Big bomber Garrigus beats drug addiction to make his Open debut

He used to smoke cannabis between shots, but a spell in rehab has helped this American to fulfil his talent

Rory McIlroy was not the only man to exceed himself at the US Open. Nor was he the only golfer to put behind him a traumatic recent collapse. And he is not the only man riding momentum from Congressional into this week's Open at Royal St George's. Ten shots behind the McIlroy phenomenon at the US Open last month, Robert Garrigus tied for third place and had Lee Westwood for company. Having never made the cut at a major before, it was a personal achievement almost as rousing as McIlroy's rout of the field.

Garrigus is heading into his first Open championship, and will be in the third-from-last group to tee off, at 3.49pm on Thursday. It will be his next step on a long climb which started in 2003 when he cleansed himself of a damaging drug addiction. "The whole reason I'm here is because I chose to change my life," he recently told Golf Digest magazine. In 2003 he was one of a number of golfers with an addiction to cannabis. "Oh yeah, there were plenty of guys on the Nationwide Tour who smoked in the middle of the round," Garrigus recalled. "We always talked about it. You could go in the John and take your drags."

As a talented 25-year-old with a drug problem and no wins to his name, Garrigus decided to change after seeing an advert for Calvary Ranch, a Christian rehabilitation centre. "I was feeling sorry for myself, thinking I was wasting my career and my life," he said. "I was 25, and I hadn't done anything special. I felt I could be beating the guys I was playing against. I felt guilty about everything, and I knew I needed help. I knew if I could get clean, I could succeed. But I didn't know how to get there until that night."

From there, it was a long road in the right direction. Settled with a wife and family, and clear of addiction, Garrigus started to live up to the promise he showed growing up in Oregon and at college in Arizona, where he now lives.

One of the most powerful hitters in golf, Garrigus led the PGA Tour in driving distance in the past two seasons, regularly firing drives over 310 yards. If that alone does not make him a star, his notable putting style does. Garrigus uses a putter just 28 inches long, hunching over the shortened club to get closer to the ball. This combination of the brutal and the precise makes Garrigus one of the more memorable sights on Tour.

These improvements brought him to the brink of a first ever tour triumph in the St Jude Classic in June last year. Leading by three shots going into the 72nd hole, his Jean Van de Velde tribute act dragged him into a play-off, which Westwood won.

It was a collapse as traumatic as McIlroy's at the Masters in April. Like McIlroy though, Garrigus returned within months to cure his disappointment with success. He won the Children's Miracle Network Classic last November, his first tour win. Since then he has been riding the wave of form that led to his US Open performance. McIlroy aside, Garrigus was the only man at Congressional to be under par in all four rounds; he was only the eighth man to achieve that at a US Open, and the third to do so without winning.

That result has set him up to play at next year's US Open and his first Masters, where, given his past, he expects to stand out. "Can you imagine me at Augusta? I might shoot 100, but I'm going to bomb it all over the place and have the time of my life. I'm probably the farthest thing from a country-club guy they'll ever see there," he told Golf Digest. "It's a validation of everything I've been trying to do with my life these last seven to eight years."

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine