After four rounds in the cold, wind, and rain, Na Yeon Choi could take no more.
For six weeks, the South Korean had been battling pain in her lower back, evident in her 11-over par performance at the season’s fourth major. Choi was helped off the 18th green at Turnberry Golf Club following weekend rounds of back-to-back 76’s, leaving her in a tie for 61st and matching her worst finish of the season.
She hasn’t played in a Tournament since.
“I think it was just a result of the golf over time,” Choi told LPGA.com via email. “Honestly, it started to hurt during the rain delay in the first round at Walmart, and then all the travel made it worse.”
Now 10 weeks removed from Turnberry, Choi returns to action at home in Korea at the LPGA KEB-Hana Bank Championship, where she won back-to-back in 2009 and 2010 and finished runner-up in 2011. Perhaps those good memories will help to offset her still feeling less than 100 percent.
“I’m getting better now, I did a lot of rehab training and now I feel about 80 percent better,” said Choi. “The doctor suggested three times a week but I did it five times a week and twice a day. I tried to focus on my core and back muscles.”
Choi has missed five events since August, but says she knew taking two months away from the Tour was necessary to get healthy.
“I haven’t touched a golf club for eight weeks,” said Choi. “But two weeks ago I slowly started to hit balls again.”
With a hot start to the season, Choi looked to be on track for a repeat of 2010, when she won twice on Tour, captured the Vare Trophy and the money title. At this season’s opening Coates Golf Championship, Choi stole Lydia Ko’s thunder by winning down the final stretch on Sunday for the eighth win of her career. In June, Choi won again in style with a thrilling hole out for eagle on the 16th hole on Sunday to capture the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship and scoop the win out from under hometown favorite Stacy Lewis. All week long the Tournament was plagued with weather delays, with downpours of rain sending players into the clubhouse for hours at a time, left sitting and waiting. But the skies opened up on Sunday with blue skies and sunshine for Choi’s ninth career win. And while Choi was all smiles at the trophy presentation, she had already been in pain for days.
After Arkansas, Choi had a week off to rest before heading to Pennsylvania for the U.S. Women’s Open, where she again battled weather delays and Mother Nature. The 2012 champion finished T-26, a career worst in USGA event. She skipped the next two tournaments before returning at the RICOH Women’s British Open, only to struggle to a T-61 for another career worst. It was time to seek treatment.
“I felt so many things these past two months, it feels like it has been two years,” said Choi. “In the last two months, I thought that my health is the highest priority, so my goal is just to stay in shape. I’m just happy I can hit a golf ball!”
Choi returns at a time in the schedule that particularly suits her game, having captured four of her nine LPGA Tour victories during the final stretch of the season.