Strong European flavor at Honda Classic

By Associated PressMarch 3, 2011, 5:19 am

2007 Honda ClassicPALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Lee Westwood has seen lots of sand this year, and not just in bunkers.

Tournament travel took the world’s No. 2-ranked player to desert oases in Abu Dhabi, Doha, Dubai and Arizona. The landscape’s a little more lush this week in Florida, where Westwood will compete in the Honda Classic beginning Thursday.

And if his itinerary sounds exhausting, well, Westwood said it is.

“If you don’t do it much, then the travel obviously can get to you, the jet lag,” the Englishman said. “But you get used to it. I’ve been doing it for 18 years now, traveling through eight time zones. It’s just something you learn to get on with and contend with: playing tired.”

Globe-trotting is a challenge for all golfers, and especially top Europeans like Westwood who divide their time between PGA Tour events and tournaments closer to home.

These days, top Europeans are handling the jet lag just fine. For the first time since 1992, Europe occupies the first four world ranking spots, with Martin Kaymer of Germany the new No. 1, England’s Luke Donald No. 3 and Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland ranked No. 4.

“It’s a reflection of European golf at the moment,” Westwood said. “It’s very strong. You’ve got established players playing well, and young players coming through. We have some great players right now not afraid to play well all over the world.”

An international flavor is nothing new for the Honda Classic. The past four winners have been Donald, Camilo Villegas of Colombia, Y.E. Yang of South Korea, Ernie Els of South Africa.

All are back this week, along with eight other former champions. That includes 1994 winner Nick Price of South Africa, playing in his first PGA Tour event since 2008.

Skipping the event is Woods, who at No. 5 has slipped to his lowest ranking in nearly 14 years. He has played Honda only once – in 1993, when he missed the cut.

Also absent is Kaymer, who officially took over No. 1 this week. He lost Sunday to Donald in the final of the Match Play Championship – the second straight year for an all-European final.

Westwood, who replaced Woods atop the rankings in October, has a chance to regain No. 1 this week. Such a close race was unheard of before Woods’ slump created an opportunity for Westwood and the other top Europeans to jumble the top of the rankings.

“It is more volatile,” Donald said. “That makes it fun for us players, and it makes it fun for the fans, too. I think when Tiger was so dominant, mathematically it was almost impossible for anyone to catch him, unless they won nearly every tournament they played in.

“But now it’s open, and I think that’s great for golf. Obviously, Europe is enjoying an extremely purple patch right now, and we are riding the wave very highly.”

The wave surfaced suddenly. Only a year ago, Americans held the world’s top three rankings.

At least one observer is confident they’ll be on top again soon.

“It goes back and forth,” Jack Nicklaus said. “When guys get down, they say all of a sudden, ‘We have to kick ourselves in the rear end, and we have to go play.’ And I think they will.”

Maybe even this week.

Whoever wins will have to contend with a difficult course made more so by winds of 15 to 20 mph forecast for all four days, with thunderstorms possible Sunday.

Last year the average round at PGA National Resort and Spa was 1.6 strokes above par. Only the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach had a higher average.

“This golf course is always tough,” Villegas said after a wind-swept round in Wednesday’s pro-am. “It is going to be challenging.”

The world will be watching. Success by foreign players has enhanced international interest in the PGA Tour.

“It’s healthy for the game,” Price said. “You’ve got to know that people in other parts of the world are watching our tour and watching when these guys play. So golf, for the fan, has become a much smaller world.”

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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