Golf roundup: Oberholser attempts comeback after four hand surgeries

Tom LaMarre, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

--Arron Oberholser, who has had four surgeries on his left hand in the past few years, will make his 2013 PGA Tour debut next week in the Northern Trust Open at Riviera.
The 37-year-old Oberholser, who captured the 2006 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am for his only victory on the circuit, could have returned this week at Pebble, but he said he wasn't quite ready in addition to the fact that it's now hard for him to play in the chilly February weather on the Monterey Peninsula.
"I can't do anything in the wind and cold," said Oberholser, who probably has a career in broadcasting ahead of him and spent last week doing a stint on the Golf Channel.
"I used to like the cold. Now I loathe it. ... At home (in Scottsdale, Ariz.) in 85-degree weather, I play great. But it's a different animal out here."
Oberholser, who grew up in San Mateo, Calif., just south of San Francisco, has 12 starts on a Major Medical Extension in which to earn $349,854 and retain his playing status on the PGA Tour.
A 1998 graduate of San Jose State with a degree in broadcast journalism, Oberholser had an arthritic bone removed from his left hand in one of the surgeries and also underwent a five-hour operation on his right hip.
"After five surgeries, I have aches and pains that don't like (cold) weather," said Oberholser, who won two tournaments on the Nationwide Tour and two on the Canadian Tour. "With my hand, doctors don't know what's going on. They take X-rays and they say it's all clear, but I feel it."
Last year, Oberholser played on the PGA Tour for the first time since 2009, missing the cut in the Waste Management Phoenix Open and withdrawing after two rounds at Pebble Beach.
His last full season on the PGA Tour was 2007, when he recorded five top-10 finishes in 21 events, including a tie for fourth in the PGA Championship and a tie for second in the Deutsche Bank Championship during the PGA Tour playoffs.
--Michael Phelps is never going to be a golf pro, but the Olympic swimming champion has something the average amateur doesn't, an equipment contract.
Phelps, who will be featured on "The Haney Project" on the Golf Channel beginning Feb. 25, signed with Ping and was fitted for a new set of clubs before playing last week in the pro-am of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
"It's pretty wild," Phelps said. "It's crazy to think this sport is so technical. A lot of sports are very technical, but one of the (Ping) guys said there's 50-something different shafts they can put on the clubs.
"I'm used to having a pair of goggles, a small, medium or large swim cap, and a jammer to put on, and that's it."
The 6-foot-4 Phelps toured Ping's Arizona facilities, where he was fitted for a set of clubs that suit his frame, long arms and large hands. Almost immediately, he noticed a big improvement his ball flight.
"We've custom-built his clubs to ensure he has every chance to improve, and we believe he'll dedicate himself to golf with the same intensity he gave to swimming," said John A. Solheim, chairman and chief executive officer of Ping.
"His global presence as a golfer will bring Ping tremendous exposure and just as importantly, shed additional light on the game in general."
Ping gave Phelps, who won a record 18 Olympic gold medals, equipment with accents in gold, in addition to red, white and blue.
In the pro-am, he was paired with Masters champion Bubba Watson.
"You can see he's an athlete and he's competitive, so he could be good if he practiced and put some time into it," Watson said. "Any athlete of that level has a chance to be good at another sport."
On the raucous 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale, Phelps' tee shot hit the green but spun off the front, bringing a cascade of boos from the rowdy fans.
--Mark Brown of New Zealand set a course record at Kingston Heath Golf Club near Melbourne, Australia, while winning the Australasian regional qualifying tournament for 142nd Open Championship in July at Muirfield, Scotland.
Brown shot 72-62--134 to earn one of three Open berths available. His score of 10-under-par 62 in round two broke the course's tournament record of 64 set by Ian Poulter in the Talisker Australian Masters in November.
"If there's one major you want to play, for me, this would be it," said Brown, who missed the cut in his only appearance in the Open in 2009 at Turnberry, and whose best performance in a major was 24th at the 2008 PGA Championship at Oakland Hills.
"I made a lot of birdies, and when I was 6 under after nine, it started to get serious. It's massive. I love this place, and I played well here in November (tying for third in the Australian Masters)."
Brown carded an eagle and a birdie in his round of 62, which also bested the non-tournament course record of 63 set by amateur Cruze Strange.
Steven Jeffress of Australia finished second at 68-67--135, and Stephen Dartnall of Australia earned the final available spot in the Open at 67-69--136.
--Annika Sorenstam, a 10-time major champion who captured the Kraft Nabisco Championship three times, will return to the event in the first week of April as host of the pro-am. She'll be a presence throughout the tournament week.
The 42-year-old Sorenstam, who stepped away from the LPGA Tour in 2008 after a Hall of Fame career in order to raise a family, also will play in the pro-am at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
"The Kraft Nabisco Championship has such a rich history, and I'm honored to be able to play a role in its equally exciting future," said Sorenstam, who won 72 times during her career, including the Kraft Nabisco in 2001, 2002 and 2005.
"While I have remained very busy with my young family and business interests since I stopped playing competitively, I will always miss the thrill of tournament week at a major championship. I'm looking forward to being back on the golf course at Mission Hills, spending time with the other players, fans, sponsors and some of my celebrity friends doing whatever I can to contribute to another exciting championship."
Sorenstam, who appears weekly on the "Morning Drive" program on the Golf Channel, will be part of the network's telecasts of the tournament in addition to playing a role in the fundraising efforts benefiting F.I.N.D. Food Bank, the tournament's designated charity.
--Lee Trevino, who rose from poverty in Texas to become a six-time major champion and one of the most engaging personalities in golf, has been selected as recipient of the 2013 Distinguished Service Award by the PGA of America.
Trevino, 73, will receive the award the week of the 95th PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., in a ceremony on Aug. 7 at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center.
"I can't tell you how much I have cherished the PGA and what it meant to have the start I had by having that card in 1967," said Trevino, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.
"I'm as loyal as any individual to the PGA, an organization whose members are called upon to do everything that you can think of, whether it's growing the game, building courses, working behind the counter or playing."
Trevino was born in Dallas and raised by his mother and grandfather, a gravedigger, in a house without running water or electricity. He began picking cotton when he was 5, and later picked up golf balls before becoming a caddie.
After spending four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, Trevino turned professional in 1960, making it to the PGA Tour seven years later at the age of 27.
Trevino claimed the first of his two U.S. Open titles in 1968 at Oak Hill, the first of four instances in which the great Jack Nicklaus finished second to him in a major championship.
In his career, Trevino won 89 times, including 29 titles on the PGA Tour and 39 on the Champions Tour. He claimed two U.S. Opens, two Open Championships and two PGA Championships.
The only major title he did not win was the Masters, with ties for 10th in 1975 and 1985 his best finishes at Augusta National.
During a memorable month in 1971, Trevino captured the U.S. Open on the East Course at Merion, the Canadian Open at Richelieu Valley Golf and Country Club in Quebec, and the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.

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