Weary Stricker opens with 66 3 off Sony Open lead

By Associated PressJanuary 13, 2012, 9:37 am

HONOLULU (AP)—Steve Stricker became a footnote in PGA Tour history bywinning comeback player of the year in consecutive seasons.

Coming back after a win?

That’s been a little more difficult.

Three days after winning on Maui at the Tournament of Champions, Strickerwas back to work. He did well Thursday in the Sony Open to open with a 4-under66 and finish three shots behind Graham DeLaet of Canada. What made itimpressive is that Stricker felt as if he were in a daze part of the time atWaialae Country Club.

“A little sluggish at times,” Stricker said.

That’s nothing new. In the seven previous times that he played the weekafter winning, the best he could manage was a tie for ninth in the Deutsche BankChampionship in 2007.

He won the John Deere Classic the last three years, flew across the Atlanticfor the British Open and has never been a factor. When he won the Northern TrustOpen at Riviera in 2010, he headed over to Arizona for the Match PlayChampionship and became only the second No. 1 seed to lose in the opening round.

This week’s trip was only a short hop over from a different island, but it’sno less taxing.

“I’m still excited from last week,” Stricker said. “You turn around andyou’re right back in the competition. You’ve got to be focused. And I was, forthe most part.”

The Plantation Course at Kapalua is a big walk, and Stricker said he waseven more drained from nearly losing five-shot leads on the last two days andfighting off the contenders. Winning itself always takes a toll, so Strickertook Tuesday off, then spent Wednesday in what he described as a pro-am that wascluttered with media requests, not to mention dozens of players stopping tocongratulate him.

“It’s a nice problem to have,” he said

But he’s back to work, now, and in the first full-field event of the PGATour season, feels as though he at least gave himself a chance to join Ernie Els in 2003 as the only players to sweep the Hawaii tournaments.

Walking toward the clubhouse, Stricker was approached by the Golf Channeland asked if he could come on the set for a few minutes. One of the producerssaid it wasn’t imperative, and Stricker—as if it were the hardest thing heever did in his life—said no.

After changing shoes in the locker room, and speaking briefly with a PGATour media official to provide quotes for the Honolulu newspapers, he made adetour on his way to the hotel so he could do the Golf Channel interview.

There’s one big advantage coming off a win, however.

“When you can win, it just boosts that confidence level way up theretoday,” Stricker said.

DeLaet didn’t have reason for a lot of confidence considering he had notplayed in any PGA Tour event in nearly seven months. His excitement level washard to match, though.

It was about this time a year ago when the Canadian’s lower back hurt somuch that he had major surgery, in which part of a disk was shaved off toalleviate pressure on a nerve. He thought there might be a chance he would neverplay again, this right after a rookie season in 2010 in which he finished arespectable 100th on the money list to easily keep his card.

“I’m just so excited to be back out,” DeLaet said. “I had a good seasonmy rookie campaign, and then it was all basically just taken away. And I realizenow how fortunate we are to be playing golf for a living. My whole attitude isdefinitely better.”

DeLaet surged to the top of the leaderboard when he chipped in from justshort of the green on the par-5 ninth, then holed a 35-foot birdie putt on the10th and hit his approach to 6 feet on the 12th for another birdie. He took theoutright lead with birdies on the last two holes, getting up-and-down from justshort of the green on the par-5 18th.

Carl Pettersson and former Sony Open champion K.J. Choi were among those at65, while Stricker was in the group at 66 with Webb Simpson and Bud Cauley .

Thursday was a gentle start of the season on the PGA Tour, with the oceanbreeze barely strong enough to move fronds on the palm trees that line thefairways. Sixty-three players in the 144-man field broke par, including Oahunative Tadd Fujikawa , who was given a late sponsor exemption.

Cauley, who last year became the sixth player to go from college to the PGATour without Q-school, didn’t show any signs of rust from having not played innearly two months. He ran off four straight birdies around the turn until hestalled, then dropped a shot on the 17th and missed a birdie opportunity on the18th when he tried to hit fairway metal out of a bunker and topped his shot.

“I did a lot of things right,” he said. “I did a lot of things I wasdoing last summer.”

DeLaet’s injury was nothing new, first suffered when he was playing hockeyas a junior. His lower back would give him fits, and then the pain wouldsubside. Toward the end of his rookie season in 2010, however, it got so badthat he couldn’t sit for more than a few seconds.

Surgery took care of the pain, and DeLaet tried to return in the summer inthe two tournaments sandwiched around the U.S. Open. His next start was supposedto be the AT&T National at Aronimink, but after playing a few holes before theWednesday pro-am, he realized he was trying to get back too soon.

“I think I wanted to be there so bad that I felt that I was betterphysically than I actually was,” DeLaet said. “I just knew that it’s hardenough to compete out here when you’re healthy, and I just knew that I wasn’t ingood enough shape to compete.”

For the moment, he feels great.

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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