Will another 50-something contend at British Open

By Associated PressJuly 14, 2010, 4:23 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – First it was Greg Norman, proving for three rounds that age is merely a number. Then along came Tom Watson, just a couple of months shy of his 60th birthday, standing over an 8-foot putt that would have made him the oldest major champion in golf history.

Both Norman and Watson came up short, of course.

But their turn-back-the-clock efforts at the past two British Opens showed it’s not unfeasible for someone to win golf’s oldest major title when they’re past their prime.

Should we expect another Old-timer’s Day at St. Andrews?

Two-time winner Padraig Harrington, who beat a then-53-year-old Norman in the final round of the 2008 Open at Birkdale, wouldn’t be surprised at all.

Tom Watson
Watson lost in a playoff to Stewart Cink in the 2009 Open at Turnberry. (Getty Images)
“One thing with golf,” the Irishman said, “experience will always, always counter talent. Talent, yeah, it’s good. It’s nice to have it. It will certainly show up unbelievable on some days. But experience can always match it, certainly on certain golf courses.”

A links course is certainly one of those spots, though Phil Mickelson believes St. Andrews – with the daunting length of certain holes, such as No. 4, and wide-open spaces that invite a player to go with his driver all over the course – is more favorable to a younger player than either Birkdale or Turnberry, where Watson lost to Stewart Cink in a playoff last year at age 59.

“It would not surprise me to see somebody with a lot of experience, a little bit older, play well here,” Mickelson said. “However, I do think that some of the younger players who hit the ball a long ways off the tee have a distinct advantage. So I would anticipate that those players would come out on top.”

Graeme McDowell, coming off a surprising triumph at the U.S. Open, looks at it differently. Experience counters the mental strain of playing in a major – especially for a player who already has captured a title on one of golf’s biggest stages.

“Major championships require patience and discipline,” McDowell said. “A guy in his late 50s and 60s is not as long as he used to be, but he has the mental discipline and the patience to realize that you’ve got to plot your way around. Even if the wind was to drop here at St. Andrews and all of a sudden the golf course becomes sort of a presumed gift, the pins are going to be tucked away and they’re going to be tough to get at and you’ve got to position your ball well.”

Mickelson played a practice round Tuesday with 52-year-old Nick Faldo, who captured one of his three Open titles at St. Andrews two decades ago. Sir Nick isn’t likely to contend this week, devoting more time these days to the broadcast booth than the driving range, but his local knowledge is invaluable.

“I asked him a bunch of questions because he’s got a lot of great thoughts on St. Andrews and avoiding bunkers and shots into the greens and what allowed him to win and be so dominant in 1990,” Mickelson said. “He played some of the best golf you’ve ever seen here.”

The late Julius Boros remains the oldest major winner, capturing the 1968 PGA Championship when he was 48. But the old-timers keep knocking on the door, especially at this tournament and the Masters.

At 48, Kenny Perry was poised to win the 2009 Masters until he bogeyed the final two holes of regulation then lost to Angel Cabrera in a playoff. This past April, 50-year-old Fred Couples opened with a 66 to become the oldest player to hold the outright lead after the first round at Augusta National; he faded to sixth at the end but managed to strike another blow for the geriatric generation.

But Watson’s showing at Turnberry was the most amazing of all. He went to the 72nd hole with a one-stroke lead, struck his second shot solidly but just over the green, and wound up badly missing an 8-foot putt for par that would have clinched the claret jug for the sixth time.

Unable to bounce back after coming so close, Watson was drubbed in the four-hole playoff by Cink. Still, it was a performance for the ages.

“Tom Watson should have, could have won,” McDowell said. “I’m sure Cink was a great champion, but the fairy-tale story was for Tom to win, and we’re all kind of disappointed to not see that happen.”

Watson is among nine golfers in the Open’s 50-and-over flight, and perhaps the strongest contender in the bunch even though he’s the oldest. But keep an eye on Mark O’Meara, who won the Open in 1998 and has been playing well on the Champions Tour. And there’s also Perry, who turns 50 in less than a month and has missed only one cut all year on the PGA Tour, though he’s never been a fan of links golf.

“There’s no doubt that a player who stays physically fit can keep competing,” Harrington said. “But really, does he stay mentally sharp? Does he have that adrenaline?”

Watson knows that everything would have to come together perfectly for him to have another shot at winning, and his iron play was a bit shaky coming into the week. But he made the cut at the first two majors of the year – finishing 18th at Augusta and 29th at the U.S. Open on daunting Pebble Beach – and no one is ruling out another age-defying weekend.

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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

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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

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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