Scott Piercy: A study in sheer tenacity and belief in himself

Scott Piercy tied the course record at the Shell Houston Open on Thursday with a sizzling 9-under, 63. The Golf Club of Houston was no match for him. Starting on the back, he got off to a good start with a 13-footer for birdie on the 10th. So he wasn’t surprised when he made a 5-footer on 13 and one from 7 on 18. He probably was a little surprised that that was the beginning of a five-hole birdie run. He finished it off with two more on 6 and 9.

The reason that the game of golf is so addicting is that on Tuesday morning he was discouraged and completely lost. It’s not fair to say that he was completely discouraged because he kept trying. But things were so bad he never saw this dream round coming: 

You know, no, especially how I’ve played the last couple months.  I’ve been pretty frustrated.  I was thinking Tuesday morning I need to go home and not waste my time.

But by Tuesday afternoon, I practiced for like 12, 13 hours on Tuesday, and like in my 13th hour, something kind of clicked and I figured it out, you know.  On Wednesday I kind of ingrained it, kept working on it, got pretty good.  And today was really — today was awesome, it really was.

Yogi was right, “It’s never over until it’s over.” But Tuesday didn’t get salvaged until the very end:

I warmed up for like an hour and a half, hit balls, went out and played, went out for lunch, came out and practiced again for, like, I don’t know, three hours or something, and first two hours of that was pulling my hair out.

And then finally I was like all right, what do I have to do to get this ball in front of me, just get the ball in front of me, make the cut, make some bucks and go have a couple weeks off, try to figure it out. Just started flushing it.

As is almost always true in swing mechanics it was a fundamental that was off that caused him to have to try force the release with his hands rather than just letting them release in the natural course of the swing:

The swing was under the plane and flipping my hands and needed to get more on the plane and not having to flip it. Once I got back on the shaft plane, then I just started nailing it.

Yeah.  I felt good.  It’s a feeling that I’ve had, you know, before when I’ve played really well, you know.

He could barely remember when he was playing really well because he has been fighting to play through an injury that he couldn’t quite place in time. But what he did remember was that before he succumbed to surgery, he was down to playing with one arm:

A lot of [the recent problems] for me still is coming back from my injury.  I’m healthy and I’ve been healthy, but, you know, I played for almost a year with one arm before I had the surgery.  So it’s been two years since I’ve really put a club face on a ball like I know how, like I feel like I should.

I’ve kind of been faking it. I’ve had some good tournaments, you know, even in Hawaii.  I know how to play that golf course, got it around.

But I haven’t had a day or a week or weeks or a stretch where I flushed it and really knew where my ball was going like today.

So, it’s definitely, hopefully it’s the change for me, keep going, and it’s a familiar feel and it’s just been two years since I’ve really done it well…I think I got hurt around the Byron Nelson two years ago.

That went back to 2013:

I played all the way through until the match play of last year.  And then I had surgery the week after match play, and I was out for six months until I think Augusta.  My first Tour event was Canada.  So I had surgery the end of February, and I think Canada is end of July, does that sound right?

So, I was out for about six months right there.  Then, you know, I didn’t have — I’m healthy again because this week I did practice so much.  I haven’t practiced like this in two years.

And then when he described the details of the injury, you wonder how he was ever able to play again:

It’s been building.  You know, I’m only just over a year out of surgery, so it’s — you know, regaining the muscles and they took muscle out because it was detached.

I had muscle come off the elbow, bone, right here.  They took muscle out, drilled the bone, and then they sewed it all back together to kind of form as one since they had taken some out.

Takes like six months for a new cell to become good tissue.  So, I mean, I’m beating it up hitting balls and stuff like that.  You know, a good year, year and a half is probably when I’m going to start feeling like I don’t have to worry about it anymore.

And as is sometimes the case, this whole thing was strung out because of a missed diagnosis:

It was kind of sudden, but, you know, it was just tight at first, and then I had a couple MRIs that didn’t show anything.  Finally I had a third with contrast where they shoot like dye in you.  And as soon as they saw with the dye, they’re like “You have to have surgery.”  I should have done that first, because I wouldn’t have played for ten months with one arm.

The muscle apparently just pulled loose:

Yeah.  All the muscles from your hands, all of them attach right there (indicating) and just one of them kind of came off and hurts.

Yeah, like an explosion on my elbow every time I hit a ball.  I couldn’t — I couldn’t like wipe my face like this (indicating).  I wouldn’t do that.  Otherwise, it would bring me to my knees.

I had a couple cortisone shots, thinking that will knock it out.  But it would help for a week, maybe two, and, you know, after I had my second one, you’re not supposed to have them but one or two a year so — they weren’t getting better.  Golf was not a lot of fun then.

And it didn’t get much more fun as he continued to come back. But in this story, you get a sense of just how good a player he was; he was still playing with one arm!

It wasn’t Scott Piercy that I know I can be.  Like today is like that’s what I expect, do you know what I’m saying?  Like I know I can do that.  I can go sort of just overpower a golf course, which I’m not going to say I overpowered it.  But I just said it.  I flushed it.  I had all my power.

You know, early on it was — when I came back, it was more like let’s get it around.  We got a [go-to] shot, I can get it around.  It wasn’t full power.  It wasn’t — it was like I didn’t have gears three, four, and five.  I had gears one and two.  Do you know what I’m saying?

So once I kind of got my medical settled and all good, then it started really frustrating me that I hadn’t found my other gears.  That make sense?

It was all contingent on being able to practice in his normal manner, but that wasn’t in the immediate cards:

Just being able to practice enough, you know, because you beat it up pretty good.  Being able to put the time in to really be able to practice, to figure it out, to find it, you know what I’m saying, is — you know, I played pretty good when I came back.  It was practicing smarter, not, you know, longer.

But things have been looking up of late in the pain department:

I’m not going to say it’s completely gone, but it doesn’t bother me.

Piercy’s journey appears to have moved into the “happily-ever-after” mode. But when you first come across his story, you wonder how he ever managed.

Pretty much sheer tenacity and belief in himself.

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