In this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Graeme Storm reflects on three years of injury troubles and his biggest motivations ahead of his return to the European Tour.
It feels great to be back this week. It’s been a bit of an up and down journey for me over the last three or four years from winning in South Africa to having three surgeries, so I’m looking forward to getting back to playing.
Everyone knows professional golf comes with a lot of highs and a lot of lows, and I had both in 2017. I won in the play-off in South Africa against Rory McIlroy, which was one of the highlights of my career, but I also began struggling with my wrist.
I first started feeling a bit of discomfort at Wentworth in May time. I played through it with anti-inflammatories and painkillers, but it continued to get worse, and I ended up having a cortisone injection in August. That really helped me get through for a while, but then I hit a tree root in South Africa during the first round of the Nedbank and that kind of kicked it back off again. The physio did an amazing job and I finished in the top ten that week, but then I went to see Doug Campbell and we decided that I’d need to have another injection, and it just didn’t work the second time. For a while I tried to play through the pain, but by April it was just too much and I went under the knife for my first operation.
Facing that decision was difficult. Obviously you want to continue the momentum, but what made the difference for me was that by the time I went to see the surgeon about the possibility of going under the knife I was struggling to grip the club let alone hit the golf ball. I knew I had to do something, so I decided to have key-hole surgery, take a medical exemption and write the rest of the year off.
Everything went really well with the first procedure, I had full mobility, and I’d worked really hard getting myself really fit and strong and working on my golf swing to try and avoid further injury. But then I had a mishap in the build up to coming back in 2019.
On Bonfire Night in November I was with my son and he knocked my wrist, and a little ganglion-like lump appeared. I had another injection to try and reduce it but it didn’t help, and then my wrist went pop when I was practicing on the Tuesday before travelling to Abu Dhabi in 2019, and I had to go straight back under because there was a hole in the ligament that hadn’t healed from the first procedure.
Absolutely gutted to announce that unfortunately my 2018 season looks to be over. I’ll be having wrist surgery on Monday which will put me out of action for up to 6 months. I’ll be doing all I can to come back better and stronger. #nevergivein— Graeme Storm (@stormygraeme) April 27, 2018
From then it just spiralled on and on and on and it never really got better or improved. I wanted to come back and play a bit last year, and after the break decided to start at Close House because I didn’t live that far away and I’d played well in 2017. I managed to finish in the top ten, but I struggled in the next few events I played in because I just couldn’t produce the commitment to strike the ball because my wrist wasn’t feeling my best.
It came to a head again at Wentworth, and I just couldn’t take it. Afterwards I called my surgeon and said I’ve got this pain in my wrist again what can we do, and we decided I would have surgery after New Year to cut the nerves in my wrist. It means I don’t feel any pain anymore, but my wrist will never be how it used to be because I can’t get the same movement.
It’s funny, because I’d never really thought of myself as a feel player before I had this surgery. I didn’t realise but before I used my hands and relied on the hand-eye coordination quite a lot, and obviously I don’t have that same ability so I’ve got to work around it by getting the body stronger, fitter and moving better.
The biggest impact of that is that I’ve had to change my grip a little bit, and retrain certain parts of my swing where I’m trying to control it more with my body and arms being more connected than using my hands as much. It’s a big reason why I’ve focused on fitness through rehab and I’ve worked hard on and off in the gym. I’m now trying to get back into it as lockdown impacted my ability to train in the gym which was difficult, so I’m speaking to the fitness guys at the European Tour Performance Institute about putting a programme together.
The upside of the surgery is that while my wrist doesn’t move as efficiently as it should or used to, I don’t feel pain, so I’m able to psychologically commit to a shot and not worry it’s going to hurt me. Last year I couldn’t hit a bunker shot properly because there would be a lot of pain on impact if I didn’t hit the sand it a different way the impact, but now I can do it without any pain, which is huge.
Time to recuperate once again. As ever I’m determined to get back to the @EuropeanTour and hopefully be able to get my career back on track. It’ll be tough but I’m up for the challenge ahead 💪🏻 pic.twitter.com/BrTDHOHBBR— Graeme Storm (@stormygraeme) January 4, 2021
When I look back now, I think repetition was a huge factor in the original cause of my injury. I’ve been a pro for 21 years now, and I had a big build up of tissue in the middle of the carpal tunnel in the wrist joint – which is just a product of years and years of hitting millions of golf balls, especially off hard links turf and heavy sand in bunkers. There are times where I think I probably practiced too much, or maybe practiced some wrong things, but I also know that if I hadn’t done all of that practice, I wouldn’t have achieved what I have in the game.
I have always been determined to be the best I possibly can, and I’ve always worked hard at trying to be the best I can be. I’m very competitive, I hate losing, and hate the thought of something beating me, so I really work hard to get the best out of myself. Where I’m from in the North East, it’s just the way that we are. We don’t give up, we keep working hard, we keep pushing for things we want, and that was something that was instilled in me from a young age when my grandfather started me off in the game. He knew I had something special and a talent to be good at this game, and he really taught me to never give up, that you’ve got to keep going if you want to make it.
I think I’ve shown that throughout my career, that will and desire to achieve greater things and never give up. I had such a fast start, and I’d still say winning the Amateur Championship was probably the biggest thing for my career because it opened so many doors for me in different ways, getting to play The Masters and The Open, and some European Tour events as an amateur against some of the best players in the world at the time. It catapulted me into a different place than I was expecting, but then after I got my Tour card in 2000, I lost it and really fell off the Richter scale in 2002. I had to rebuild myself, and I rebuilt my swing with Ian Rae to try and get back to where I knew I could be, and I really played well from 2004/5 all the way to 2009. And then I had that great year in 2017.
I think it’s just the will and desire to achieve things in the game that keep me working hard, and that I just love playing. I enjoy what I do away from the golf course, the coaching side of things that I’m doing too, but you can’t beat playing. To be perfectly honest, you miss the interaction too, but the competitive side of it is why we keep practicing.
These days, I’m also doing it for my family. I’ve got two kids: My daughter is 13 and my son is nine now, and while they were fortunate enough to see me win against McIlroy in 2017, they were at home at the time. It was actually funny because I didn’t know at the time but they are big supporters of Rory McIlroy and love watching him, so they were shouting for Rory to win the tournament until my wife was like ‘no, we want daddy to win!’.
Now that they are a bit older I think they would want to experience actually being there watching rather than being in the creche, and I’d really love that feeling of having them at a tournament when we’re allowed again. It would be amazing if I could get anywhere near winning a tournament again, but it would be nice to have them here with me to see me perform and compete with them there.
This week though, I want to enjoy as much as I can and take it for what it is. It’s my first tournament back since Wentworth, the first tournament of the year for me, and I think the main thing I’m going to try and do is knock the rust off. I’ve got good vibes around here – I held the course record here a long time ago – and if I make the cut and I play well, great.
I always had the intention that this was always going to be one of my first tournaments back because I wanted to go to golf courses that I’d played well around before and courses that I knew, so I’m just looking forward to getting going.