LOS CABOS, Mexico – For Maverick McNealy, absence made the heart grow fonder.
The 27-year-old Stanford grad is making his return to the PGA Tour on Thursday at the World Wide Technology Championship after being sidelined for nearly five months with a left shoulder injury.
“I know it’s a cliché,” he said. “I have the coolest job in the world and I realized that when I wasn’t able to play here. It’s really easy to lose sight of that when you get wrapped up in the FedEx Cup and the world rankings and all this other stuff.”
McNealy tore the anterior sterno-clavicular ligament in his left shoulder during the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am in February. During the second round, while playing the seventh hole at Monterey Peninsula Club’s Shore Course, he remembers a long wait in cold weather and then making a “funny swing,” in which his swing got too steep, leading to being stuck underneath and having to shallow late to get his shoulder back in position.
“Doing that repeatedly while slamming a metal rod in the ground wasn’t really good for my body,” he said.
He ranked 26th in the FedEx Cup standings when he injured himself. He tried rest and to play on for a few months before shutting it down in June after missing the cut at the RBC Canadian Open. Surgery wasn’t necessary.
“The doctors said that would have been like hanging a wall picture frame with a sledgehammer,” he said.
The recovery process consisted of physical therapy and regenerative stem-cell treatment, which accelerated the healing process. Three days after the treatment, he had a golf club in his hand, beginning with a pitch count of 15 balls swinging from hip to hip and slowly worked back up to a full volume of practice and play about a month ago.
McNealy also made changes to his swing mechanics to make sure he doesn’t put as much stress on the joint in his shoulder. McNealy worked on trying to be “less steep to shallow” with his golf swing and staying behind the ball. With his instructor Butch Harmon no longer traveling to Tour events, McNealy sought a second set of eyes when he’s on the road and began working with instructor Scott Hamilton at the Valspar Championship.
“It’s more of a complementary relationship than a replacement,” he said.
McNealy took a break from…