EDMOND — If Scott Verplank is healthy, he’ll be one of the favorites to contend at the 2014 U.S. Senior Open on July 10-13 at Oak Tree National.
A four-time All-American at Oklahoma State in the 1980s, Verplank will make his Champions Tour debut on a course he says he could drive blindfolded.
“My golf game hasn’t been very good as of late, but I continue to work at it,” Verplank said. “It’s really cool to play your first (Champions Tour) event, much less a major, on your home course. I’m doing everything I can to try and get back to where I want to be.”
Verplank, who turns 50 the day before the U.S. Senior Open, appeared to be a rising star on the PGA Tour following a star-studded career at OSU.
He won seven national amateur events. Verplank became the first amateur since 1956 to win a PGA Tour event when he won the 1985 Western Open, but he’s spent much of the past three decades battling an assortment of injuries.
The Dallas native has undergone five surgeries — two on his right elbow, one on his left elbow, one on his left wrist and one on his right thumb. He’s also battled a shoulder injury and a foot issue.
A wrist injury has been his most pressing issue since the last time he was in the national spotlight.
Three years ago, at age 48, Verplank was one shot off the lead at the 2011 PGA Championship with two holes to play.
“I remember standing on the tee box tied with Keegan Bradley. (Jason) Dufner was behind us going through a disaster,” Verplank said. “I was trying to make birdies. On 17, I hit my ball just short on the rock wall and it bounced into the water.
“Bradley hits his ball in the middle of the green and makes a 40-footer to win the tournament in a playoff. I’m not saying I would have won, but I was playing that caliber of golf. Two weeks later, I couldn’t hang onto a golf club my wrist hurt so bad. I was so depressed.”
Verplank opted to undergo surgery, but his wrist hasn’t been the same the past three years.
“It’s difficult to get on track when it’s difficult to feel well enough just to practice,” Verplank said. “When my body deserts me, I get so inconsistent. I still hit some great golf shots on the range when I feel like I’m a tour pro. Then I get on the course and it doesn’t take very long for my body to remind me it’s difficult to be consistent.
“I’m not very good at taking time off to let my body heal. That’s a good and bad trait. It’s good that I grind, but it’s bad that I sometimes don’t take enough time off.”
Verplank already has proven he can battle back. Hampered by his lengthy list of injuries, Verplank completely fell off the PGA grid.
In the mid-1980s, he missed 24 consecutive cuts, 37 of 39 over a two-year span.
His comeback took flight when he won the 2000 Reno-Tahoe Open to snap a 12-year title drought. The following year he won the 2001 Canadian Open.