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Arron Oberholser battling mystery injury

Arron Oberholser stood outside the scoring trailer and rotated his right shoulder without any pain.

Off the course, it’s no problem.

On the course, with a club in his hand, it’s a considerably different story.

For months, Oberholser has felt a sharp ache from the shoulder to his elbow after some swings. He’s been to three doctors, none of whom can identify the problem. A pair of MRI exams showed nothing, except that he’s structurally perfect, and he’ll miss the next two weeks of the Florida Swing while getting treatment in Minnesota.

Countless problems with his back, hand, elbow and wrist have been a hallmark of Oberholser’s tenure on tour.

But this time, the 33-year-old is beyond the point of frustration.

“I’ve been dealing with this my entire career,” Oberholser said. “It’s just one thing after another. I don’t know what it is. I’ve tried ignoring it. So if it hurts or if it doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t feel right. Call a spade a spade. It doesn’t feel right right now.”

It hasn’t for a while.

Oberholser tied for fourth at the PGA Championship last year, then tied for second at the Deutsche Bank three weeks later, earning more than $830,000 from those two events alone.

But his season came to an end in October, when he needed surgery to correct a recurring left-hand injury. He figured a few months off would be enough to fix whatever ailed the shoulder, too.

Turns out, that wasn’t the case.

He was bothered throughout the Accenture Match Play, where he lost 3 and 2 to Tiger Woods in the second round. And at The Honda Classic, Oberholser finished 11 shots behind winner Ernie Els, yet still managed to shoot a tournament-best 65 in the third round on a day where the shoulder was particularly troublesome.

“I feel like I have half the speed and half the strength that I normally have,” Oberholser said. “And if I had to play like this the rest of the year, I’d just as soon take a medical, to be very honest with you. I don’t know if that’s going to need to happen, but no doctor has been successful in diagnosing this problem correctly.”

That’s where Minnesota comes in.

It’s called Accelerated Recovery Performance, a group offering a form of therapy that utilizes an electrical stimulation unit that’s far different from what’s offered at a conventional physical therapy office.

“A little more powerful … a lot more painful,” Oberholser said, noting the product is federally approved, in case there was any doubt.

He’s worked with the ARP staff for several months, also coming to them to correct some back problems last year.

Because he anticipates pain after some swings, Oberholser rushes from the top, never a good thing for a golfer, especially a pro who relies on tempo. Plus, the shoulder is weaker than he’d like, compounding the problem.

“I can’t hold it at the top for any length of time because I’m so weak up there,” Oberholser said. “I feel it pull on the nerve, and once in a while, if I really stretch it out down the line, I get this nerve shot to my elbow, this little dull nerve ache to my elbow. I can’t believe that’s a good thing.”

Clearly, it’s not a good thing.

Where doctors have failed, ARP has apparently succeeded in diagnosing Oberholser’s issue. How to correct it, though, remains anyone’s guess.

“There’s definitely a neurological disconnect, according to them, and I feel the same way,” Oberholser said. “The muscles aren’t getting any signals from the nerve endings in the shoulder.”

Oberholser will be in Minneapolis for at least a few days, skipping the PODS Championship and Bay Hill. His plan is to be back for the CA Championship at Doral, which begins March 20.

Granted, Oberholser—a West Coast guy who abhors the Bermuda greens one finds on the Florida Swing—won’t miss putting on his least-favorite grains over the next two weeks.

But at the same time, he wants to play, whether it’s on poa annua or Bermuda or whatever else.

“There’s no use of me coming out here and competing on one arm,” Oberholser said. “These guys are too good.”


March 4, 2008

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