'Validated' by Disney win, Donald resumes at Sun City

By Associated PressNovember 30, 2011, 6:36 pm

SUN CITY, South Africa – Five weeks after a stunning finish at Disney World, Luke Donald returns to competition at the Nedbank Challenge refreshed and feeling his position at the top of golf’s rankings is “validated.”

The Englishman plays his first event this week since reeling off six straight birdies on the back nine of his final round to win the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic on Oct. 23 and clinch the PGA Tour money title over Webb Simpson.

Having accomplished Phase One of his mission to become the first player to top the U.S. and European money lists in the same season, Donald said that his incredible come-from-behind victory in Orlando confirmed his place as the world’s top golfer this season, despite the absence of a major title.

“It’s nice to come up with great shots and great putting and everything that went with that when you need it the most,” Donald said at Sun City on Wednesday. “I obviously had a pretty good amount of catching up to beat Webb.

“I knew I had to go there and win the tournament and obviously to reel off six birdies in a row on the back nine on Sunday was a lot of validation to how good I’ve been performing this year and the added confidence I’ve gained from all the wins I’ve had. So, it really meant a lot.”

He added his recent break allowed him to “savor” his Disney World moment, where he came from five shots back in shooting 30 over his last nine holes. He also was able to recharge his batteries at home – and celebrate the birth of his second child – ahead of a likely historic end to a groundbreaking season.

“I haven’t locked it up yet,” Donald said.

His unprecedented success on both tours can only be spoiled by Rory McIlroy, who trails Donald by a little over a million euros ($1.3 million) on the European Tour. The No. 2-ranked Northern Irishman could make the season-ending Dubai World Championship a race for the money title with a victory at the Hong Kong Open this weekend.

While South Africa’s invitation-only Nedbank Challenge has a hefty winner’s check of $1.25 million, that cash doesn’t count on the European Tour should Donald win this weekend at the Gary Player Country Club.

“We’ll see what Rory does this week and how much pressure he can put on me. I’m sure it won’t be easy. I’m sure he’ll put up a fight and I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Donald said ahead of a possible Race to Dubai decider. “Usually after the break I come back feeling a lot stronger about my game.

“Obviously I would love to walk away with both money lists because that would be history. Something that nobody has ever done before.”

While Donald is certain his layoff will be a help rather than a hindrance for his final two events of the season, Sun City defending champion and No. 3-ranked Lee Westwood is still tipped to retain his title at the South African casino resort course, which favors the big-driving Westwood.

Like Donald now, Westwood arrived at Sun City last year as a majorless world No. 1 and doubted by some as a true successor to Tiger Woods.

He went some way to answering those doubters with a dominant eight-shot win at the 2010 Nedbank Challenge, but 2011 was a largely subdued season for him.

“I’ve come here to have a good week and enjoy myself,” Westwood said soon after shooting a promising 68 in Wednesday’s pro-am. It’s a great week, a 12-man field, at a golf course I enjoy playing. A great spot.

“I just like being here and trying to play well. I’ve not really set any goals for the week. Obviously I’d like to win the tournament, but not really set any goals.”

Westwood did recognize the opportunity to gather some momentum ahead of Dubai next week, however, with the Englishman set to play successive weekends on courses at which he has impressive records.

“Any good week around any golf course can kick things off and start things off,” he said.

Martin Kaymer joins Donald and Westwood in South Africa this week to give the Nedbank Challenge three of the world’s top four ranked players.

The field also includes Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, British Open champion Darren Clarke, former U.S. Open winner Graeme McDowell, South Korea’s Kyung-Tae KimRobert KarlssonSimon Dyson, Anders Hansen, PGA Championship runner-up Jason Dufner and Italy’s Francesco Molinari, who replaced the injured Thomas Bjorn.

Schwartzel will be backed by the boisterous home crowd at Sun City as the only South African at this year’s event, but he also has to shrug off an exhausting recent schedule in which Sun City will be his seventh tournament on consecutive weekends.

“It’s been such a big year for me, I would really like to get another win. Just for myself,” Schwartzel said. “It’s been probably my best year ever but, you know, as a golfer you never stop. You always want a little bit more. And this tournament, especially, is one that I rate high.

“For a South African, to play the Nedbank is big. We’ve got a really strong field, but I don’t think it means as much to them as it would mean to a South African.”

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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