The Loop

Shoulder Surgery For Shaun Micheel

They may not be sharing the same operating room but Shaun Micheel and Atlanta Braves' pitcher John Smoltz will be sharing the same surgeon Tuesday in Birmingham, AL, when the 2003 PGA Champion has his left shoulder operated on by renowned orthopedic surgeon, Dr. James Andrews, while the future Hall of Fame pitcher has his right shoulder surgically repaired. Both will be season ending, and hopefully career-prolonging, procedures.

Micheel has been experiencing problems since last year but it was only recently that the shoulder became painful. "Last year my shoulder was making lots of noises," Micheel said after missing the cut in the Stanford St. Jude Championship in his hometown of Memphis, TN. "It pops every time when I swing. I saw Dr. Andrews the Monday after the Players Championship."

The initial MRI and diagnosis of a torn labrum and torn biceps tendon was made in Jacksonville. "The only reason I had it looked at is because I was playing with Zach Johnson on Sunday at Charlotte and he saw me rub my shoulder and asked me what that noise was when I hit. He thought I was hitting like the top of my hat or something like that." As it turned out, Dr. Frank Jobe was also at the Players Championship, looked at the MRI and immediately called Dr. Andrews to set up an appointment. Micheel's surgery was originally scheduled for the week of the Memorial Tournament but he opted to continue playing until a conversation with Jack and Barbara Nicklaus changed his mind.

"It's just a career choice. Do you try to play and do more damage? I've just been trying to play. I thought I was on to some things. I've been putting very well and that's been kind of keeping me around," said Micheel who has only made five cuts in 16 events this year and is 159th on the money list. "The last couple of weeks, some of the things are starting to catch up to me. I have a bad attitude. It's just frustrating, with this being the last year of my five-year exemption. Injuries never come at a good time. I don't care if you won 20 times or once. They just never come at a good time. You're trying to compete at a high level against these guys. It's mental, too. I've had a lot of stuff going on off the golf course this year with my former manager, having to sue him, with the drug testing policy because I take a banned substance (for low testosterone) and the shoulder."

It may be as long as four months before Micheel can touch a golf club. "When you have the best orthopedic doctors looking at you basically saying you need to get this fixed, I don't really have much option," Micheel said. "I was fighting it. I was really fighting it. I seemed to be the only person who didn't want to have it." Since this is the last year of Micheel's PGA Championship exemption, he'll get 13 events on a major medical exemption next season to make enough money to qualify as one of the top 125.

--Jim Moriarty