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BOB WEST ON GOLF — Airrosti gives Chris Stroud new lease on golf, life

Thanks to a revolutionary treatment called Airrosti, the light at the end of the tunnel for Chris Stroud’s injury-threatened career in professional golf is no longer an oncoming train.

Stroud, after a depressing and frustrating battle with back woes that led to nine tournament withdrawls in less than a two-year period, is now playing mostly pain free. He’s looking to launch a comeback next month in the Korn Ferry Tour’s Utah Championship, then get back to the PGA Tour for the start of the 2021-22 season in early September.

“For a while I didn’t think I would be able to play again,” concedes the 39-year-old Port Neches-Groves ex. “I was depressed and worried and didn’t know what I was going to do. November and December were a scary time for me. I tried everything — decompression therapy, yoga, every type of exercise, even cortisone shots in the back.

“Nothing provided any long-term relief. Eventually, I had three different people tell me you need to try Airrosti. It’s been a difference maker, a life changer in some respects. I never expected to be feel this good again. I still have some shoulder issues but I believe I can play through them. I am really excited about golf again.”

So what exactly is Airrosti? One treatment site defines the process this way:

“We thoroughly diagnose and help resolve the source of your pain through safe and effective soft tissue treatment. Our goal is to fix pain fast with no needles, surgery or invasive procedures.”

Dr. Brian Wilson of The Woodlands examined Stroud and told him nothing was going to help his back until scar tissue was cleaned out. He added that if he couldn’t fix the problem with Airrosti there was a structural issue and back surgery would be necessary.

Wilson advised Stroud that it would take three to four sessions that could be extremely painful, but there was reason to be optimistic. He believed that with the treatment, and some strenuous rehab, Stroud could expect to the playing golf at a high level again.

“The results have been amazing,” Stroud said. “But he wasn’t exaggerating about the pain. I have never felt anything like it. I was deep breathing, sweating from the pain and my body was literally shaking. It felt like a knife was going through my back all the way to my stomach. It was just super, super painful.”

No pain, no gain as they, whoever they are, like to say. Not long after the Airrosti treatments Stroud was back on the golf course on a limited basis. In the beginning, he was so weak he’d play, then have to sit out for a couple of days. Gradually his strength built up and he was able to play and practice on a regular basis.

The continuing results have been encouraging.

“By February, I could play without pain,” he said. “I got to where I was playing two or three times a week. Then I got to where I could practice more and more. I was working out and trying to strengthen my body as best I could. I’m trying to be smart with my workouts. Honestly, it’s surprising how well I have been playing.”

Stroud’s return to being a full timer on the PGA Tour won’t be any easier than working through his back issues. He’s been on what the tour calls a “medical exemption” since November and will have roughly 20 or 21 tournaments in the upcoming season to get back into the top 125 in Fed Ex points to earn his playing card for the 2022-23 season.

Complicating the situation is the fact he’ll be returning with virtually no status. When the new season starts with the Safeway Open in Napa, California, he will rarely know much ahead of time whether he will be able to get into the field. He’ll be behind the top 125 in Fed Ex Cup points and the 50 players from the Korn Ferry Tour who receive PGA Tour cards.

“It’s like a crapshoot when you come back off a lengthy medical,” Stroud said. “You have to get into tournaments, then you have to play well so you get into the reshuffle and have your number move up. The first thing I have to do is get to 400 Fed Ex points. That gets me full status for the rest of the year.

“Once that happens, then getting into the top 125 becomes the goal. Early on, I will probably have to play in some Monday qualifers to try to get into tournaments. It’s going to be a challenge. But if I can stay healthy, I like my chances. Like I have told you before, I am a better golfer now than I have ever been.”

Other than an injury setback, the worst-case scenario for Stroud is that he doesn’t get into the Fed Ex top 125 by the end of next season, and get his card back. If that happens, he’d automatically have a spot in the Korn Ferry Finals where a top 50 finish would get him a PGA Tour card.

So what happens if he doesn’t get his card that way? Would a by then 41-year-old Stroud, after 15 years on the PGA Tour and having banked over $12 million in official earnings, be willing to spend the 2022-23 season playing against young guys on the Korn Ferry Tour?

“As long as I was reasonably healthy, I probably would,” he says. “I missed the game when I was away and thought I might not ever play again. I still have a lot of work to do to get to where I need to be, but I believe I have enough game to win again. I’m not ready to walk away.”

Stroud has been down and out before. He’s had to go through the old fashioned, grinding, 108-hole PGA Tour school to regain his playing card. Now that he’s older and wiser, don’t bet it won’t happen again in a different way.