Masters Does an About-Face
'We will count on our champions to know when their playing careers at the Masters have come to an end,' chairman Hootie Johnson said.
Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, who have 10 green jackets between them and are the only Masters champions who are members at Augusta National, convinced Johnson to abandon his controversial policy.
The Masters gives its champions a lifetime pass to play in the tournament, but Johnson became increasingly upset when some of them withdrew after the first round, or sometimes after playing only one hole.
The policy was to start in 2004.
Palmer, 73, plans to play next week in the Masters and also next year, which would give him 50 appearances in the major championship he won four times.
'I had it in the back of my mind ... that I want to play competitively in the Masters for 50 years,' Palmer said in a statement. 'I am personally very pleased that will be possible now that the matter has been resolved as I hoped it would be.
'Jack and I are grateful to Hootie Johnson for his thoughtful consideration of this issue, and thank him on behalf of all of the past champions for retaining this important Masters tradition.'
While most of the focus this year has been on the all-male membership controversy at Augusta National, the champions policy was divisive in golf circles.
Three-time champion Gary Player said the Masters had broken a promise, while Gay Brewer was so angry about Johnson's letter last year asking him not to play that he refused to attend the annual Champions Dinner held Tuesday night of the tournament.
The letters sent to Brewer, Billy Casper and Doug Ford drew so much notoriety that when Palmer announced last year that he was playing in his final Masters, he joked, 'I don't want to get a letter.'
When asked last year if he regretted sending the letters, Johnson tersely replied, 'I don't look back.'
This time he did.
Johnson quoted from a 1970 letter that longtime chairman Clifford Roberts sent to Ben Hogan after he stopped playing in the Masters.
'While the right of each Masters Champion to play in the tournament should be preserved, I am wondering if we could not somehow get the word around among the group that anyone who no longer seriously tries to play in the tournament should not play at Augusta,' Roberts wrote.
Roberts, a co-founder of Augusta National with Bobby Jones, wrote in subsequent letters that past champions should at least play 36 holes to try to make the cut.
Johnson did not create any guidelines Monday, saying only that 'I am comfortable that the champions will abide by the spirit and intent of the lifetime exemption.'
Several Masters champions still active on the PGA Tour applauded the decision, especially because it cleared the way for Palmer to keep playing.
'Arnie is welcome wherever he wants to play,' two-time winner Bernhard Langer said. 'I think there will be a time when even Arnie will say, 'It's enough.' Whenever that time is, he will know.'
Tiger Woods, going after an unprecedented third straight Masters title, also said rescinding the policy was a 'great move.'
'We all know a couple of guys abused the privilege,' Woods said over the weekend. 'They would play one hole and withdraw or nine holes and withdraw. If you could play 36 holes, why not? That's the beauty of it.'
Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test
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."
Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage
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.
Swipe to see what’s up in my world. It’s long-winded.... short version, we lost the baby. Had to share this since we had shared the news already. I know you’re all so supportive and kind. I just couldn’t face it before. Now let’s get back to our regularly scheduled programming. #ihavealotoffeelings #andphotostocatchupon
“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
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.
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.
Green jacket tour
Man of the people
Ace at 17th at Sawgrass
Departure from TaylorMade
Squashed beef with Paddy
Victory at Valderrama
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18