Storylines abound at LPGA Tour Championship

By Associated PressNovember 19, 2009, 2:52 am

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RICHMOND, Texas – Jiyai Shin can become the first rookie in more than three decades to win the Player of the Year award with a strong performance at the LPGA Tour Championship, which begins Thursday just outside of Houston.

The 21-year-old Korean will face a star-packed field at The Houstonian Country Club, where the $225,000 first prize would help her end Lorena Ochoa’s reign over the women’s tour. Ochoa has been the Player of the Year the past three seasons.

Shin won three times last year as a nonmember of the LPGA, including the Women’s British Open, and followed with three more wins and 11 top-10 finishes this year.

“I started the year off with my goal to win Rookie of the Year and now I have a chance for Player of the Year,” Shin said. “That makes me happy.”

Michelle Wie is also in the field, coming off her first professional win last week in Mexico, which might help deflect attention from the battle for Player of the Year.

There are other story lines running under the tournament, including Ochoa’s upcoming wedding to the CEO of her largest sponsor, AeroMexico, and the presence of third-ranked Christie Kerr and young superstar Paula Creamer.

Wie hopes that it doesn’t take nearly as long for her second victory as it did her first. Her win in Mexico gave the sport a desperately needed boost, coming just a few days before word leaked out that the calendar will be trimmed to only 24 events next season.

“I went through some ups and downs, but it was a great learning experience for me this year,” Wie said. “For sure it’s (pressure) definitely off my back and I think hopefully life will be better, but I still have a lot of work to do.”

New commissioner Michael Wahn saw firsthand how important Wie could be to revitalizing the tour when he attended a pro-am party Tuesday night.

“I came in late and when I walked in, I noticed the bidding was up to $22,000,” Wahn said. “I asked somebody what they were bidding on and they said, ‘They’re bidding to play golf with Michelle Wie.’

“Now, that’s star power right there,” he said of the winning bid of $25,000. “It’s going to be a very exciting week and it could be a very exciting couple of years.”

Ochoa will be trying for her fourth win this year, which would guarantee her another Player of the Year award, but anything else would mean she needs help from other players.

“It’s been a really good year for me in ways, sometimes difficult on the golf course, but I’m very happy,” Ochoa said. “I have a lot of things to focus on off the golf course. I’m just going to try to enjoy the week and then get ready for the wedding.”

Natalie Gulbis withdrew early Wednesday with an undisclosed illness.

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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