Co-leader Garrigus stands up to demons

Some have told him not to talk about it, about the drug addiction, the rehabilitation, the demons, the struggles, the times when hitting a golf ball presented a challenge depending on how many times he had been high a particular day.

Ten times.

Those were the crazy days.

Robert Garrigus doesn’t pause when recounting his journey, certain that if his story helps in the recovery of another, such honesty is worth any fallout, endorsements or otherwise.

"I don’t care," he said. "I don’t care what companies think of me. It’s a more positive thing than negative. I’ve come 100 miles."

He came to TPC Summerlin on Thursday and shot a first-round 64, a 7-under-par effort that has Garrigus tied atop the leaderboard at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

If late Sunday afternoon arrives and Garrigus stands on the final hole with a lead, expect him to draw from the worst kind of experience. He hasn’t won a PGA Tour event but should have in June at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn., where he inexplicably lost a three-shot lead with a hole left and was eliminated in a playoff.

He finished tied for second and earned nearly $500,000. Had he won, it would have been twice that. He needed just a double bogey on 18 to hoist a trophy and receive all the accolades and perks a PGA winner is bestowed.

He tripled it.

"Kind of nice when you have a job where you make half a million dollars and you’re furious," Garrigus said. "It was really hard after Memphis. Everyone was like, ‘Hey, great playing.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, I know, but whatever.’ Memphis was a steppingstone. I can win. I know I can do it. I know I can. If I can get over that mental hurdle to do it, I’m going to win a lot out here. I feel like I can."

You have to like his chances overcoming any mental lapses on a golf course.

Think about what he has overcome in life.

He took drugs for years and spent most of the time denying it, playing his way through tours such as the Nationwide and Hooters and Gateway. But a late-night TV commercial for a rehabilitation center in San Diego caught his eye in 2003 and probably saved his life. He stayed 45 days. Two years later, he earned his PGA card through qualifying school.

He is 32 and says he won’t go back to those dark places, that it’s OK to tell his story because never again will he be tempted enough to fall so low. You hope as much. He and wife Ami welcomed a son in September, and Garrigus thinks about the day when he can offer the type of guidance his late father didn’t.

Tom Garrigus won a silver medal in trapshooting in the 1968 Olympics and was the one to teach his son how to hunt and fish and throw a baseball around the family home in Oregon, which Robert did well enough as a teenager to hit 85 mph. But what he learned in physical skill, Robert lacked when seeking and receiving emotional guidance.

"It’s kind of nice to right some wrongs that he didn’t do," Robert said. "I’d like to be there for my son, to tell him, ‘Hey, it doesn’t matter who you are or how much money you have, you’re the same as everybody else.’ It’s kind of nice to have that chance.

"When I went through the rehab center, they told me it would be the hardest thing I would go through in my life. It was. Losing that golf tournament (in Memphis) wasn’t that bad. I’ve overcome bigger things than that. It makes a big difference that I’m sober and doing all this, because there is no way in hell I’d be able to go out and play every day and be healthy and there for my wife and child if I was still doing all that other stuff."

If late Sunday afternoon arrives and Garrigus stands on the final hole with a lead, expect the guy who ranks 122nd on the money list and has returned to using a 28-inch putter to perhaps recall the tee shot that found water, the drop, the shot in the trees, the drive to start a playoff that was perfect until rolling behind another tree, the nightmare that was Memphis.

Then expect him to quickly dismiss it.

Some struggles just aren’t worth carrying around.

Others are worth not only talking about but never forgetting.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 2 to 4 p.m. Monday and 2 to 3 p.m. Thursday on "Monsters of the Midday," Fox Sports Radio 920 AM.

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