Signs of Improvement on the PGA Tour
As the season draws to a conclusion, the tour can report at least some progress.
According to the latest data available, through the 84 Lumber Classic, the average time for the first and second rounds on the PGA Tour is about 4 hours, 37 minutes - nearly 10 minutes below the average in 2001 and 2002.
'The comment I hear from players is that it's not necessarily the pace of play, it's the continuation of play,' said Henry Hughes, chief of operations for the PGA Tour. 'Players will tell you ... it doesn't seem any faster from tee to green, but it's moving.'
While 10 minutes might not seem like much over the course of one round, the drastic drop in the number of players who are timed for being out of position is a big improvement.
A year ago, Hughes said there were slightly more than 100 players who had been put on the clock at least four times during the season. This year, only 17 players have been timed on more than four occasions.
In 2002, there were 43 players who were put on the clock at least seven times; this year, only two players have been timed that often. No player has been put on the clock more than eight times.
Hughes declined to say who had the most timings.
The number of times a player was put on the clock was the focus of much debate when the pace-of-play penalties came out in January.
When a group gets out of position (defined by an open hole ahead of them), each player in that group is considered to be on the clock. The 10th time a player is put on the clock during the year results in a $20,000 fine.
While that allowed for being guilty by association, the idea was to keep notoriously slow players from beating the system by speeding up when they are being timed to avoid a penalty.
'We're having less of the 'speed up, slow down,'' Hughes said. 'And that's one of the things this process was designed to do.'
Players gave the policy mixed reviews.
'I don't think it's helped,' said Chris Riley, one of the fastest players on tour. 'On Thursday and Friday, it's always five hours. On the weekend, I think the pace is good.'
Tom Lehman believes it has made a difference, no matter how slight.
'Early in the season, when it was all new, pace of play definitely picked up a little,' Lehman said. 'A lot of guys were very mindful of accumulating those bad times, and statistically, it proved that early in the season we played faster.'
But as Singh predicted 10 months ago, Lehman said he has noticed the pace slowing as the year goes on.
'The bottom line is you're not going to be able to do much about it, no matter what you do,' Lehman said.
OLD COURSE CHANGES: The Old Course at St. Andrews will be 160 yards longer for the 2005 British Open, with seven new tees designed to bring some of the penalizing pot bunkers into the picture.
Royal & Ancient secretary Peter Dawson said it would be 7,275 yards after the changes. The 14th hole will be 616 yards, the longest in the Open rotation.
'We're not looking for the course to become a big hitter's paradise - far from it,' Dawson told The Scotsman newspaper. 'We're not trying to change the character of the course. We just want to reinstate the old decisions players had to make.'
Tiger Woods completed the career Grand Slam by winning the 2000 British Open at St. Andrews. He did not hit into a bunker all week, and his 19-under 269 was the lowest score in relation to par at a major championship.
The most significant change likely will be No. 14, where the back tee will be extended 35 yards to bring the fearsome Hell bunker into play on the second shot.
BUBBLE UPDATE:Every week matters for those on the bubble, either trying to get into the Tour Championship (top 30) or keep their cards (top 125).
The big winners last week were Stuart Appleby and Billy Andrade.
By winning in Las Vegas, Appleby moved up 17 spots to No. 10 on the money list and is assured a trip to Houston for the Tour Championship.
Also helping their cause were Scott Verplank, who finished fourth and went from 33rd to 25th on the money list; and Robert Allenby, whose tie for ninth moved him from 31st to 27th. A triple bogey on the 18th hole cost Allenby four spots on the money list.
Andrade tied for eighth in Las Vegas and went from 116th to 96th on the money list, which should guarantee him his card for next year. Other big moves came from David Frost, who finished fifth and jumped 26 spots to No. 110; and Dean Wilson (T14), who went from No. 104 to No. 92 and is safe for next year.
YEAR OF THE WOMAN, PART VI: Annika Sorenstam was the first woman to play against the men. By the end of the year, she will have had plenty of company.
Se Ri Pak is the latest to take up the challenge, agreeing to play in the SBS Championship next week on the Korean PGA Tour. That that will make her the sixth woman to have played on men's tours this year, joining Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley, Michelle Wie, Laura Davies and Jan Stephenson.
'I can't guarantee I will make the cut or play well,' Pak said. 'All I can do is try to have a great experience and learn more from the men's tour.'
DIVOTS: Raymond Floyd has accepted an exemption to the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, where he won in 1986. Floyd has not played in the U.S. Open since 1995, also at Shinnecock Hills. ... Annika Sorenstam will be in China on Nov. 2 to launch her first signature golf course at Mission Hills in Shenzhen. The resort already has five courses, and is launching three more this year. The others are for former British Open champion David Duval and two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal. ... The PGA Tour and LPGA Tour each have produced winners from six countries this year.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Hilary Lunke shot an even-par 72 in the first round of the Samsung World Championship, her best score since winning the U.S. Women's Open.
FINAL WORD: 'If it was easy, anybody could do it.' - Ty Votaw, on his job as LPGA Tour commissioner.
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