretcher to Augusta’s first tee?
A picture of the new fish from his 7-year-old? Priceless.
SCOTT VERPLANK'S SCORECARD:
Scott Verplank rolled in an 8-footer on the 18th hole (watch it here) to finish up a second consecutive 65 that will put him in the final group with Phil Mickelson on Sunday.
Verplank fired a 31 on Redstone's tougher back side, which included this eagle on the par-4 10th.
Phil Mickelson has stolen the headlines on a barn-burning day at Redstone, but veteran Scott Verplank is the hottest player on the course right now.
The 46-year-old, who hasn't won since the 2007 HP Byron Nelson Championship, is 5 under for the day after an eagle-birdie run around the turn.
Verplank jarred his approach ( watch it here ) on the par-4 10th, then hit it stiff on the 11th to get to 11 under, one shot back of Mickelson. Verplank is near last in the field in driving distance - only 280 yards a pop -- but he's first in the field in putts per GIR (1.543.).
Verplank has shown that he can still win on TOUR. He lost a playoff last year at the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands when Bubba Watson beat him. That victory would have gotten him back to the Masters, where he tied for 18th in 2010. This season, he's been plagued by left wrist pain, which has bothered him off and on for years.
If Verplank keeps it up, he has one more shot at getting into Augusta National, and it's a good one.
Chris DiMarco has withdrawn from The Honda Classic, citing a wrist injury after his round. DiMarco shot an 85, which included a 45 -- and a quadruple-bogey 8 at No. 16 -- on the back nine.
It’s been a rough season for DiMarco, who was disqualified two weeks ago for signing an incorrect scorecard at the Northern Trust Open. He shot 77 but signed for a 75. In his five starts previous to that, DiMarco missed the cut in three of them. His best finish was a tie for 21st the at AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Earlier, Scott Verplank also withdrew due to a wrist injury. He pulled out before play began.
Scott Verplank has withdrawn from the third round of the Bob Hope Classic, citing an injury to his left wrist. Verplank had completed eight holes on Friday, making a birdie and a double bogey at the 17th when he withdrew.
Scott Verplank, Padraig Harrington and Chris Couch are in a tough spot today. They aren’t playing in the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship, meaning their Playoffs fate rests in the hands of others.
All three players entered this week’s tournament inside the top 70 in points. But Verplank had to withdraw due to a wrist injury while Harrington and Couch failed to make the cut.
As a result, all three are in danger of falling outside the top 70 and not advancing to next week’s BMW Championship.
Verplank, who started the week 54th in FedExCup points, is currently projected right on the cutline at No. 70.
Harrington, who started 57th in points, is projected at 72nd.
Couch, who started 67th in points, is projected at 79th.
Each player’s fate won’t be officially known until after the completion of the Deutsche Bank Championship.
If Harrington doesn’t advance, that will at least give him plenty of time to prepare for next month’s Ryder Cup in Wales. The Irishman was named as a captain’s pick for the European squad last week.
Tiger Woods has just teed off, and it’s a sure bet at least one fan in his massive gallery will be easy to spot. One young man in an orange Tony-the-Tiger suit was walking into the gates at TPC Boston, carrying the oversized head under his arm.
Marc Leishman really turned things around after that 77 he shot on Sunday. He fired a final-round 68 that got him back into red numbers for the tournament – and more importantly positioned him safely inside the top 70 projections at No. 58. A year ago, Leishman had to eagle the 72nd hole to earn his spot at the BMW Championship.
Stephen Ames, who was among the leaders through two rounds, is now fighting to make it to the BMW Championship. He shot 75 in the third round and is currently 1 over for the day and the tournament. That means he’s projected at 72nd so he needs to start making birdies.
If the tournament were to end right now, six players would have played their way to Cog Hill. There will be plenty of pros with their eyes on the projections when they sign their scorecards.
Garrett Willis has withdrawn due to illness. He started the week ranked 97th in the FedExCup and currently is projected two spots lower. So he’ll have several weeks to get well.
Another player who had to withdraw, Scott Verplank, is currently projected at No. 71, down 17 spots from 54th but still with a chance at advancing.
First of all, it is a simply gorgeous day. It’s hard to believe a hurricane came barreling up the East Coast just a day earlier. Play got under way as scheduled at 7 a.m. and while it’s definitely windier than in the first round – in the 15-25 mpg range with gusts to 35, the sun is out and temperatures are in the mid-70s.
Tiger Woods is making a move up the leaderboard, too. He shot 32 on the front nine and just holed a chip from 22 feet to move to 5 under for the day and 4 under for the tournament. He’s currently tied for 36th and projected to remain at the position he started the week – No. 65 in the FedExCup standings. That would, however, be good enough for a trip to Chicago to play in the BMW Championship.
Phil Mickelson has just made his first appearance on the leaderboard at 7 under for the tournament and 5 under for the day. Lefty, who could mathematically take over No. 1 for the first time in his career with a fourth-place finish or higher (depending on what Woods and Steve Stricker do), has just made consecutive birdies at Nos. 1 and 2 –- giving him five birdies in his last six holes.
Scott Verplank withdrew from the Deutsche Bank Championship with a wrist injury. He shot 69 in the first round and had played four holes on Saturday, making a two pars, one bogey and a double bogey. He started the week ranked 54th in the FedExCup but is now projected at No. 72.
Scott Verplank is in the clubhouse at 14 under, and its looking like that might make a playoff with Corey Pavin, who just finished with a 66 to match him.
Verplank is well known for using a PING Anser putter from the 1980s -- he liked to add surgical tape to the grip -- but he took it out of his bag this weekend.
"I switched to one of those Ghost putters from TaylorMade. And it's helped," said Verplank, who used just 24 putts on Sunday. "I mean, I putted a whole lot better. If I'd have putted this good Thursday and Friday, I wouldn't have been so far behind."