WEB.COM TOUR INSIDER
Scott Pinckney eyes TOUR return after severe back injury
July 11, 2018
By Royce Thompson, PGATOUR.COM
- July 11, 2018
- After a nagging back injury kept Pinckney out of competition in 2017, he's back in competition, working to regain his TOUR card. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
These words, uttered by Dr. Maya Angelou, encompass how Scott Pinckney dealt with adversity over the past 18 months.
After graduating from the Web.com Tour in 2014, Pinckney played the PGA TOUR for two years, posting nine top-25s including a T2 at the 2015 AT&T Byron Nelson. The 29-year-old Arizona State University graduate had a promising start, retaining his TOUR card during his rookie season. Pinckney struggled during his sophomore campaign and was forced to compete in the Web.com Tour Finals to regain his status. He came up just short after the Web.com Tour Championship was cancelled due to the impending threat of Hurricane Matthew.
Then the immense back pain began. Pinckney tried to play through the agony but couldn’t compete. Forced to take 2017 off, he sought advice from multiple specialists. After a few attempts, he was diagnosed with a dehydrated disc in his L5. The discomfort was so great, it became difficult to perform everyday activities, let alone play golf.
The good news, there was no nerve impingement. The bad news, there was no clear cure.
“I didn’t need surgery, which was great,” he said. “It took about eight months to figure out what it was, which was frustrating. It hurt to walk, let alone sleep. We went through a hard time for sure.”
Pinckney sought advice from fellow Tour pros who were dealing with similar lower-back problems. He talked to Web.com Tour veteran Vince India during at the 2017 Country Club de Bogota Championship and elected to visit Dr. Eric C. Lee at Vista Spine Institute in American Fork, Utah.
“Wes Roach and I were talking about how we were going through some terrible issues with our backs,” said India, who kept in touch with Pinckney throughout the ordeal. “It was like a self-help session. I mentioned to Scott that I was going out to Utah for some stem-cell therapy and he seemed interested. That’s kind of how we all got introduced to stem-cell therapy.”
Each time Pinckney went to visit Dr. Lee, he reached out to his good friend Tony Finau, who Pinckney competed against in junior golf while growing up in Utah. Finau received periodical updates throughout the process, each time Pinckney was in town.
“It has been extremely tough for him,” said Finau, who has remained close with Pinckney through the years. “It’s extremely hard and extremely tough to see him go through that.”
Fortunately, Pinckney’s body responded well to the stem-cell therapy. Once he felt ready, the Orem native and his coach Steve Johnson went to work. Pinckney has been under Johnson’s tutelage for five years, and the duo spent the first eight months after therapy texting back-and-forth. Despite the lack of face time, Johnson had a vision for Pinckney’s swing.
“When we first started working together, he swung it like a young kid trying to get every bit of speed he could,” he said. “I used to tell him he looked like a junior golfer.”
The duo retooled Pinckney’s action by restricting rotation and creating more leverage to create speed. Johnson has always had a plan to help prolong his student’s playing career, but it was up to Pinckney to change.
“We were always heading in this direction,” said Johnson. “The injuries made him realize that a change was needed.”
Pinckney is still adjusting to his new action. Under the gun, he has a tendency to revert back to his previous swing. Despite the frustration, the seven-year pro is determined to regain his form and has worked hard on building up his core strength.
“My confidence was hanging by a thread,” he said. “This is your engine. It’s not a wrist injury where your body is swinging the same every time. It took a while to get adjusted to that, but I’m starting to get confidence back now that I’m getting healthier, especially with my mental state. I’m still battling the back a little bit, but I have my routine that I do to keep it in check.”It speaks to how hard he works and how much he believes in himself. I knew how mentally strong he was, and he’s starting to show that to the world.
After nearly a year away from competition, Pinckney returned to the Web.com Tour in 2018. The results were mixed at the beginning of the season, but the game is starting to show flashes. In his last five starts on Tour, the four-year Tour veteran has recorded two top-10s, including a T2 at the Wichita Open Supporting Wichita’s Youth.
“I wish it was sooner but I’m starting to get in a groove and I’m understanding my body a lot more,” said Pinckney. “I’m able to repeat it. I thought I could come back and figure it out earlier, but that was not the case. I’ve been just keeping my head down, grinding and working as hard as I can. We are finally getting to a spot to where I can hit the ball the way I would like and the way I should.”
Finau knew it was only a matter of time before Pinckney found his footing and started competing at a high level again. The 28-year-old from Salt Lake City still recalls the battles the pair would have in their amateur days and used the word ‘resilient’ when describing his colleague.
“It speaks to how hard he works and how much he believes in himself,” said Finau. “I knew how mentally strong he was, and he’s starting to show that to the world.”
Johnson feels like Pinckney is on the verge of accomplishing their goal for 2018. A victory before the end of the Regular Season would secure Pinckney’s PGA TOUR card, and Johnson believes his star pupil is close.
“He feels like he can win,” said Johnson. “We just need to get him to punch one through.”