Villegas in control at Honda Classic

By Associated PressMarch 7, 2010, 3:40 am

PGA Tour (75x100)PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Ashes fell from the sky, smoke filled the air and a thick haze hovered over PGA National.

Some might have found breathing difficult at the Honda Classic.

Camilo Villegas wasn’t among them.

Once threatening to run away after a sizzling start, Villegas came back to the pack on his back nine and wound up rallying to take a three-shot lead over Nathan Green and Vijay Singh after three rounds. Villegas is at 11-under 199, so even after making three bogeys in a five-hole stretch in what became a round of 67, he’ll be the one to catch on Sunday.

“I’m sleeping in my own bed this week, which is always nice,” said Villegas, one of many tour players who call South Florida home. “I’ve been nice and relaxed. So we’ll show up tomorrow the same way and try to play some good golf.”

Green (67) and Singh (69) are at 8 under, while George McNeill (66) and Matt Every (69) were tied for fourth at 6 under. Anthony Kim, who shared the 36-hole lead with Villegas, shot 73 and wound up six shots back entering the final round, tied with Michael Connell (69).

All the talk before the tournament was about the difficulty of the course, before conversations on Thursday shifted to the gusting breezes and how they left players guessing.

On Saturday, a controlled burn left its mark on the Honda.

Earth, wind and fire, indeed.

A planned fire in Jonathan Dickinson State Park, about 14 miles north of PGA National Resort and Spa, made an already tough course even tougher. The wind shifted a bit after the fire started, sending thick plumes of smoke, ash and haze down directly toward the course. Play wasn’t halted, though the day was clearly affected.

“It’s not great, but everyone’s dealing with it,” said Green, an asthmatic who once worked in a crematorium his parents manage. “It’s strange when you’re looking down, hitting your putt and you’ve got ashes sort of going past your ball. We had that a few holes in, I think on 13 and 14. It’s different. I don’t think guys are really worried about it. You can just sort of smell it and taste it.”

Singh shot his third straight round in the 60s, a 69 to keep him in the mix for what would be his first win since capturing the FedExCup in 2008. Also with a third-straight sub-70 round was Sam Saunders, who shot his third straight 69 and is tied for 10th, eight shots behind Villegas.

His coach isn’t expected to be with him on Sunday.

By the way, Saunders’ coach is his grandfather, Arnold Palmer. “The King” knows that if he’s in the gallery on Sunday, the buzz he’ll create – on a course redesigned by Jack Nicklaus – might take away from what his grandkid is trying to do inside the ropes, so Saunders thinks he’ll stay away.

“Hopefully, someday, and I’ve said this many times before, that my game will become good enough and I’ll become a good enough player that I’ll be known as Sam Saunders and Arnold Palmer’s grandson,” Saunders said. “I think I’m getting there, but right now, it’s fine. If I’m Arnold Palmer’s grandson, that’s kind of the deal. I understand that.”

Saunders has drawn his share of attention before, first playing as a 14-year-old non-competing marker with Peter Jacobsen at Bay Hill – Arnie’s tournament – and then caddying for his grandfather at Palmer’s final Masters.

Now, he’s just trying to play his way into some spotlight. He’s in the Honda on a sponsor’s exemption.

“I’m not out there just trying to eke out a good round,” Saunders said. “I’m watching that leaderboard and I see myself getting up there and I’m thinking about winning this thing. I’m not really thinking, ‘Oh, I want a good finish.’ I’m trying to get myself in position where I can win. And tomorrow, if the course plays tough, you never know.”

Villegas has tamed it so far.

He made four birdies on the front side – including the par-4 6th hole, the tournament’s toughest this week, for the second straight day. And after a bogey at the 10th seemed to derail him a bit, Villegas rolled in a 20-footer for birdie on the next hole, punching the air as the putt dropped.

Villegas had only four top-10 finishes in 21 tour starts last season, after winning back-to-back starts in September 2008 and thinking he was ready for a big breakthrough.

Maybe this is the year. So far in 2010, he was third at Match Play and then tied for eighth last week at the Phoenix Open.

“We have our good years, average years and bad years,” Villegas said. “I decided to look at the good side of it and work on those little things that I needed to get better, and show up this year a little more excited to be out here.”

A win and a $1.008 million check Sunday would make him plenty excited.

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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