Stricker starts of the year with a win in Hawaii

By Associated PressJanuary 10, 2012, 9:59 am

KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP)—Steve Stricker had a silver trophy in his hands and awhite-and-purple lei around his neck, a photo opportunity at Kapalua that didn’tseem likely four months ago when he could barely hold onto a golf club.

He withdrew from the BMW Championship outside Chicago because of weakness inhis left arm. It was a nervous time, even when it was diagnosed as a neckinjury. The first doctor he saw recommended surgery, and Stricker nearly wentalong with it.

Stricker decided against surgery, opting for therapy, rest, a series ofmassages and two cortisone shots.

It looks like it was the right choice.

Stricker opened the PGA Tour season with a final round Monday on Maui filledwith more tension that he needed, even if he is used to it by now. Staked to afive-shot advantage at the Tournament of Championship, his lead was down to asingle shot after just six holes.

As he does so many times, though, Stricker’s short game bailed him out. Hebirdied back-to-back holes at the turn to regain control, answered Jonathan Byrd with a wedge into 2 feet for another birdie on the 16th, and wound up with a4-under 69 and a three-shot win for an ideal start to the year.

“It was tough,” said Stricker, who now has won eight times in his last 50tournaments. “I never let up today. It’s always tough trying to win, and it’seven more tough when you have a lead like I did. I’m very proud of what I didtoday.

“And it’s always cool to get a hug from your family walking off at theend.”

That was the best part of the day, seeing 13-year-old Bobbi Maria and5-year-old Isabella greet him on the 18th green. It was the second time he haswon when both his daughters were at the golf course. That never gets old.

Stricker finished at 23-under 269, three shots clear of Martin Laird (67).

The final round came down to those two, along with Byrd and Webb Simpson ,who each closed with a 68. All three of the challengers got to within one shotof Stricker, but not for long.

He has made a habit of losing big leads in the final round, and of holdingon for the win. Stricker is not sure what to make of these dynamics, althoughhe’s glad the outcome has been the same.

Last summer at the John Deere Classic, he lost a five-shot lead on the backnine and had to birdie the final hole for a two-shot swing to beat Kyle Stanley .A month earlier, he had a four-shot lead at the Memorial and hung on to win byone shot.

At Riviera two years ago, his six-shot lead was reduced to two shots afteronly six holes, before he steadied himself to win by two.

So this was nothing new.

“I’ve been there before. It’s not a great feeling, either,” Stricker said.“It’s just the nature of our game. I realize that, and I’ve gone through itbefore. It always seems close, and you always have to perform to get it done.”

The way his left arm felt four months ago outside Chicago had himquestioning whether he could.

Stricker turns 45 next month, and he knows his window is closing even iffully healthy. One doctor told him by having surgery he could be back in timefor the Presidents Cup the week before Thanksgiving in Australia. The moreadvice he sought, the more Stricker realized he would be better off trying totreat it with therapy.

He had a cortisone shot before the Tour Championship. He had another one theweek before Christmas, along with other therapy and a series of massages. Theidea is to manage this injury, and he feels a lot better about that after his12th career win.

Stricker felt stronger than he did last year, and that much was evident.

He played the final round with Byrd, with whom he also was paired during thetournament last year. There were times when Byrd was hitting his 3-wood fartherthan Stricker hit his driver. This year, Stricker was hitting it past Byrd attimes.

As for the chipping and putting? They remain Stricker’s biggest weapons.

“I don’t want to have surgery,” Stricker said. “I don’t think at thispoint I need it. I’m just going to go ahead and try to do this maintenance thatI’ve been doing the last couple of months and see if that’ll remedy the problem.And it’s been better, and my strength is better. I’ve got a couple cortisoneshots I think that have helped quite a bit.

“But from what my physical therapist says, it’s just something that I needbe on top of it all the time. So that’s what I’m trying to do.”

If nothing else, he appears to be on top of his game, especially this earlyin the year.

Stricker hit the ball beautifully all week. The difference was the size ofthe hole: It started to look smaller.

Laird ran off three birdies on the front nine. Simpson made an eagle on thepar-5 fifth. Byrd make three straight putts, one of them for par, as they creptcloser to Stricker.

He was making a mess of a few holes, and a mess of the final round.

Stricker three-putted the fifth hole for par, then played a poor flop shoton the sixth that came up short and led to another bogey. Just like that, hislead was down to one shot.

“You realize you still have a chance,” Laird said.

Just not for long.

Stricker was angry with himself as he stood on the back of the sixth greenas Byrd made a short birdie. He stared at the ground, shaking his head.Perspective soon followed.

“I was kicking myself on the back of that green,” Stricker said. “I hadjust made two dumb plays. I was kind of beating myself up a little bit, notfeeling too good about what had just happened. But then walking down 7, I said,`We’re still all right.’ If I would have told myself early in the week, I have alead going down the seventh hole in the last round, I would take it.

“So I tried … to make myself feel good.”

Birdies helped him feel even better, starting with the 5-iron to 25 feetthat he poured in the cup on the par-3 eighth. Another birdie put his lead backat three shots, and no one got closer than two shots the rest of the way.

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

Getty Images

Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.

PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

The statement reads:

The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.

Good time to hang up on viewer call-ins

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 7:40 pm

Golf announced the most massive layoff in the industry’s history on Monday morning.

Armchair referees around the world were given their pink slips.

It’s a glorious jettisoning of unsolicited help.

Goodbye and good riddance.

The USGA and R&A’s announcement of a new set of protocols Monday will end the practice of viewer call-ins and emails in the reporting of rules infractions.

“What we have heard from players and committees is ‘Let’s leave the rules and administration of the event to the players and those responsible for running the tournament,’” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of rules and amateur status.


The protocols, formed by a working group that included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and the PGA of America, also establish the use of rules officials to monitor the televised broadcasts of events.

Additionally, the protocols will eliminate the two-shot penalty when a player signs an incorrect scorecard because the player was unaware of a violation.

Yes, I can hear you folks saying armchair rules officials help make sure every meaningful infraction comes to light. I hear you saying they make the game better, more honest, by helping reduce the possibility somebody violates the rules to win.

But at what cost?

The chaos and mayhem armchair referees create can ruin the spirit of fair play every bit as much as an unreported violation. The chaos and mayhem armchair rules officials create can be as much a threat to fair play as the violations themselves.

The Rules of Golf are devised to protect the integrity of the game, but perfectly good rules can be undermined by the manner and timeliness of their enforcement.

We have seen the intervention of armchair referees go beyond the ruin of fair play in how a tournament should be conducted. We have seen it threaten the credibility of the game in the eyes of fans who can’t fathom the stupidity of a sport that cannot separate common-sense enforcement from absolute devotion to the letter of the law.

In other sports, video review’s timely use helps officials get it right. In golf, video review too often makes it feel like the sport is getting it wrong, because timeliness matters in the spirit of fair play, because the retroactive nature of some punishments are as egregious as the violations themselves.  

We saw that with Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration this year.

Yes, she deserved a two-shot penalty for improperly marking her ball, but she didn’t deserve the two-shot penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. She had no idea she was signing an incorrect scorecard.

We nearly saw the ruin of the U.S. Open at Oakmont last year, with Dustin Johnson’s victory clouded by the timing of a video review that left us all uncertain if the tournament was playing out under an incorrect scoreboard.

“What these protocols are put in place for, really, is to make sure there are measures to identify the facts as soon as possible, in real time, so if there is an issue to be dealt with, that it can be handled quickly and decisively,” Pagel said.

Amen again.

We have pounded the USGA for making the game more complicated and less enjoyable than it ought to be, for creating controversy where common sense should prevail, so let’s applaud executive director Mike Davis, as well as the R&A, for putting common sense in play.

Yes, this isn’t a perfect answer to handling rules violations.

There are trap doors in the protocols that we are bound to see the game stumble into, because the game is so complex, but this is more than a good faith effort to make the game better.

This is good governance.

And compared to the glacial pace of major rules change of the past, this is swift.

This is the USGA and R&A leading a charge.

We’re seeing that with the radical modernization of the Rules of Golf scheduled to take effect in 2019. We saw it with the release of Decision 34/3-10 three weeks after Thompson’s loss at the ANA, with the decision limiting video review to “reasonable judgment” and “naked eye” standards. We’re hearing it with Davis’ recent comments about the “horrible” impact distance is having on the game, leading us to wonder if the USGA is in some way gearing up to take on the golf ball.

Yes, the new video review protocols aren’t a panacea. Rules officials will still miss violations that should have been caught. There will be questions about level playing fields, about the fairness of stars getting more video review scrutiny than the rank and file. There will be questions about whether viewer complaints were relayed to rules officials.

Golf, they say, isn’t a game of perfect, and neither is rules enforcement, though these protocols make too much sense to be pilloried. They should be applauded. They should solve a lot more problems than they create.