Keeping Score

Lumpy seeks smooth route to senior tour

Tim Herron, Arnold Palmer Invitational 2017
Tim Herron (USA) on the 2nd during the 3rd round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Bay Hill, Orange County, Orlando, Florida,USA. 2017

ORLANDO, Fla. – Who am I?

I have earned $19.3 million in my 24-year PGA Tour career.

I have won four times on the Tour.

I beat Tiger Woods in a 6-and-4 trouncing at the 1992 U.S. Amateur at Muirfield Village.

I shot an even-par 72 in Thursday’s first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, where I won in 1999.

Now after all these clues, if you still can’t identify this player, then his nickname, Lumpy, should give it away.

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Tim Herron

Tim Herron, 49, who is listed at 5 feet 10 inches and 250 pounds, is a little more rotund than in his younger days and fighting Dupuytren's contracture, a hand disease. Herron shook off bogeys on his first three holes at Bay Hill and fought with sheer will back to even par. Driving distance, never a strong suit, is even more of a liability these days for Herron, who is making his fourth start of the season. He averages only 273.5 yards off the tee, which would rank 212th, if he had enough rounds this season.

Starting at 6:45 a.m. in 43 degrees, Herron displayed the game of an out-of-shape middle-age man. He hit driver, 4-iron into the 461-yard, par-4 first; hit rescue club into the 215-yard par-3 second; then missed the fairway on the 419-yard, par-4 third hole.

It was a start that signaled a bad day ahead. Playing in his 554th Tour event, Herron proved to be unfazed. He made four birdies over the last 15 holes and posted a 3-under 33 on the back nine (scores).

“I knew once it warmed up that there would be a couple birdie holes, and I birdied the right holes,” said Herron, who described his mindset as, “just hang in there and keep playing, plugging along.”

Herron, a Minnesota native who still resides in Minneapolis, doesn’t have the opportunity to work on his game as much as his Sun Belt colleagues. With a tie for 42nd at the Puerto Rico Open in his first start of 2019, Herron is sorting out his game as he tries to manage his right hand.

Herron walked Bay Hill’s fairways with a black, non-descript bag and, except for a visor that reads “Facts on Hands,” displayed no other logos or branding on his clothing. That’s the sign of a player biding his time before he turns 50 on Feb. 6 and is eligible for the Champions Tour.

Facts on Hands is a program dedicated to learning more about an incurable disease that, according to Herron, hits those of northern European descent. It runs in the Herron family, with his father and sister afflicted with the disease.

Herron estimates that he hits 80 percent of his shots with his right hand off the club. It makes competing with the newest crop of bombers very difficult.

“It's definitely a bomber's game,” Herron said. “I played with Cameron Champ and Ollie Schniederjans on the back nine on Tuesday. First hole, I hit driver, and they hit irons past my drive. And I'm not like super short. I mean, I can still hit it. I can still smash the ball a little bit. But it's a different game.”

Yet, Herron is looking forward to today’s second round and, he hopes, making the cut for the weekend as he plays the season on past-champion status. With an eye on the Champions Tour next year, he knows that competing against the seniors will have its challenges.

But with a good finish this week, Herron hopes for a positive reshuffle and more starts in 2019. He wants to play the AT&T Byron Nelson in early May in Dallas, and he merits a return to Colonial in late May for the Charles Schwab Challenge after he tied for 11th last year.

"I'll play some Web.com [Tour events],” he said, “just to get tuned up for Champions Tour."

Contemporaries such as Retief Goosen, Jim Furyk, Ernie Els, Steve Stricker and others will make success at the next stage difficult. Aging is a real concern, whether trying to win on the PGA or Champions tours.

“Just getting older, you get more knee, ankle, feet, hand, and every day's a different day,” Herron said. “You just never know if like something in the back or whatever. I guess I probably should have started working out. One day I'll start working out, but I did all right without it.”

Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: alex@morningread.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli


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