Dr. Hunt performed surgery on her thumb March 31 after trying several unsuccessful non surgical options. She ended up seeing 4 different hand specialists and tried various braces and gloves to help support the thumb and enable her to swing relatively pain free. However, none of the solutions lasted and eventually her injury crept into real life as she couldn't hold a plate in her hand w/o dropping it. At that point it became apparent she'd have to go the surgery route. Her left thumb surgery ended up being much more complicated than initially thought. Originally, the surgery was supposed to just tighten up tendons and ligaments that were stretched and too loose. Ultimately, when they opened up the hand, they discovered that the ligaments and the surrounding foundation were torn. Also, a tendon on top of the thumb was moved back into place to avoid it falling off completely in the future. Long story short, her thumb was basically reconstructed.
All off this started over a year ago in June of 09 when Paula started feeling her hand bothering her. After a couple of cortisone shots, she managed to play fairly well through the year with a T6 at the Women's Open, T3 at the British and T2 at Lorena's event in Guadalajara. In November, her thumb started acting up at the Tournament of Champions at Houston. Another cortisone shot followed, then the off season. February 18, 2010 on the 16th tee in Thailand, Paula hit a knock down shot on the par 3 and felt her left thumb pop/tear. She played the last 3 holes in tears and at the end wondered if she'd ever play golf again. She withdrew after a first round of 69.
After Dr. Hunt did the surgery, he was very conservative with her time frame for coming back to golf. Paula was in a cast for 3 weeks and then it was 6-8 weeks before she could start hitting balls. She started with putting, added chip and runs, then pitch shots followed with wedges. It was several weeks before she could hit more than a 9 iron.
Given that she had only played 3 rounds of golf leading into the first hole of the Shoprite LPGA, it's pretty amazing she even completed the tournament much less finished in the top 10. I'd have to say those first two rounds of 67-65 were amazing considering what she'd been through. Even though she shot 71 on Sunday, she was in contention for much of the day and had a chance to win. Don't forget that she was in major pain the entire way and had to ice her hand 8-10 times each night after play. I have to say that was one of the grittiest performances I've seen in a long time. I was truly astounded as to the level of play that Paula brought to the week. She couldn't go after shots hard. She couldn't "work" the ball or hit knock down shots. Nevertheless, she stayed within herself and did what she could....and what she could was better than most.
This week Paula is in Rochester, NY for the LPGA Championship presented by Wegmans. I think this week is going to be a huge physical test for Paula. Last week's course was short and she had lots of lofted irons into holes and didn't have to hit out of thick rough. This course is set up in major fashion with narrow fairways and small, firm greens. The rough is going to pose a huge problem to Paula in terms of testing the strength of her hand and forearms. Also, she's going to have to hold back the number of balls she hits and be patient with her shot selection. She will have to monitor the hand daily and be honest with herself when it comes to pushing it too fast and too far.
I sincerely hope Paula can bounce back and play all the events that she desires. However, she should error on the safe side and rest her body rather than push herself to compete in too many events and risk straining more body parts in the long run. I certainly wish her all the best.