Bud Cauley surging at Farmers Insurance Open 8 months after serious crash

Bud Cauley plays from the fourth tee during the first round of the Desert Classic at La Quinta Country Club in January. Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Bud Cauley surging at Farmers Insurance Open 8 months after serious crash

PGA Tour

Bud Cauley surging at Farmers Insurance Open 8 months after serious crash

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SAN DIEGO — Bud Cauley is whole again.

Almost eight months after nearly dying in a car crash, Cauley was feeling just fine Thursday touring the North Course of seaside Torrey Pines on another Chamber of Commerce Day in America’s Finest City.

With a 6-under-par 66, Cauley moved to the front page of the leaderboard of the Farmers Insurance Open. Although a final-hole bogey frustrated him, he was pleased with the round and said he was 100% healthy again.

“I feel great,” Cauley said.

Among the early finishers, Cauley wound up four strokes behind pace-setter and world No. 7 Jon Rahm, the 2017 Farmers champion who blistered the North Course with a 62, which included eagles on the 10th and 17th holes and seven birdies against a lone bogey.

At 63 were world No. 1 Justin Rose and Doug Ghim. C.T. Pan was at 64. Three-time major champion Jordan Spieth shot 65 on the North, his lowest round of the season.

After missing the cut in the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio, last June, Cauley, 28, was in the backseat of a BMW when the vehicle veered off the road, hit a culvert and went airborne and struck a large tree. Before coming to rest in a ditch, the vehicle hit three smaller trees.

Cauley suffered a concussion, six broken ribs, a collapsed lung and a leg fracture. Four of his ribs had to be plated, a process that realigns the ribs and bridges breaks with small, contoured titanium plates.

Three months later he began hitting balls. A month later, the seven-year pro returned to the PGA Tour at the 2018-19 season opener at the Safeway Open in Napa, Calif., and tied for 46th. He then earned his first top 10 in nearly a year when he tied for 10th in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas. He wrapped up his fall portion of the season with a tie for 29th and missed cut.

In his 2019 debut, he missed the cut last week in the Desert Classic.

“My body felt good when I was at home, but playing in Napa and playing pretty well, finishing the event was kind of when I took a breath and was like, we’re going to be OK,” Cauley said. “I had been playing at home and I felt like I could come out and play, which is obviously why I showed up in Napa. But just to finish the event and kind of get just one golf tournament under my belt was really probably the happiest I’ve been through all of this.”

The worst part of his rehab? Cauley took a split second before saying his ribs.

“It’s not fun,” he said. “Yawning hurt, laughing hurt, so I just kind of sat in a chair. Then it progressively got better, and I was able to do more and more. Now it feels great. But for the first few weeks it was painful.”

While he’s had to alter some exercises in the gym, he said golf-wise, there are no restrictions. With a solid round under his belt, he’s in position early to win his first PGA Tour title.

“I have been playing well,” he said. “I played last week and struck the ball really well. Didn’t make some putts and it’s almost kind of a putting contest last week, so it’s tough to compete if you’re not holing a lot. I putted well today and continue to hit the ball well, so I’ll just try to keep that going.”

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