Rusty but ready, Marino applauds his return
DUBLIN, Ohio – It was a rocky return to the PGA Tour for Steve Marino after a four-month absence from competitive golf, but as he would say later, it was better than sitting on the couch and watching television.
Marino signed for a 2-over 74 in Thursday's opening round of The Memorial Tournament, but it was much more than the score might indicate on a Muirfield Village Golf Club course that played more like a U.S. Open venue.
Ultimately, that reality took some of the sting out of Marino's bogey-double bogey-par finish and allowed him to enjoy being back inside the ropes.
“I felt like I was playing well. I was just sloppy,” Marino said about a round that included one eagle, four birdies, six bogeys – four on the first five holes – and a double.
“I'm playing pretty well," said Marino, a four-time runner-up who has yet to win on Tour. "It's different playing at home than coming out here and might have been a little bit nervous in the beginning; I don't know. But I turned it around pretty good. At one point, I was, like, 1 under for the day or something and then had a crappy finish here.”
Marino last played competitive golf in late January at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, finishing 66th. But that's where he knew that the pain in his left leg that had bothered him in Hawaii and Palm Springs earlier in the year was something that needed to be addressed.
It took many visits to numerous doctors before he finally got the right diagnosis: a bone contusion on the tip of his tibia and femur as well as vascular necrosis (bone death caused by poor blood supply). A simple pain in his leg had became a significant issue.
“I didn't really realize how serious it was,” Marino said of the type of ailment that cut short former football star Bo Jackson's career and affected former quarterback Brett Favre. “I thought I was going to miss, like, one or two weeks. It was just three weeks ago my doctor gave me the all-clear to go back and start practicing and playing full-time.”
According to his coach, Claude Harmon III, Marino was fearful to take an aggressive swing until he received full clearance to play. So, when he left the doctor's office three weeks ago, it was the first time in three months that the 2002 Virginia graduate was free to play golf.
But as with any player returning from injury, simulating the PGA Tour at home is impossible, so competitive rust was present Thursday.
After a perfect tee shot at No. 17, Marino hit a 6-iron 20 yards right of the green and the greenside bunkers and made double bogey-6. For Marino, that unfortunately was to be expected after a layoff.
“I just I need to knock the rust off a little bit," Marino said. “But it felt good to be back, man. I had a great attitude. I was just happy to be back out there. And I feel like I'm playing pretty good, too.”