USGA chief: Olympic to have hardest Open start

By Associated PressFebruary 27, 2012, 11:07 pm

SAN FRANCISCO – If USGA executive director Mike Davis has his way, the record low scores at last year’s U.S. Open at Congressional are unlikely to travel to the West Coast.

Davis said Monday at San Francisco’s majestic Olympic Club that the course will be “the hardest start in a U.S. Open” when players tee off June 14. The unleveled Lake Course in the serene setting just across the street from the Pacific Ocean will play at a par-70, 7,170 yards — 373 yards longer than the last time it hosted the national championship in 1998 — including the 670-yard 16th hole that is one of the longest par 5s in the event’s history.

Windy conditions and the threat of the city’s famous fog also could make the hilly course with fast fairways even tougher.

“I am convinced that this will be the hardest start in a U.S. Open,” Davis said after walking the course on a sun-soaked day along the California coast. “The first six holes are going to just be brutal. I would contend if you play the first six holes 2 over, I don’t think you’re giving up anything to the field.”

In decades past, the usual reaction has been to overcompensate after so many red numbers ended up on the leaderboard.

The best example might’ve come when Johnny Miller shot 63 on a rain-softened Oakmont course in the 1973 U.S. Open. The USGA got even a year later in the “Massacre at Winged Foot,” won by Hale Irwin at 7 over par.

The temptation to restore the “toughest test in golf” certainly has washed up on San Francisco’s shores.

Rory McIlroy finished at 16-under 268 last year on the rain-softened course in Bethesda, Md., the kind of eye-popping digits more likely at a lower-tier PGA Tour stop. Runner-up Jason Day of Australia shot 8 under, and 20 players finished under par — all of which the USGA blames more on unexpected rain than anything else.

Consider: Day’s score would have been enough to win 46 of the previous 50 U.S. Opens and force a playoff in three others. And in the previous six national championships, seven players total finished under par.

The challenge for the USGA is finding a balance between maintaining its standards and turning the tournament into a gimmick.

“We don’t want to see well executed shots penalized,” Davis said. “When setting up a course as tough as the U.S. Open, it’s really splitting hairs sometimes of not actually doing that. Our goal is to test the players mentally, physically, and test their shot-making skills.”

The course, still months away from being U.S. Open ready, is on pace to do just that.

More than half of the holes have doglegs, including four where the fairways — many some of the most narrow anywhere — will go in opposite directions. The elevation constantly changes — mimicking those steep rises from the city’s hills in the distance — and the unleveled lies could prove particularly perplexing.

The front nine will play at a par 34 and the back nine a par 36. The first hole is now a par 4 and the 17th a par 5; the eighth hole, once one of the easiest on the course, is entirely new from 1998 — with little room for error along the right-side trees.

The par-5 17th can play as long as 670 yards on the back tees, which Davis expects to happen “at least two days.” The longest hole in Open history is the 667-yard par-5 12th in 2007 at Oakmont, according to the USGA.

“I’m going to try to park my cart and watch that hole,” Davis said of the 17th. “Probably hide when I’m doing it, but nonetheless, I think it’s going to be a very, very exciting hole.”

Olympic has historically been more famous for the stars that have lost than won.

The place “where champions go to die,” as some call it, saw Arnold Palmer lose a seven-shot lead to Billy Casper with nine holes to go in 1966. Jack Fleck also beat Ben Hogan in an 18-hole playoff at Olympic in 1955, the first of four previous times the club hosted the U.S. Open. And Scott Simpson won by a stroke over Tom Watson in 1987.

“My predecessor’s predecessor, which was Frank Hannigan, I read a quote of his, and he said, `Something always magical seems to happen at Olympic,”’ Davis said. “There is something magical about it.”

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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