Cut Policy Stirring up Extra Drama

By Associated PressFebruary 16, 2008, 5:00 pm
Northern Trust OpenPACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- John Merrick was in a hopeless situation Saturday morning at Riviera.
He wound up giving hope to nine other players at the Northern Trust Open by missing a 4-foot par putt on his final hole that allowed 78 players to make the cut and keep playing.
If Merrick had made the putt he would have pushed the cut above the 78-player threshold and the field would have been reduced to the closest to 70 -- in this case, 69 players -- under the PGA TOUR's complicated new policy.
Merrick was among six players who had to return in the chill of morning to finish the second round. He was at 3-over par and needed a birdie over his final two holes to assure himself a tee time on the weekend. But when he came up short of the ninth green and chipped 4 feet by the hole, it came down to this no-win situation:
-- If he made the par putt, he would not get to play on the weekend and go home with about $12,000.
-- If he missed the putt, he would not play on the weekend and get nothing.
He missed.
The new 'Rule 78' policy allows for the top 70 and ties to make the cut. But if more than 78 players make the cut, only the closest number of players to 70 advance to the weekend, with the others getting official last-place money.
Merrick's miss meant nine players, including Sergio Garcia, Kenny Perry and Briny Baird, were given new life.
One of Garcia's managers, Carlos Rodriguez, was standing behind the ninth green watching this unfold and he called Garcia to tell him to get back to Riviera. Baird showed up about 20 minutes later, his clubs packed in his travel bag, asking an attendant to open his locker.
Baird was asked whether he expected to return, and he pointed to his bag that was stuffed and zipped.
'Obviously not,' he said. 'I had already checked out of my hotel.'
Marc Turnesa was in the final group and also at 3 over, and he had no idea what was going on.
Turnesa knew that if he or Merrick made birdie, the cut would be 2 over. If both made par, the cut would be 3 over, but 'Rule 78' would take effect and they still wouldn't play.
He hit 3-iron from 199 yards up the hill to 20 feet, but missed his birdie putt and figured he was going home. What he didn't factor was that if Merrick made bogey, 78 players would be at 3 over and he would keep playing.
'My caddie came over and told he that if John missed, I had a chance to keep playing,' he said. 'I didn't even think about that.'
Most players have criticized this 'Rule 78' since it first happened at the Sony Open, sending 18 players home with only a small paycheck. It happened again at the Buick Invitational, where 19 players offically made the cut, but did not qualify for weekend play.
The reason for the policy was to avoid a large field on the weekend, which caused rounds to last more than five hours and created log jams around the course.
The Players Advisory Council this week recommended that the policy be changed so that if more than 78 players make the cut, there would be another cut on Saturday for top 70 and ties. The policy board is to vote on the proposal Feb. 25.
'Thankfully, we only two more weeks of this,' Baird said, confident the proposal would pass.
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    Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

    By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

    One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

    Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

    "I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

    Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

    "I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

    Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

    "Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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    Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

    Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

    Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

    “I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

    The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

    “I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

    Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

    This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

    The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

    Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

    The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

    A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

    And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

    The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

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