• 50°

Stroud’s PGA tour card in jeopardy after injury

All of sudden, Chris Stroud’s PGA Tour card for 2011 is  in serious jeopardy. And, sadly, there may not be anything he can do to counter a terrible twist of fate.

As a result of torn muscles around the rib cage that forced him to withdraw on the first hole of Sunday’s final round in the Frys.com Classic, Stroud’s ability to play this week in Las Vegas is very much in jeopardy. It’s also possible he wouldn’t be able to compete in the season’s final event two weeks hence at Disney World.

Stroud, because he was unable to finish at the Frys.com, was credited with no official money, though he did get the $9,000 check budgeted for a last place finish. Consequently, he dropped to No. 119 on the money list.

Since he must finish in the top 125 to retain his card, it’s almost a given that won’t happen if he is unable to add to his 2010 official earnings of $750,589. At least a dozen players are in position to pass him up in the final two weeks.

The former PN-G and Lamar ex is in both physical and mental pain over his quandary. But he remains hopeful that he will somehow be able to tee it up Thursday in Las Vegas.

“I’m about 50 percent better,” he said Tuesday, enroute to Vegas. “I’m going to talk to the PGA Tour’s medical staff for the specific purpose of finding out if trying to play through this can do any lingering damage. Right now, I have a really, really stiff neck, it hurts to bend over and my range of motion is limited.”

As Stroud understands it, his fourth and fifth ribs came out of place after he hit his second shot into the first hole on Sunday. Initially, he said he felt like he just needed to crack his back and he’d be OK. By the time he reached the green, however, the pain had become “excruciating.”

“I felt like I was almost paralyzed,” he said. “I couldn’t take a deep breath. Every time I did, it moved those ribs. There was just no way I could continue.”

Making the pain worse was the fact Stroud was coming off a third round 65 that moved him into a tie for 24th place. By his calculations, all he would have had to do to lock up his playing card was shoot two over par on his final round. Even a last place finish might have done it.

“I was coming off a great round on Saturday and really looking forward to playing on Sunday,” he said. “Things sure changed in a hurry. It was kind of like leading a NASCAR race going to the final lap, and just needing to reach the finish line. Basically, all I needed to do was play 18 holes and sign a correct scorecard.”

Should the injury keep Stroud from playing again, and cause him to fall out of the 125, there’s even a darker side.  He might not be healthy enough to try and regain his tour card at Q school.

What would really be diabolical is if the $9,000 he collected but didn’t get credit for at the Frys.com turns out to be the difference in him not finishing in the top 125. If it plays out that way, Stroud will likely make a formal appeal to the PGA Tour.

“My manager has already talked to the tour about the rule on the money not counting,” he said. “Apparently they put it in to keep a guy who has a really bad round on Saturday from withdrawing on Sunday for no good reason, other than he’s upset. My argument is that you should deal with something like this on a case-by-case basis. There’s a lot at stake here.

“I don’t want to make a big fuss but this is something I am probably going to have to challenge, depending on how things play out. What if I’m not healthy enough to play by Q school? I would wind up having only conditional status for next year. That means you are only guaranteed 12 or 13 events.”

Meanwhile, Stroud said his ailment is not something out of the ordinary among PGA Tour players. He reeled off the names of three or four who have been felled by the same type  injury. Matter of fact, he encountered a similar  problem two years ago in the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black and was able to play through it.

“Obviously, that one wasn’t as bad,” he pointed out. “But it sure had me worried at the time. Fortunately, I was able to deal with the pain.”

A normal person trying to cope with Stroud’s problem would start ingesting some heavy duty muscle relaxers. But, because he doesn’t want to take anything that might cause him to violate the PGA Tour’s substance abuse policy, he’s been relying on Advil.

“As soon as I get to Las Vegas, I will find out what I can take,” he said.

One thing he probably shouldn’t take is a trip to any of the nearby casinos. Not with the way his luck is going.