Micheel authors comeback despite tough odds

Shaun Micheel

Shaun Micheel

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Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Avondale, LA - TPC Louisiana

7:13:01 PM ET. 04/23/2014




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Our annual number-crunching package looks at players who made significant moves – up or down – during the past year in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index.

Ranking/movement: 126 (+111)

Why the rise? Micheel overcame the odds to have his best season since 2006. For starters, Micheel began the year with limited status. His five-year exemption for winning the 2003 PGA Championship ran out, as did his medical extension. He reluctantly returned to Q-School in 2009 for the first time since ’01. He didn’t make it. With limited status, Micheel prepared to take residency on the PGA European Tour and play the PGA Tour sparingly as a past champion. He even made his first Nationwide Tour appearance since 1999. But a string of strong finishes on Tour, including three top 5s, earned him additional starts, and Micheel made the most of them.

Number crunching

Check back to Golfweek.com every day through the end of the year to take a look at players who made significant moves – up and down – in 2010.

Micheel also played with a heavy heart. His mother, Donna, 64, lost an 18-month battle with cancer and died in October. Nothing gave her more joy than seeing her son play. Micheel, 41, finally was healthy again after undergoing arthroscopic surgery in 2008 to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He had adjusted his swing to such an extent that his golf instructor asked him if he had started working with someone else. The return of Micheel’s superb ballstriking came as little surprise. But Micheel, a notoriously streaky putter who changes his wand often, also found some magic on the greens. He took 28.77 putts per round (28th), a marked improvement over 29.58 (144th) in ’09. In comparison, during his last full season on Tour in 2007, he averaged 29.82 (165th), more than a stroke per round higher than this season. As a result, he made more than $1 million this year for the first time since 2006, and doesn’t have to worry about Q-School or playing abroad in 2011.

Micheel says: “Everyone plays for something different. Most guys play for themselves. I did that for a while. I played for the crowd. This year, I played for my mom. I carried her around with me everywhere I (went).”

– Adam Schupak

• • •

Ben Curtis

Ranking/movement: 122 (-79)

Why the fall? Curtis’ season could be summed up by his failure at The Travelers Championship in June. Sharing the lead on the 12th tee, he played the last six holes in 4 over, shot 73, and plummeted to a T-13.

“You just want to forget about that,” the 33-year-old Curtis said.

The same could be said for the rest of his season. In 2010, the former Ryder Cupper recorded only one top-10 finish and had to play the last four Fall Series events to secure his card for 2011 (he finished 120th on the money list after being 17th in 2008).

The Ohio native got off to a typically slow start. He notched his only top 10, a sixth-place finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, and never enjoyed his usual summer surge. The reason? Curtis chalked it up to a balky putter. He ranked 140th in putting average (1.800) and 126th in putts per round (29.60). Curtis, who has relied on a Scotty Cameron Titleist Newport 2 for most of his career, experimented with different putters, but returned to old faithful by season’s end. He said he is concentrating on being less “handsy.”

It’s easy to blame the putter, but a look inside the numbers reveals that Curtis could help his chances if he improved his wedge game inside 100 yards. His approach shots stopped farther from the hole the closer he got: from 100-125 yards (17 feet, 7 inches; 22nd on Tour) vs. from 75-100 yards (17 feet, 9 inches 106th) or 50-75 yards (24 feet, 8 inches; 192nd).

Curtis says: “ I didn’t have a real good tournament or a good year for me. But that’s in the past. I’ve got to be like a quarterback and not think about the last play. My short-term memory says (next) year will be better.”

– Adam Schupak

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