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Arron Oberholser did his best to beat the oppressive heat Thursday at Southern Hills. (Photo: Getty Images)
Arron Oberholser did his best to beat the oppressive heat Thursday at Southern Hills. (Photo: Getty Images)

New outlook translates into new result for Oberholser

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There was a time not long ago when a double-bogey like the one made on No. 16 Thursday would have thrown Arron Oberholser into a tizzy. Not anymore, thanks to a newfound mental -- and physical -- approach that has him feeling good about his game again.

By Melanie Hauser, Correspondent

TULSA, Okla. -- He has a fractured hamate bone in his left hand that won't heal until he takes three weeks off. That'll be sometime after his FedExCup run.

He has tendinitis in both arms, courtesy of the above problem. But it's under control.

His Sacroiliac (SI) joint needs a special SI belt to keep it in place. It's working.

Temper's in check. Hasn't gotten bent out of shape in a long time.

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His swing is good. But it did have to adjust to his improved his posture. And his last-resort, nothing-else-has-worked, make-me-hurt Accelerated Recovery Perfomance (ARP) training that only an NFL player could survive, let alone love?

It's the reason he's sitting two shots off the lead midway through the first round of the 89th PGA Championship.

Arron Oberholser's opening 68 at Southern Hills on Thursday could have been a 66 if not for a double-bogey at the 16th hole that he, well, accepted. You have to on this course.

"I had one hiccup and it didn't upset me, to be honest with you," said Oberholser, who got the hairline fracture in his hand at the Byron Nelson Classic. "I think it's part of the maturing process and realizing you're at a major championship and the golf course is very difficult and mistakes like that are going to happen. You just have to accept it and move on and realize that everybody's going to do that this week."

That wasn't always the case.

Oberholser admits he hasn't played to his capabilities. Especially the last four or five years.

"I'm a much better player than my world ranking (44th) shows," he said. "When I roll with the punches, rather than get bent out of shape, or embarrassed, I'm much better off. Of course, I could have a bad day tomorrow and go back to being a moron."

Yes, he was kidding. But one thing he doesn't joke about is ARP. It's a tough-as-nails approach to training that uses Russian techniques and electronic stimulation to get him into Tiger Woods-like shape.

Oberholser's fianc?e Angie Rizzo -- she's been in the program for three years to help her recover from two car accidents -- introduced him to the program to help his back (bulging disk) and posture and now he's in the best shape of his life.

The basics include five-minute wall squats, Russian lunges, Russian lunge holds. When he adds the electrical stimulator, 15 reps feels like doing 150 reps. And then there's the monthly full-body evaluation, which is eight hours of exercise -- with a 45-minute lunch break -- one day and four hours the next. In those 12 hours, they balance his body.

"You're doing explosive moves," he said, demonstrating a lunge and a lunge hold. "That's what a golf swing is -- an explosive move."

The same moves Tiger, who's in the best shape of anyone out here, uses in his running and other training techniques.

"That's why Tiger beats up on us," Oberholser said.

Oberholser's training is bleeding into him mentally, too. He's no longer thinking about a long 72-hole haul on a course like this. He's simply playing and his legs stay with him.

Thursday, he started off with birdies on two of the first four holes -- he holed a 50-foot bomb on the second, a 15 footer on the fourth -- to get to 2 under. Then, he took the lead at 4 under with a pitching wedge to 2 1/2 feet at the 10th for birdie and a 20 footer for birdie at the 11th.

His only hiccup was at 16 when he chunk-hooked a wedge and wound up missing a 6-footer for bogey. "That was the only time my legs left me," he said.

Still, the 68 tied his lowest round in the PGA -- he had a 68 in the second round at Baltusrol -- and put him in position for his best finish at a major this year.

Ironically, the cold weather at the Open Championship a few weeks ago was causing problems with his hand and he was simply ready to get the year over with.

"I took four Advil and I could still feel it," Oberholser said of the pain during his closing 74 at Carnoustie. "But today, with the heat out here, it was fine today. "

It was fine last week, too, when he tied for 14th at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

"But I just never know when it's going to creep up and start aching again," he said. "That's the thing. The more golf I play, the more it tends to ache."

Oberholser, whose best finish at a major was a T-9 at the 2005 U.S. Open, has had a frustrating year. He injured his back and had to withdraw from the Mercedes Championship, then could not defend his 2006 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am title. He came back and tied for 10th at the Honda Classic. Since then, he's had two other top 10s (Shell Houston Open and Wachovia Championship).

"It's been frustrating . . . . but it's part of the growth process," he said. "If I can learn to trust this new posture and where my ball position is and the whole nine yards with the golf swing, technically, if I can learn to trust it, then this year will turn into a positive going into next year and I think I'll be even stronger next year."

As for this week? He's looking on the bright side. Good opening round. In touch with the lead.

"Stayed out of my own way, just really had a good time out there," he said. "I didn't think much and focused on the golf."

And, no, he didn't think about John Daly. He doesn't even really know him. Only the stories his college coach Mike Ketcham, a college teammate of Daly's at Arkansas, told them.

"So we heard some good stories," he said. "None that I'll share."

He paused and smiled.

"Use your imagination."

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