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He believes that day is coming.
“I hope I’m close,” he said. “You never know with this game. It’s been a frustrating couple years not being able to swing the way I want to swing and practice the way I want to practice.”
Hindering the 31-year-old South African has been a left wrist that suffered from tendinitis in late 2008 and was operated on in late 2009. The subsequent rehab and results have not completely been to Immelman’s liking.
“For the most part this year I’ve been able to get back to working on the things I used to work on back then,” said Immelman, who at this week’s Greenbrier Classic has put himself in contention to win for the first time since that stirring Masters victory.
“I’ve definitely seen signs of improvement. Albeit slow progress, there’s been progress. So I just keep trying to remind myself that I’m 31 and I got a long way ahead of me. Just trying to stay patient and keep things going.”
Immelman can be forgiven if he’s becoming impatient. His last top-10 finish was at the 2008 Tour Championship.
Part of Immelman’s full recovery will be complete confidence in his game.
“Confidence only grows when you shoot 65, when you hit 18 greens in regulation, when you get your name on the leaderboard,” he told the Associated Press late last year. “It’s never fun not playing how you know you can play. You see that in aging athletes. The game peels off strictly because of age, but they know how great they are and it’s tough.”
Immelman says that before the surgery he had started to compensate for the pain, which meant he developed poor swing habits. Following the surgery, Immelman waited six months before he could begin hitting full shots, so it became a matter of relearning his swing.
“So it’s just frustration because I know that I got better golf in me,” he said. “You know, I’ve proved it to myself. So when you’re out there shooting mediocre scores and struggling to make cuts and stuff like that, mentally it’s not ideal.”
With his opening-round 64 at The White Course TPC on Thursday, Immelman recorded his season-low round. Only once this year has Immelman posted successive rounds in the 60′s, that being at the Transitions Championship in March.
On Friday, he posted an even-par 70 that left him a shot off the second-round lead.
Immelman may not win, but he appears headed in the right direction — if only for this week.
Stuart Hall is editor of the Golf Press Association.