Troy Merritt shows resiliency by teeing it up in PGA, shooting 71

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Troy Merritt shows resiliency by teeing it up in PGA, shooting 71

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Troy Merritt shows resiliency by teeing it up in PGA, shooting 71

ST. LOUIS – On paper, Troy Merritt’s opening 1-over 71 Thursday at Bellerive Country Club didn’t look all that special. He parred his first seven holes before making a pair of birdies to reach 2 under, only to give three shots back in his final six holes.

But considering what the 32-year-old Merritt has been through in the past week, it was.

Last Friday, Merritt underwent emergency surgery to remove a blood clot from his left arm. Merritt, who won the Barbasol Championship three weeks ago, had been experiencing swelling in the arm. When it got to be twice the size of his right arm and turned purple, Merritt’s wife, Courtney, forced her husband to see a doctor.

After an ultrasound revealed a foot-long blood clot running from his upper arm to his left bicep, Merritt was rushed into surgery at St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in his hometown of Boise, Idaho. The surgery went well, but the incision site – on his inner left bicep just above the elbow – was sore.

“Probably one of the worst spots for a golfer,” said Merritt, who is wearing a compression sleeve on his left arm this week.

But Merritt remained determined to play this week in the 100th edition of the PGA Championship, even if he likely wouldn’t be able to play a practice round. He arrived in St. Louis on Sunday afternoon, putted on Monday, chipped on Tuesday and hit roughly 50 balls on the range Wednesday.

Even with his arm “throbbing” following his range session, Merritt, who had clearance from his doctor, wasn’t going to withdraw at that point. He was going to give it a go.

“I’d like to think my career has been based on resiliency,” Merritt said. “I haven’t always been in a position to lock up my card each and every year, and I’ve always had to play a lot of golf. The one thing that I pride myself on is never quitting or giving up.”

Merritt’s caddie, Wayne Birch, was able to walk Bellerive a few times to scout the layout, but when Merritt finally stuck his tee in the ground on Bellerive’s opening hole at 8:51 a.m. Thursday, he still hadn’t seen the course. He was going to be blind.

In his first round since the final round of the RBC Canadian Open two Sundays ago, Merritt drove it well, hitting 10 of his first 12 fairways. He called his iron game “questionable,” as he found just 11 greens in regulation. He struck 27 putts, though most of his birdie looks were from long range and he couldn’t get any to drop. He did stick an approach close at the par-4 12th and make a 3-footer for birdie.

“The thing that you have to do when you haven’t seen the course is focus on where you need to hit it,” Merritt said. “I don’t know the bad spots around the course. I only know where you’re supposed to be. I had that to my advantage today.”

It remains to be seen how Merritt’s body will stand up to the St. Louis heat the rest of the way, especially if he makes it to Sunday. Merritt, who is injecting a blood thinner into his stomach twice a day, will continue to take it easy. He knows his limits, even if he often tries to push them.

He’ll take next week off as he returns to his doctor, who is still trying to rule out thoracic outlet syndrome, which occurs when blood vessels between the collarbone and first rib are compressed.

“There could be some surgery down the road,” Merritt said.

As for now, Merritt is just happy to be playing the year’s final major. No matter the result, it will be a special week for the resilient Merritt.

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