Steve Marino, regarded as one of the best without a win, missed most of 2012. (Dunn/Getty Images)
By Ann Miller, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
SIGNATURE SHOTS: Marino looks back on his epic escape from bunker at 2011 Sony Open
HONOLULU -- A year ago today -- and some three months after knee surgery -- Steve Marino played nine holes with his Pro-Am partners at the Sony Open in Hawaii. His year all but ended there.
“After nine holes I couldn’t even squat down to read my putts,” said Marino, who tees off Thursday in Sony’s first round at Waialae Country Club. “My knee swelled up and it was very painful. I tried to slug it out for two more weeks, and I just realized I couldn’t do it.”
He sat out four months, saw “a bunch of doctors” and went through all kinds of treatment. Marino tried to play three more weeks, missed three cuts and called it a year.
He made two cuts and $85,000 in six starts and was 16 over par in 16 rounds in 2012. “Kind of a nightmare,” was how he described it Wednesday at Waialae.
He is back in Hawaii refreshed and, hopefully this time, rehabilitated.
Advised not to try more surgery, he got a stem cell injection in his left knee to regenerate growth in the damaged area. Marino, 32, couldn’t put any weight on his left side for two months and didn’t start playing again until October.
He says he feels great physically and excited to start again. Emotionally, he always feels great here and it has shown.
Before last year’s missed cut, he had three consecutive top-sevens here, including a runner-up finish to Mark Wilson in 2011. He was 34th in his first Sony Open start, in 2007, when he played with Michelle Wie the first two rounds.
He likes that Waialae’s fairways are hard to hit, feels comfortable at a place where he has to be decisive and, simply, “loves coming back here, it’s a very special place.”
“Part of it's probably is because it’s the first event of the year and I’m always a little amped up to get back out and play,” Marino says. “Ever since my rookie year when I came here, I just kind of fell in love with the place. I know my parents, they come here every year and they love it, and it’s special for them, too.”
Marino has 21 events this year to earn $562,470 and keep his exempt status.