BOB WEST ON GOLF: Rehabbing Stroud makes his return in Desert Classic

Published 2:36 pm Tuesday, January 15, 2019

At age 36 and sidelined since mid-November by a shoulder injury that bothered him all of last season, Chris Stroud is facing every cliché you can think of to keep from losing full-time PGA Tour status in his 13th season.

His back is up against the wall. He is behind the 8-ball. There is no tomorrow. The odds are stacked against him.

Readily acknowledging the gravity of his situation, Stroud returns this week in what is now known as the Desert Classic in LaQuinta, California. In the past, you knew it as the Bob Hope Desert Classic, the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and, more recently, the CareerBuilder Challenge.

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Thursday will be Stroud’s first competitive round since withdrawing from the Mayakoba Classic after an opening 70 on Nov. 14. After opting against shoulder surgery, the Port Neches-Groves ex has undergone intense rehab and has slowly but surely worked his way to a point where playing again is doable.

“The clock is ticking,” Stroud said. “I am not 100 percent. I certainly don’t have the strength or endurance I need. But they don’t think I am going to make the shoulder worse as long as I do my rehab every day. So I need to start working on knocking the rust off and getting my strength up.”

Barring any setbacks, Stroud’s ambitious plan is to play the next five events and 20 of the upcoming 24 tournaments. Under ideal circumstances, it is something he wouldn’t attempt. But he wants to give himself every possible chance to get sharp, post some high finishes and keep his playing card.

With only a tie for 55th in Las Vegas to show for the fall portion of the 2018-19 season, Stroud stands at No. 196 in FedEx Cup points. A climb into the top 125 promises to be daunting.

“I am keeping my expectations realistic,” he said. “I understand this is something I have to take a day at a time. My immediate challenge is to get mentally back into tournament mode. I have never been off this long.”

Stroud has been in California for a week, preparing for his marathon. He started by playing the two courses at Torrey Pines in San Diego that will be the site of next week’s tour stop, then drove over over a mountain range to get in work on the three courses used for the Desert Classic.

He has not walked 18 holes since that first round of the Mayakoba Classic.

“For the most part, I have been playing nine holes at a time and hitting a lot of balls,” he said. “In San Diego, I rode but it was cart path only on both courses so there was a lot of walking.”

Stroud is not thinking ahead to the next career step if he doesn’t climb the ladder to No. 125. In 2017, when he was backed into a corner on FedEx points, he won his first tournament, thus earning two years of exemptions. He has always been tough-minded and strongly believed in his abilities.

“I know how to fight and I’m fighting to get my career back again,” he said. “It’s going to be a process, but I am as focused and committed as I’ve ever been. This will be an eight-month project that’s going to require some patience. I believe I am still good enough to win when healthy.”

If not for Stroud’s comeback, the focus of today’s column would have been Andrew Landry’s return to the place where he came oh-so-close to winning for the first time on the PGA Tour.

Landry, in what was known in 2018 as the CareerBuilder Challenge, started the final day one-shot off the lead, made a dramatic birdie to tie world No. 2 Jon Rahm on the 72nd hole, then lost on the fourth hole of a pressure-packed playoff. He’d missed an eight-footer to win on the second playoff hole.

The impressive, 22-under-par performance earned Landry $637,200, elevated him from No. 184 to No. 102 in the world rankings, gave him enough FedEx points to guarantee his PGA Tour card for another year and paved the way for his first victory two months later in San Antonio.

Landry comes into the week having missed the cut in last week’s Sony Open. He’s currently No. 129 in FedEx points. …

Jordan Spieth, making his first start of 2019 at the Sony Open, was nearly tripped up by the same new rule on drops that almost got Landry a week earlier in the TOC.

Not once but twice. Spieth was warned by playing partners on both the 15th and 18th holes while about to take a drop from shoulder-height.

The new rule, badly botched during an attempted explanation in this space last week, requires a drop to be taken from the knee rather than the shoulder. Spieth would have incurred a penalty if he dropped from the shoulder, then hit his next shot. …

Registration is under way for the Texas-Louisiana Junior Tour open to boys and girls ages 7-18. Interested players should go to and search “Texas Louisiana Junior Tour” to sign up for tournaments. The fee is $25 per event. Players must be registered by 5 p.m. Wednesday of tournament week.

The schedule kicks off Saturday, Jan. 26 at Henry Homberg Golf Club in Beaumont. Other stops include Frasch Park GC in Sulphur on Feb. 2, Babe Zaharias GC on Feb. 16 and The National GC in Westlake on Feb. 23.

Headquarters for the Texas-Louisiana Junior Tour is Babe Zaharias. Anyone with questions should call the Zaharias Golf Shop at 722-8286. …

The Friday 2-ball at Zaharias saw a tie at 1-under on the front between the team of Kenny Robbins, Gary Fontenot, Charles Leard and Harrell Guidry and the foursome of Tom LeTourneau, Larry Johnson, Dillard Darbonne and Craig Castille.

On the back, the team of Cap Hollier, Earl Richard, Calvin Landry, Charles Perez and Jerry Watson won with even. …

The Wednesday DogFight at Zaharias ended a a two-way tie. Posting 12 points was the team of Raymond Darbonne, Hoot Gibson, Gary Hanan and Don Duplan and the foursome of Joe Gongora, Hollier, Leard and a ghost player.

Closest to the pin winners were Hollier (No. 2), Ron Mistrot (No. 7), Richard (No. 12) and Bim Morrow (No. 15).

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