The last 18 months have tested Lanto Griffin’s patience. He felt stuck in a perpetual state of getting kicked while he was down. And he couldn’t get up.
First, it was a ruptured disc in his lower back. Then he fractured a rib. Finally feeling fully healthy earlier this fall, Griffin’s putting stroke, usually a strength of his game, abandoned him.
So Thursday’s opening round at the Shriners Children’s Open was a sight for Griffin’s sore eyes (and body). He carded seven birdies and an eagle to shoot 7-under 64. He trails leader J.T. Poston by one shot.
“It’s nice to see a light at the end of the tunnel,” Griffin said.
His issues started back in May 2020. That’s when Griffin initially ruptured his L5-S1 disc. In January 2022, it ruptured again, this time more severely. He managed it quite well, holding a spot in the top 50 of the FedExCup through May. But by the John Deere Classic in July, Griffin could no longer swing a golf club because of the pain. He underwent surgery and was sidelined for six months.
He returned this January for the Farmers Insurance Open, a decision he now says was premature. At the time, he thought he was healthy. He wasn’t. He fractured a rib and pulled some muscles in his mid-back less than a month later at The Genesis Invitational. That sidelined him for an additional two months.
He realizes now he was in discomfort for so long that he didn’t truly know what it felt like to be unencumbered by pain. It’s a feeling he finally experienced this summer.
“I feel like 10 years younger than I did a year ago,” said Griffin, who has embraced new healing methods like cryotherapy to make his return.
His comeback was muted, however, because of a cold putter. Usually steady on the greens, Griffin’s feel with the flatstick was nonexistent. He went from a dependable putter (ranked inside the top 40 in SG: Putting in each of the last two years), to well below average (he entered this week 96th). He missed the cut in seven of 11 starts until he made a pivotal change ahead of last week’s Sanderson Farms Championship.
Scott Hamilton, a well-known coach on TOUR, noticed Griffin’s posture had him leaning too far out over the ball. They implemented a simple fix on the eve of Griffin’s first round, moving him further from the ball and getting his chest a bit higher.
“It was like a light switch,” said Griffin, who led the field in SG: Putting and finished T28 at Sanderson Farms. “I went from having no confidence to seeing a stroke on video and feeling like I could make everything.”
That carried through to his opening round at TPC Summerlin this week. Griffin gained 3.5 strokes on the greens, second-best in the field, to card his lowest round since May 2022. He made a birdies from 27 feet on No. 2, 8 feet on No. 3 and 17 feet on No. 6. He chipped in for another birdie on the seventh hole as part of a front-nine 32. The highlight of his back nine was a 24-footer he holed from just off the green for eagle on No. 15.
“It’s crazy the anxiety of when you’re playing bad and your body doesn’t feel good. It feels like everything is going against you. Nothing feels good. It’s not the most fun sport. But it’s the exact opposite when the putter is rolling and your body feels good, it’s the exact opposite. It feels amazing,” Griffin said.
Griffin is in the last year of his winner’s exemption from the 2020 Houston Open. However, he doesn’t have the same stress that others face this fall. Because of his injuries, Griffin will have about a dozen starts left on his major medical that he can use next year. For now, that means he’s just trying to improve in the FedExCup Fall standings as much as he can. He entered the week 188th. His position after the first round has him projected to move to 126th. If he can get inside the top 125, great.
If not, he feels confident in securing it next year. It’s rounds like Thursday’s that inspire that confidence.
“I’ve been working hard,” he said, “And I knew it was going to come back eventually.”
Source : PGA Tour