Bud Cauley in contention at Memorial 1 year after missed cut, car crash

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Bud Cauley in contention at Memorial 1 year after missed cut, car crash

PGA Tour

Bud Cauley in contention at Memorial 1 year after missed cut, car crash

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DUBLIN, Ohio – Bud Cauley nearly died in a horrific car accident in his last visit to the Memorial.

He’s aiming for a different memory this year.

Cauley hasn’t been haunted by recollections of the car crash in his return to Muirfield Village this week and through two rounds of the Memorial, he’s looked relaxed, confident and ready to win his first PGA Tour title. With a 2-under-par 70 in Friday’s second round of Jack Nicklaus’ annual bash, Cauley remained on the first page of the leaderboard. Through 36 holes, he’s at 7 under and two shots out of first place.

“I never considered not coming back because of what happened. It was the scariest time of my life,” said Cauley, whose lone professional victory came in the 2014 Hotel Fitness Championship on the Web.com Tour. “Once I got here it’s actually been a little bit easier than the weeks leading up to it, just wondering how I would feel or what I would think about. It’s nice to play well. I haven’t really thought about it too much, which has been nice. Just trying to treat it like a normal week.”

After missing the cut in last year’s Memorial, Cauley, 29, was one of four passengers in a BMW and sitting in the back seat when the vehicle veered off the road at 11:04 p.m., hit a culvert, went airborne and struck a large tree and then 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 during surgery 36 hours later, a process that realigns the ribs and bridges breaks with small, contoured titanium plates.

“I was joking yesterday that making the cut here is better for my health,” Cauley said. “I’ve always appreciated playing golf and the opportunity I have to do something that I enjoy doing every day. But when something like that happens to you I think it would change anyone. So, one minute everything is OK and the next minute you’re worried about the rest of your life. I’ve definitely taken a lot of things from it, tried to learn from it and just do the best I can going forward.

“Things or your life can change in one moment, one decision, whatever the case may be. So just to kind of appreciate when things are good and make the best decisions.”

Three months after the accident, he began hitting balls, his first shots – four thinned wedges, he said – came under the watchful eye of Jack Nicklaus at the Bear’s Club in Jupiter, Fla. 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.

This year, one he said has been up and down, Cauley’s missed six cuts in 13 starts, and his tie for 12th in the Honda Classic is best finish. Ranked No. 192, he’s playing on a sponsor’s exemption this week.

“I putted well, which is nice. I’ve made a lot of good par putts, converted most of the good birdie putts I had,” Cauley said. “Yesterday I drove it well and today I kept missing it a little bit right. But I didn’t hit anything too crazy off line, so I think I can get it figured out and hopefully hit some more fairways this weekend.”

One thing Cauley hasn’t done is return to the scene of the accident, which occurred less than two miles from the clubhouse at Muirfield Village.

“I haven’t had any bad thoughts or anything as far as what happened last year, but I don’t think I’m going to go drive by it to test it,” he said.

He has other things to do anyway. Like win.

“It’s something I think about all the time, every day I go out and practice or every tournament I show up at,” Cauley said. “I was hoping to have accomplished more by now than what I have, obviously. But I try to worry more about what I need to do to finally have that breakthrough rather than obsess over wanting to win.”

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