Kevin Sutherland is a physically fit world-class athlete who is 65th in PGA Tour career earnings with more than $15 million.
He spent the better part of the past two years diligently rehabilitating a neck injury he suffered in April 2011 that limited him to four tournaments in the past 20 months.
He was ready to kick off his 2013 season and full-time return to tournament golf this week in Palm Springs in the Humana Challenge. Then he hurt his lower back putting on his gym shorts.
He withdrew Friday.
"Kind of silly, I know," Sutherland said, honest to the core and resigned to the fact it was just a matter of time before the cause of his withdrawal would get out.
The good news, the lifelong Sacramentan said, is his neck is good and the tweak to his back should delay his competitive comeback only a week or two.
Sutherland, playing on what the PGA Tour terms a medical extension, is guaranteed entry into 11 tournaments this season. He needs to earn $350,000 in that span to retain his fully exempt status for next season.
He said it's possible he could play next week in San Diego, but it's more likely he will make his 2013 debut in two weeks in Phoenix.
"Right now, I'm knocking on everything that's wood," he said.
Sutherland turns 49 in July, meaning he's 17 months from Champions Tour age. Although his career earnings will give him full Champions Tour status when the time comes, he's not thinking that far ahead.
"One of my goals is to play 15 events, healthy and prepared, this year," he said. "I haven't been able to do that in a year and a half."
Considering that Sutherland has a neck that's too straight, two bad discs and bone spurs inclined to rub against his spinal cord, he said he's in good health. His neck, when managed right, doesn't bother him at all or affect his swing, he said.
"I've been playing without any sort of issues," he said. "I'm 100 percent unless I do too much. Not the same 100 percent I was when I was 25, but relative."
He's super, man
The recent cold snap is wreaking havoc on early-morning players, tee times and car windshields, but it's making little impression on Empire Ranch superintendent Rodney Muller.
"I grew up in Kansas," he said. "This is a winter heat wave. I'm used to it being subzero in the winter and 100-plus in the summer and 90 degrees at night."
On Monday, Muller was named the 2012 Superintendent of the Year by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of Northern California.
Muller, who's been at Empire Ranch for 21/2 years, said the low temperatures work in everybody's favor.
"It slows the growth of the grass," he said. "Less mowing allows us to get to other projects, like remodeling the range, so we're not the same old course every year.
"And as long it doesn't rain, it results in the best fast, firm playing conditions."
He talks the talk
Will Robins will be in the middle of teaching heavyweights such as Dave Stockton and Jim McLean in Orlando, Fla., on Monday, when he speaks at the PGA Teaching & Coaching Summit.
His 30-minute presentation is titled "Coaching the Wave of the Future."
Robins, 33, operates Will Robins Golf, which promotes on-course coaching with multiple students more than swing mechanics and guarantees improvement. The former playing pro operates programs at Empire Ranch and Turkey Creek.
Robins said he was chosen to speak because he's developed "a model of success that really works."