Golf no longer has a set offseason

By Associated PressJanuary 7, 2012, 4:26 pm

KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP)—The start of a new season doesn’t feel much differentfrom the old one.

Nine players—that’s one-third of the 27-man field at Kapalua—weretogether only a month ago at the Chevron World Challenge. A week later, eightplayers were in Florida for the Shark Shootout. They went home for the holidays,then packed their clubs and flew across the Pacific Ocean for the Tournament ofChampions for the 2012 season.

The offseason in golf isn’t what it used to be.

When this winners-only tournament first came to Kapalua in 1999, thelandscape in golf was different. The Tour Championship ended the first week inNovember, and the majority of players disappeared until the start of the newyear. The elite would only play in the silly season at events like the SkinsGame or the Shark Shootout. Some chased appearance money in Asia.

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David Toms was supposed to be at the Chevron World Challenge last month,part of an 18-man field playing for $5 million. He withdrew at the last minute,saying he was tired and wanted some time with his family.

“I needed a break,” Toms said. “If I would have played there, I’d havehad only three weeks, and some of that was spent on holidays.”

Nowadays, the offseason is whenever a player feels he can take time off.

Padraig Harrington has never been to Hawaii for the Tournament of Champions.He takes this time of the year to refresh and recharge in Ireland. Rory McIlroy is doing the same thing. Luke Donald , the No. 1 player in the world, didn’tstart his 2011 season until the third week in February at Riviera. GraemeMcDowell tried to take a four-week break in February.

Toms showed that players can make their offseason as long as they want it tobe. Even so, he worries that such time is getting harder to find in a globalgame that relies so heavily on the world ranking.

“For guys that want to get in big tournaments, if they stop at Disney oreven before that, they can lose so many spots,” he said. “I’ve taken off threemonths and lost 20 spots in the ranking. And you’ve got big tournaments early inthe season when you need it. So you’re kind of forced to play.”

When he tied for third in the McGladrey Classic, his final tournament in2010, Toms was No. 62 in the world. He took off three months, returning at theBob Hope Classic, and had slipped all the way to No. 84. He did not get in theMatch Play Championship or the Cadillac Championship that year, missing twoplaying opportunities in World Golf Championships.

This year was a little different.

Toms chose to miss the biggest college football game of the year—Alabamaagainst his beloved LSU Tigers—and flew halfway around the world to China forthe HSBC Champions. He also played the Australian Open in the week before thePresidents Cup in Australia.

“I went to China trying to improve that ranking; I would never have goneover there,” he said. “I played in the Australian Open because there wereworld ranking points there. That’s stuff that I would never do. So what’s goingto happen now is I’ll play some, and then I’ll need some time off during ourseason instead of taking time off the other way.

“So you have options, but you don’t,” he said. “If you want to maintain acertain status, or a certain level, you’ve got to play.”

At some point, though, Toms needs a break.

So do the others.

Steve Stricker won the Match Play Championship at the start of the 2001season and took nearly two months off toward the end of the season, even to thepoint of risking his spot in the Tour Championship for the top 30 on the moneylist. He narrowly made it. Walking on the practice range one day at ChampionsGolf Club in Houston, Tiger Woods saw him and said, “Welcome back out ofretirement.”

It’s not much different now. Stricker took off nearly two months before thePresidents Cup. Part of that was to rest a weakened left arm, though he hadplanned only one tournament between the Tour Championship and Presidents Cupeven if he had been healthy.

“It’s tough to find the time,” Stricker said. “You can play all yearlong, but I think you’ve still got to find the time. You’ve got to still getaway, find the time where you can set the clubs down for a little while and getrefreshed and ready to go for another year. Because it’s a long year, andthere’s so many big things at the end of it all that you want to make sureyou’re fresh and still able to play at the end.”

Stricker is taking four weeks off when he finishes next week in the SonyOpen. He’ll return at Riviera.

As much grumbling as there is about the weak field at Kapalua, it’s aproduct of where players live, how they build a worldwide schedule and when theycan find time to take a break.

Donald played three times in December. McIlroy played five times over thelast two months. Masters champion Charl Schwartzel is the defending championnext week in the Joburg Open in his native South Africa.

This is all new for Keegan Bradley , a rookie who figured his season wouldend quietly sometime in September. That was before he won the PGA Championship.Before long, he was off to Bermuda for the Grand Slam of Golf, then to China forthe HSBC Champions, and the Chevron and Shark Shootout.

But he’s not complaining. Plus, he’s young.

“It’s a good problem to have,” Bradley said. “It was fun. But you couldplay more in the offseason than you do in the regular season if you wanted to.”

So it’s the start of the new year for some, and it feels like a continuationof the old year for others. All of them will take a break at some point, andwhen they do, there will be tournaments that wished they were playing.

Then again, golfers have no guaranteed income from tournaments. They areself-employed, independent contractors.

That much hasn’t changed.

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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.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm