An anonymous PGA TOUR pro says that three quarters of the injuries on TOUR are fake. Players, he says, are gaming a system that pays up to $10,000 a month in disability and allows them to cherry pick tournaments as their “rehab.” Those tournament cherry pickers, he says, hurts guys on the margin, who find themselves in line for tournament spots behind the medical exemption guys.
If you’re seriously hurt, you should have to go see a PGA Tour-approved doctor. I’ve heard rookies—fit guys in their early 20s—talk openly about the best timing to declare a medical. It has become a strategy to hold on to a card! For every legitimate injury out here, there are probably three that are bogus. But the fact is, I’m part of a small minority that is directly affected. Fully exempt players don’t really care, because they get into the tournaments they want. Tournament directors aren’t bothered, because the guys getting into their fields on medicals tend to be more famous names. But it’s not right. And nothing will change until a player whose name carries weight, a McIlroy or a Mickelson, stands up on behalf of the guys playing hard to stay afloat. If you knew my name, it wouldn’t change a thing.
There’s a guy who won the U.S. Open on one leg because he knew he could. But if your game is slipping and you just can’t get things to click, maybe that wrist or shoulder starts to ache that much more. The PGA Tour needs to create a truly fair system so that young guys can carve their paths unhindered by those playing the game off the course.
The whole affair sounds scandalous, but I am not sure that the average fan cares. As long as there’s a nice selection of stars on any given weekend, few fans question whether someone who is there on a medical exemption has shut out a rising talent. The TOUR, however, should be concerned. There will come a time when Tiger and Phil are no longer winning Majors, and then no longer winning tournaments. To sustain long term interest, the TOUR needs to ensure that it has a stable of stars ready to move in, and that means lots of young guys need to get the opportunity fore exposure. But if the next face of golf is stuck behind a medical malingerer, that won’t happen.