Golf Channel analyst Notah Begay dropped by The Morning Show on Thursday to discuss the British Open, but first, he opened up about the heart attack he suffered in April.
“It surprised the heck out of me,” Begay said. “I’m doing well. I got some great medical attention and got a stent put in my coronary artery. It was 100 percent blocked. I just feel real lucky to have recovered as quickly (as I did) and (to get) back to work. I feel great.”
Begay, who won four PGA titles, is 41.
“I’m very young,” he said. “I have a history of heart disease in my family, and the diet I was on for the last 20 years wasn’t very good for me. It just got gradual build up in that artery, and it kind of caught up with me one day when I was practicing on the golf course. I was lucky to have a doctor on the golf course that really forced me to go to the hospital in the ambulance.”
The EMTs determined that Begay was having a heart attack.
“They were ready for me in the operating room right when I rolled into the hospital and got my procedure done in 19 minutes, which is miraculous,” Begay said. “Golf’s done many things for me – and in that particular case, it saved my life.”
Moving to the British Open, Begay’s Stanford teammate, Tiger Woods, had a great opening round Thursday. He bogeyed his first two holes but birded five on the back nine to shoot a 3-under 69. He is just three shots behind Rory McIlroy, who is atop the leader board at 6-under 66.
“I got to be honest,” Begay said. “I’m utterly surprised. I talked to him yesterday – just exchanging some text messages – and he told me he was feeling good. He told me things were kind of falling into place. But he continues to surprise me with the way he’s able to recover from these things – from knee surgery and now back surgery. He’s been able to really work his way through these things. I don’t know if the medical community is as surprised as I am, but it’s pretty remarkable to see him playing so well and putting himself in contention.”
Begay has noticed a major change in Woods in recent years.
“He actually listens more now, so that’s good,” Begay said of the 38-year-old. “Athletes have a tendency to become experts in everything, and in this particular case, Tiger wasn’t always open to certain types of direction from experts in fields, whether it was nutrition or wellness or medicine. And now he’s open to taking advice on how long to stay away from the game.”
“To go into a major championship and to be able to do this, it’s miraculous,” Begay continued. “It looks as if he’s going to be able to sustain this. Everything he’s working on has become settled. He doesn’t need to hit as many balls. He needs to work more on the short game and putting, and I think that it’ll take a lot of pressure off the low back and he’ll be able to stretch his career out another two or three years on the back end, which is good for all of us – because he’s fun to watch.”
The British Open competition, however, isn’t chasing Woods. It’s chasing McIlroy.
“I think what the field really needs to be concerned about is not (letting) Rory get too far ahead,” Begay said. “He’s got the lead right now, (and) he’s probably the best front runner we have in the game. When he gets out and he gets a taste of that lead, he’s very difficult to catch.”