PARKER, Colo. (AP) — With every medical malady that hindered him, Bill Glasson overhauled his game to compensate.
All the tinkering has left Glasson with a swing that resembles nothing like the one he had on the PGA Tour, the powerful yet effortless stroke that enabled him to win seven times.
This is a kinder, gentler swing.
It has to be – his body can’t take anything else.
“Everything I do now is different,” said Glasson, who can barely turn his neck after recent surgery to fuse together three vertebrae.
These days, he can’t explode down on the ball because of operations to fix a litany of torn ligaments in his elbow. His lower back also bothers him – the result of another fusion of two vertebrae – and his knees creak on a consistent basis.
“Held together by screws,” Glasson said, laughing. “Maybe some rivets.”
Despite 25 surgeries to fix a bevy of ailments, Glasson is back on the golf course – and playing well, too. He shot a 1-under-par 71 in the final round Sunday to finish tied for sixth at the Senior PGA Championship, four shots behind Tom Lehman, who won it on the first playoff hole over David Frost and Fred Couples.
The fact Glasson was able to get around the course at all was a medical marvel.
Over his career, he’s had operations on his tailbone, knees, elbows, back and sinuses. In late November, doctors worked on his neck and he couldn’t pick up a club for nearly three months.
With his game in a steady state of flux, Glasson, of Stillwater, Okla., arrived at the Colorado Golf Club with no expectations other than hoping to make it through all the rounds.
He did more than that, hanging around near the leaders for most of the weekend.
Never could he have envisioned this.
“When you’re laying flat on the couch staring at the ceiling for two years, you don’t think you’re going to do anything,” said Glasson, who turned 50 in April and has played in only one other Champions Tour event. “I’m much better than I was. The golf thing, we’ll see what happens with it. But my quality of life is a heck of a lot better.”
Glasson is among a gaggle of golfers who have overcome debilitating back injuries to receive a second chance on the senior circuit.
Jay Don Blake has battled a bad back for years, only for it to round back into shape. Same with Lu Chien-soon, who’s balky back was so bad he couldn’t even pick up a club for nearly eight years.
Then there’s Couples, whose back woes are well documented but still hits it a mile, especially in the thin air of Colorado.
“Golf is hard on backs,” said Blake, who entered the final day with a share of the lead, but shot 76 to wind up tied for eighth. “It’s a lot of wear and tear if you hit a lot of balls.”
Glasson couldn’t agree more, as years of torque and turning took their toll.
“For golfers, it’s not IF you’re going to have back trouble, it’s WHEN you’re going to have back trouble,” said Glasson, who awoke at 3 a.m. Sunday with severe back spasms that almost kept him from playing the final round.
His performance at the Senior PGA gives him renewed hope, a revamped outlook on his career.
“I always felt like if I felt decent I could play,” said Glasson, who tied for fourth at the U.S. Open in 1995. “But I hit the bottom the last few years, just couldn’t get out of bed. This is awesome, hitting a ball again. It’s something I can’t take for granted.”
CRENSHAW’S TAKE: After finishing up his round Sunday, Ben Crenshaw raved about the beauty of the course, the condition it was in and the way it played.
Expect him to say anything less? This is his course.
“It’s in beautiful condition. The greens were just marvelous,” said Crenshaw, who finished 8 over on the course he co-designed with Bill Coore. “I really heard some nice comments from some of the players.”
Tom Watson praised Crenshaw’s design all week, even when the winds were howling and playing conditions were extremely difficult. Watson shot 4 under on the final day to wind up the tournament at 1-over-par.
“It’s a wonderful test of golf,” Watson said. “It requires every club in your bag and it’s a lot of fun to play.”
Crenshaw navigated the course with a critical eye, the architect in him looking for possible design flaws. Outside of possibly making the green on the short, par-4 eighth hole a little bigger, Crenshaw couldn’t think of any mulligans he’d like to take.
“I’m really proud of it,” Crenshaw said.
CHAMP’S LAST STAND: Try as he might, Michael Allen couldn’t get his putter going in his attempt to defend his Senior PGA crown. He finished tied for 11th place at 1 under.
Allen’s putting troubles have become a burgeoning trend he’d like to end.
“I just putted so horribly this year,” Allen said. “I couldn’t make any birdies. If you can’t make them from 6 feet you really got no chance out here. And that’s kind of the story of this week.”
CHIP SHOTS: There were 23 eagles made during the week of competition. Couples led the way with three, including two down the stretch Sunday. … The hardest hole of the tournament was the par-4 fifth, which played 491 yards Sunday. The hole surrendered just 22 birdies all week and had a stroke average of 4.49. … Lindy Miller was the low PGA club professional, finishing at 4 over. He’s a teaching pro at Shady Oaks Country Club in Westworth Village, Texas. … The 2011 Senior PGA will be played at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky.