MYRTLE BEACH — Prior to left elbow issues that developed beginning in 2010, Conway native Kristy McPherson was a rising force on the LPGA Tour.
She improved from 95th on the money list in her rookie season of 2007 to 47th in ’08 and 16th in ’09, when she finished in the top five in a pair of majors — tying for second in the Kraft Nabisco Championship and fifth in the McDonald’s LPGA Championship.
The positive results of rehabilitation from elbow surgery on Nov. 20 have her optimistic that she can return to that high level of play in the near future.
“Everything is good. It’s coming along,’’ McPherson said.
“It’s nice to see the progress.’’
The surgery is forcing McPherson to skip the LPGA’s opening events in Australia, Thailand and Singapore. She plans to return for the first three events in the states, beginning with the $1.5 million RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup in Phoenix on Thursday.
McPherson’s surgery repaired medial and lateral tears affecting ligaments on both sides of her elbow, as well as restrictive and painful scar tissue.
Her rheumatoid juvenile arthritis exacerbates injuries and complicates recovery.
She tried the new Tenex FAST Technique, which is a less invasive alternative to Tommy John surgery with a shorter rehabilitation period.
FAST is an acronym for Fasciotomy and Surgical Tenotomy, and the surgery was performed by sports orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews’ associate Dr. Joshua Hackel, with Andrews overseeing the surgery.
McPherson is ahead of schedule in rehab. She was told it would be between four and six months before she returned to play competitively, and the Phoenix event will be right on four months.
She estimates she’s hitting the ball at 90 percent strength.
“I have three more weeks to get it stronger and where I need to be,” she said.
McPherson expects to begin her season with a brace on her left arm. Though the tears have been repaired, she has pain at the top of her forearm, which doctors believe will dissipate in the coming months.
Since the 2009 season, when McPherson earned more than $800,000 and played on the victorious U.S. Solheim Cup Team, she fell to 27th on the money list in 2010, 56th in 2011 and 82nd in 2012, with nearly $90,000 earned in 23 tournaments.
She feels rejuvenated by the forced break from the game. Her struggles over the past couple years sapped her confidence.
“I kind of needed it,’’ McPherson said. ``Nobody likes to have surgery, but bad golf is no fun. The last couple years have been bad. It’s no fun to tee it up and feel you can’t go win the golf tournament. You don’t want to have excuses, but it’s nice to know there was a reason as well.”