It’s been 587 days since Greg Chalmers last played a PGA TOUR event and now another crucial countdown begins.
This week’s The American Express at the Stadium Course at La Quinta in California is the first of seven events Chalmers can play on a medical extension, an extension granted on the basis of a back injury he thought could have ended his playing career.
When Chalmers shot 80-79 at the FedEx St Jude Classic in June 2018 he not only missed the cut, he finished dead last among those to complete 36 holes.
It was the last straw in his efforts to play on despite crippling back pain, pain that would later be diagnosed as arthritis in his spine and every joint in his lumbar spine as well as a torn ligament in Chalmers’ spine that went undiagnosed for more than six months.
Such was his despair the two-time Australian Open and Australian PGA champ enquired with coaches around his home in Dallas about the possibility of moving into a coaching role but arrived home over the summer a reinvigorated 46-year-old, a top-five finish at the Australian Open followed by a tie for 15th at the Australian PGA Championship.
In order to regain full status on the PGA TOUR Chalmers needs to earn 244.707 FedEx Cup points in the seven events available to him – the winner this week receives 500 – and is hopeful that he can play his way into a fuller schedule at least by the end of the year.
“I’ve got seven starts left on a medical and that’s my expectation right now, play my seven,” Chalmers explained.
“Depending on when I finish, though, and how I play, I could get four or five more starts in Reno, for example, or Barbasol or John Deere.
“There are some events that will pop up along the way so I could get 10 to 12 starts, which starting in January, you’re looking at maybe two starts a month, which wouldn’t be too bad for me after having 18 months off.
“Depending on how I go, I’m exempt into the Playoffs to get your card back on the Korn Ferry Tour, so I’ve got those three playoff events placed on previous performance.”
In addition to enhanced physical performance, Chalmers is also seeing the benefits of working with Bradley Hughes, a former Aussie tour player with a burgeoning reputation as an instructor.
Bringing Brendon Todd back from the abyss has elevated Hughes’s status as one of the hottest instructors in world golf and has Chalmers striking the ball as well as he ever has.
“For me, there was always a lot of room for improvement [with my ball-striking] and he came to me in Dallas at my home club,” Chalmers said.
“In two rounds we played together I shot 9-under with no bogeys and I was very pleased and excited.
“I said, ‘Mate, that’s the best I’ve ever hit it.’ Now, he’s a great ball-striker and to him, he said, ‘It looks kind of normal to me.’
“But for me it was really exciting.
“I told him, ‘Look, I don’t have time to rebuild the ark, I have a shorter window here, can you help me with my ball-striking without me taking years to get that done?’ He said, ‘Absolutely. I’ve taken a look at what you’re doing, I think I can help you.’
“It’s pretty simple stuff but very effective. Getting better use out of my feet and my groundwork, and then better position with my hands and path with the club through the ball.
“It’s led to better ball-striking and that’s important for me. If I can strike it even marginally better with my short game, it’s going to see some good results.
“I’m excited about the future.”
Played for almost 20 years as the Bob Hope Classic, Chalmers’ best result in the California desert pro-am came in 2011 when he was tied for 11th, Bruce Devlin (1970) the only Australian victor in the tournament’s history.
The other Aussies in the field this week across the three courses are John Senden, Aaron Baddeley, Cameron Percy, Cameron Davis, Rhein Gibson along with Kiwi pair Danny Lee and Tim Wilkinson.
See below for all the Aussie tee times on the PGA TOUR, European Tour and Asian Tour this week.
Round 1 tee times (AEDT)
SMBC Singapore Open
Sentosa Golf Club, Singapore
10.40am Marcus Fraser, Hiroyuki Fujita, Amir Nazrin
10.40am* Andrew Dodt, Yosuke Asaji, Phachara Khongwatmai
10.50am Terry Pilkadaris, Danny Chia, Daijiro Izumida
11am Michael Hendry, Jack Harrison, Ryuji Masaoka
11.10am Jake Higginbottom, Joshua Shou, Chan Shih-chang
11.20am David Bransdon, Jyoti Randhawa, Yosuke Tsukada
11.40am Won Joon Lee, Danthai Boonma, Nicklaus Chiam (a)
12pm David Gleeson, Hung Chien-yao, Jeongwoo Ham
12.20pm* Aaron Pike, Taewoo Kim #1468, Marc Ong
12.30pm Josh Younger, Inhoi Hur, Malcolm Kokocinski
3.20pm Daniel Nisbet, Taehee Lee, Poom Saksansin
3.30pm* Travis Smyth, Aman Raj, Naoki Sekito
4.10pm* Adam Bland, Todd Baek, Janne Kaske
4.30pm* Matthew Griffin, Thitiphun Chuayprakong, Tatsuya Kodai
4.50pm* David Micheluzzi, Eric Sugimoto, Koki Shiomi
5.20pm Dylan Perry, Tomoyasu Sugiyama, Wee Jin Low (a)
Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship
Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Abu Dhabi
2.50pm Jason Scrivener, Andy Sullivan, Scott Jamieson
3pm Scott Hend, Chris Wood, Richard McEvoy
3.20pm Zach Murray, Zander Lombard, Ashley Chesters
3.30pm* Lucas Herbert, Guido Migliozzi, Julien Guerrier
7.25pm* Wade Ormsby, Marcus Kinhult, Steven Brown
8.15pm Ryan Fox, Alvaro Quiros, Thomas Aiken
The American Express
Stadium Course, La Quinta, California
4.10am* Greg Chalmers, Troy Merritt
4.30am Cameron Percy, Ricky Barnes
5.10am Aaron Baddeley, James Hahn
La Quinta Country Club
4.30am Tim Wilkinson, David Hearn
5.30am* Rhein Gibson, Wes Roach
Nicklaus Tournament Course
4.40am John Senden, Peter Malnati
4.50am Danny Lee, Robert Streb
5.30am* Cameron Davis, Doug Ghim
* Starting from 10th tee