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2012 U.S. Open: Steve Marino is happy to be healthy and here

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SAN FRANCISCO — When Steve Marino left for Hawaii to begin his season on the PGA Tour in January, he believed his left knee — on which he had surgery last October to repair a torn meniscus — was sound. “It felt great,” he said. But by the time he played just nine holes in a pro-am, “my knee felt like it was going to explode.” It swelled badly enough that he couldn’t even squat to read putts.

What happened between then and now, as Marino arrives at the Olympic Club to play in his fourth U.S. Open, could seem like a whole lot of nothing. But for the Fairfax native and University of Virginia grad, who was forced to take four months off to mend a condition called avacular necrosis, sitting on the couch gave him a renewed appreciation for his profession.

“I can sit and watch TV with the best of them,” Marino said. “But it gets old after a while. . . . It just made me realize how lucky I am to do what I do. Something like that takes it away from you, and you realize how much you miss it.

When Marino could barely finish the PGA Tour event in late January at Torrey Pines, he flew home to Florida to seek out an answer. It took him visits to two doctors to diagnose bone bruises at the end of both his tibia and his fibula. There, the avacular necrosis — which essentially means blood flow to the area was restricted — set in.

“Basically, my bones were dying,” he said.

The solution: Rest and therapy, some of it in a hyperbaric chamber. Marino finally returned in late May at the Memorial, where he missed the cut. But he hung around over the weekend to play in a U.S. Open sectional qualifier in Columbus the following Monday.

“I was actually a little concerned with walking 36 holes,” he said, but the knee held up fine, and he played well, tying for sixth at a sectional in which 17 spots in the Open were available.

Now, Marino is planning on playing as much as his health will allow. He will play next week in Hartford and in two weeks in the AT&T National at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, then could try for the next two events in a row as well.

“I’m excited,” he said. “I’m just so happy to be back out here.”

Jack has the honor

The U.S. Golf Association announced that it has renamed the gold medal awarded annually to the U.S. Open champion the Jack Nicklaus Medal — complete with Nicklaus’s image on one side. The organization will also open a Jack Nicklaus room at its Far Hills, N.J., headquarters, where memorabilia from Nicklaus’s four U.S. Open titles will be displayed. . . .

Alvaro Quiros, the long-hitting Spaniard, not only went for the green at the 288-yard par-4 seventh hole during a Wednesday practice round, but he aced it. USGA Executive Director Mike Davis said that because the hole plays uphill and usually into the wind, officials may move the tee up to roughly 265 yards.

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