ShareThis Page

Verplank makes surprising charge

| Sunday, Aug. 14, 2011

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Scott Verplank has aches and pains older than some of the guys he's chasing at the PGA Championship.

"I don't feel a day older than a hundred," the 47-year-old tour journeyman said to laughter Saturday, moments after a 69 left him at 5-under-par and two shots off the lead heading into the final round. "It's fantastic."

Fantasy might be more like it. Verplank wears an insulin pump to deal with diabetes and he's battled chronic elbow, wrist and foot injuries for nearly all of his pro career, so long, in fact, that he was named the comeback player of the year — in 1998.

"I didn't even know if I was going to be in the PGA until, like a week ago, two weeks ago," he said.

Verplank gained a spot because he's still in the top 100 world rankings, not a small accomplishment in itself. A win here would make him the second-oldest major champion ever, behind 48-year-old Julius Boros, who won the 1968 PGA Championship at Pecan Valley Country Club. To accomplish that feat, he'll have to handle oppressive heat and a demanding Atlanta Athletic Club layout better than guys he's spotting a few years — Brendan Steele (28) and Jason Dufner (34), both at 7-under; and Keegan Bradley (25), who's at 6-under.

"But I was excited to get to play here," Verplank said, "and you know what, I hope that I can turn back the clock a little bit, and go back to when I was about 21, when I won everything I played in.

"Maybe that will happen," he added, smiling, "overnight."

Verplank isn't kidding about those salad days. He put an exclamation point on a wildly successful junior career by beating Jim Thorpe in a playoff at the 1985 Western Open, becoming the first amateur in 29 years to win a PGA Tour event. It was less of a surprise than it sounds. Verplank was an All-American all four years at Oklahoma State and won both the U.S. Amateur and NCAA Championship before he left.

But by 1992, Verplank was already cobbling together a medical chart that would rival his PGA Tour resume in length. He needed surgery to repair an elbow injury that year, then again in 1996. He played parts of several of his early seasons with medical exemptions and arrived at here at the start of the week with five career wins and a wrist that's been sore for nearly a year.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me