PGA Tour veteran Bo Van Pelt's 3-under-par 68 that tied him for 3M Open's eighth place after Friday's second round was so long in coming.
Now 45, he didn't play for nearly four years because of surgeries that repaired a severely torn labrum, cleaned out bone spurs and, because of something rare called "thoracic outlet syndrome," required the removal of a rib 17 months ago.
"I just couldn't play," said Van Pelt, a 2009 winner in Milwaukee who tied for eighth at the Masters and tied for 14th at the U.S. Open in 2011. "My hand started going numb and I thought I was done."
He spent a decade with his coach, Mark Wood, working to develop the feel that won him $2.3 million in 2011.
"To lose all that, I couldn't go back to the same feels," he said. "And I was losing four years of age. You're going from 40 to 44. Like I told my wife and my kids, this is going to be the hardest thing I ever had to do, try to compete out here at 45."
He said he didn't play 18 holes until two weeks before last fall's Safeway Open and calls the three-month pandemic shutdown "huge because I really needed to practice."
Van Pelt tied for 68th in Detroit three weeks ago and withdrew from the Workday Charity Open the next week. On Friday, his five-birdie, two-bogey round put him into contention entering the weekend.
"Even though my results haven't been great, the way I've been playing is a lot better," he said. "It was just hard. I was trying to relearn every kind of feel I had. It's been a process. Finally feeling I'm getting back to where I can compete again."
Bringing it back home
His hometown of Fargo is four hours away, so the 3M Open is the closest thing to a professional homecoming Tom Hoge will find around here.
His wife is from the Twin Cities, his in-laws live here and he won two Minnesota State Amateurs a decade ago. He played like he felt right at home Friday, when his 5-under-par 67 with 40-foot and 30-foot putts made lifted him to 17th place. He missed the cut in five of six events after the PGA Tour restarted from its pandemic pause.
"It just feels nice to be back here at home, especially since we've been stuck in hotels the last two weeks," said Hoge, a former TCU golfer who now lives in Fort Worth. "It's nice to stay with my wife's family and shake things up a little bit. It feels a little more normal."
Just because no spectators are allowed the 3M Open because of the pandemic doesn't mean there aren't any.
Some enterprising homeowners with property that abuts TPC Twin Cities in Blaine set out lawn chairs, erected canopies and had their own golf-watching parties Friday. One gathering adjacent to the sixth green cheered Tony Finau's approach shot and spelled out Minnesota in that "Go Gophers" chant when Tom Lehman, Erik van Rooyen and Tim Herron came by.
"You guys do that very well," Lehman said.
"Thank you," one woman replied. Another said, "We've been waiting for you all day."
Lehman lifted his cap in salute and pumped his fist in the air when others sang the Rouser on the next hole.
• Both 1 under after two days, Lehman and Herron each missed the cut by a shot. Herron three-putted from 49 feet on 18, missing an 8-foot birdie putt that would have sent him to the weekend. Van Rooyen missed it by three shots and Troy Merritt by two. Rich Beem, 2002 PGA champion at Hazeltine, missed by a shot.
• Gophers golfer Angus Flanagan shot 73 both days, missed the cut and is headed Sunday night to the Western Amateur. Flanagan lamented "some silly mistakes" and said, "It's just a learning experience for me. I'm not too disheartened. It's like I'm playing against the guys I've always looked up to."