U.S. Open motivates Marino for PGA Tour return
UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. -- Story time from brighter days, the scene a popular restaurant in the Jupiter, Fla., area, Ernie Els walking in to be greeted by the owner. Pointing to a gentleman sitting at a high-top and enjoying lunch, the owner says, "Ernie, you must know Steve. He's a pro golfer, too."
"Really, what tour do you play on?" Els said.
"Your tour," Steve Marino responded, "and I'm 25 spots ahead of you on the money list."
Els howled with laughter, sat down with Marino, and a friendship was forged.
Ah, the good ol' days, when Marino was a steady presence on the PGA Tour, so solid that he piled up $8,889,286 and 21 top 10s from 2007 to '11. So good that he led the 2009 Open Championship at Turnberry through 36 holes. It was a show ultimately stolen by 59-year-old Tom Watson, of course, but a cameo role belonged to Marino, his long strides and confident manner making for a nice storyline.
Then, it started to turn. First, an operation on his left knee. Then, "when finally my left knee started feeling better, I broke my left leg and tore ligaments in my left ankle," Marino said. "I jumped out of my boat onto a sandbar and into a hole."
From 2012 to '14, Marino played in just 31 PGA Tour tournaments, the last ones using up his medical extension so that by the start of 2014-15 he could play a few tournaments on the Web.com Tour. He wasn't even sure how. "Some sort of weird status," Marino said, laughing.
In his second tournament, Marino lost in a playoff in Colombia. Disappointing, yes, but the good news is, it virtually assured him of solid status with the re-shuffle. He has parlayed it into some decent play and sitting 12th on the money list, Marino is in position to re-gain his PGA Tour card for 2015-16.
But that's for down the road. Right now, Marino is focused on Chambers Bay and the U.S. Open, his first tournament on the PGA Tour since the Wyndham Classic last August. He got in as the first alternate out of the Dallas site, having shot 67-68 at the Northwood Club to miss by one.
It's his first U.S. Open since 2012 and The Olympic Club. When asked if the grueling Chambers Bay site was perhaps too much on his left leg, Marino shook his head.
"That's not an issue anymore. I'm good, a hundred percent good with all that," Marino said.
Since we saw him last, Marino had somehow turned 35. He laughed. "Older and wiser," he said.
But turning serious, his practice round Wednesday with Matt Every, Billy Horschel and Charley Hoffman did nothing but whet his appetite for a return to the PGA Tour stage. His five successful years never produced a victory, but there were so many positives that Marino knows he belongs. Better still, he knows he and his game are healthy.
"I'm playing pretty good. I'll be back there," he said.
As early as this week, at the grueling U.S. Open? Marino nodded his head slowly in agreement. "I'm playing pretty good. I might get up there. I think I might."
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