How this pro tore up a fingernail, had it removed and is contending

Tyler McCumber

Tyler McCumber's adjusted putting grip during the Genesis Invitational.

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Tyler McCumber hit his tee shot Saturday on the par-3 6th hole at Riviera Country Club, and when he knew his ball would drop near its target 190 yards away, he slid his club down through his hands. The iron slipped through his right fingers as smoothly as his shot — he hit his ball to within 12 feet. The slide on the left found a little friction.

McCumber was contending at the Genesis Invitational, four days after he had accidentally ripped off half the fingernail on his left index finger, then opted for a procedure, then wrapped his finger, shoved it through a hole he made in his golf glove and teed it up. But not everything was going smoothly. 

“Making good work of it, though,” analyst and former pro Notah Begay said Friday on Golf Channel’s Golf Central. “Maybe allowing him to stay focused on the golf and try and forget the pain because he’s got to be in a lot of discomfort making those golf swings with that big bandage on his finger.”

Contending, not surprisingly, can be a cure-all.

McCumber and his nine-and-a-half fingernails opened with a four-under 67 on Thursday, followed it up with a 68 on Friday and started Saturday in the final grouping. He was two under through six before three bogeys and a double put him six shots behind leader Sam Burns when their rounds were suspended due to darkness on the 13th.

“You just kind of adapt a bit,” McCumber said Friday. “It’s pretty wild how quickly the body does adapt to things.”

On Tuesday morning, for example, McCumber’s fingernail was hanging from his finger. 

Before leaving his hotel room for Riviera, McCumber said he opened a sliding window, it caught his finger, and “it went underneath the back of the nail bed and lifted half of the back of the nail up.” 

“It was pretty torn up,” he said. 

That night, McCumber was hitting balls on the range. He had finally gotten to Riviera, where the surgeon on site was a hand specialist with a question. 

Tyler McCumber hits a tee shot on Saturday on the 5th hole at Riviera Country Club.

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“So he gave me the option: He said we can bandage it up — obviously you can’t play because it’s just too painful — or we can do a procedure where we just rip off the nail, but half of the nail is still intact. So he numbed the finger and ripped off the nail,” said McCumber, who also had the procedure videotaped. “Basically I was able to kind of see if I could hit balls that next day and I was.”

Which surprised him. McCumber had booked a flight from Los Angeles, then changed it after the procedure. He said he’s really had to adjust only his left-hand glove. It now has four-and-a-quarter fingers — pinkie, ring, middle and thumb, with a little remaining for the index. His bandaged finger pops through a hole. The glove underwent a surgery a little after McCumber did.

“Obviously I’m kind of fortunate that that finger is, the pressure’s only really kind of right there on the back of your hand,” McCumber said Thursday. “So maybe not quite as forceful as I felt like I was, maybe a little lighter grip, but that might not be a bad thing.”

Sunday, five days after his finger procedure, McCumber will play at least 24 holes. Begay said he’s been “a remarkable reflection on being tough.” 

“I mean, you have to tough it out,” Begay said Friday on Golf Channel. “You don’t think of golfers as tough. But going out there for four and a half hours and just having the vibration of the club, just dealing with it and trying to focus on it, it could be the right type of distraction for him this week.”

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Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor