Resilient Micheel in hunt at PGA Championship

Resilient Micheel in hunt at PGA Championship


Resilient Micheel in hunt at PGA Championship

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Shaun Micheel, golf’s ultimate one-hit wonder, is in contention after Day 1 at the PGA Championship. He hasn’t had a top 10 on Tour in more than a year . . . he’s missed more cuts than he’s made this season . . . he’s lacked the desire to compete while suffering through injury.

But maybe we shouldn’t be all that surprised by his first-round 66 at Atlanta Athletic Club.

After all, Micheel has endured much worse.

“It’s been a long year,” he said Thursday. “It’s been a long, tiring year.”

His mother, Donna, died last October after a long battle with lung cancer. Micheel said he played the entire 2010 season for her. When she passed away, he didn’t know whom to play for.

In May, he underwent surgery for endolymphatic hydrops – an inner ear disorder that causes dizziness and other undesirable symptoms. “For two months,” he said, “the ball was moving around.”

Micheel also was lightheaded, and his face was tingling, and he had numbness in his cheeks. For two years he heard ringing in his ears. For two months he walked around in a fog and was in and out of the neurologist’s office. Doctors discovered an enlarged carotid artery, and they feared it was an aneurysm. “That was a little disconcerting,” he said.

After surgery, the dizziness was gone. That was the first part. The second was finding someone to play for, now that his mother was gone. How about his two kids, son Dade, 7, and daughter Marin, 4? For the past year Dade has looked at the Wanamaker Trophy in the family’s home and asked Dad when he’s going to win another tournament. Of any kind. Major, Fall Series, FedEx Cup, whatever.

Micheel’s 2003 PGA title at Oak Hill remains his lone victory on Tour, and, frankly, his 2011 results did little to inspire belief that it wouldn’t be his last. His best finish was a tie for 22nd, at the Memorial in June. His past five starts: MC, MC, WD, T-49, T-43. So he wasn’t exactly in peak form heading into the final major of the year.

“I don’t enjoy it when I’m not playing well,” he said, “so I haven’t enjoyed this year at all.”

But, for whatever reason, he seems to find his game at the majors. Last year, he shared the first-round lead at the U.S. Open. Now, at Atlanta Athletic Club, he’s alone in third, three shots back of fellow fortysomething Steve Stricker.

“I always find a way to get up for the big events,” Micheel said. “No matter what state my game is in, I can dig deep and somehow find a way.”

Three weeks ago, Micheel visited instructor Matt Killen in Bowling Green, Ky. He spent seven hours at The Club at Olde Stone, trying to correct some bad habits that lingered from 2008, when he played for months before learning that he had a torn labrum in his shoulder. That surgery set him back a few months, maybe years.

“I didn’t even want to do this anymore,” he said. “I thought long and hard about just stopping. You have to be all in in this game.”

But he wanted to come back, for his kids and maybe himself. He takes a lot of pride, he says, in being a PGA champion.

If his stunner at Oak Hill is the last tournament he ever wins, Micheel, 42, says he’s OK with that.

At least now he’s healthy enough to try again.


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