Westy could finally break through at Phoenix Open

By Bailey MosierJanuary 30, 2014, 12:54 am

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – On a partly cloudy, brisk and picturesque July morning in Scotland, Lee Westwood was one round away from claiming the claret jug. He held the 54-hole lead at the 142nd edition of the Open Championship, his second time sleeping on the third-round lead at a major. The English golfer, with wins on every major continent, was on the verge of claiming his first major championship.

Fast-forward some dozen-odd hours later, and the loosey-goosey Lefty from California had swooped in and claimed all the major championship glory. Westwood posted a final-round 4-over 75, falling to Phil Mickelson by four.

Albeit a much less-coveted trophy, Westwood has a chance of returning the favor to Mickelson this week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

After all, TPC Scottsdale has long been recognized as Mickelson’s playground, being that he went to school at nearby Arizona State University, considers Phoenix his second home and is one of only four players (Arnold Palmer, Gene Littler, Mark Calcavecchia) to have won this event three times. Phil’s face is plastered on billboards and posters everywhere. Phoenix loves Phil. Phil loves Phoenix.

Claiming the title in Scottsdale will be no small task for Westwood. For starters, he is making his first-ever career start at the WMPO this week. Only five players have won in their first start at the WMPO when it’s been contested at TPC Scottsdale. Westwood added the desert stop to try to get some more state-side starts early in the season.

“Normally I would go play in the Middle East swing,” Westwood said. “I decided not to go this year and wanted to play a few more events in the United States.”

And it’s a united state Westwood hopes he’s finally settling into this season. Among the changes he’s made over the last couple years include moving to the U.S., focusing less on ball-striking and more on short game, dropping long-time swing coach Pete Cowen, picking up swing coach Sean Foley, rekindling his relationship with previous caddie Billy Foster, working with a sports psychologist for the first time and cutting beer out of his diet. OK, that last part is made up. 

“There have been a lot of changes, so that’s been difficult,” Westwood said, “sometimes difficult to see which part of your game is wrong when there are so many different things going on.”

And yet, in the first month of 2014, in the beautiful Sonoran desert, Westwood finally feels like things are falling into place.

“I’ve got a fair bit of continuity at the moment,” Westwood said, “but, you know, I feel like I have a grasp of it at the moment and I’m hitting the ball well.”

That’s good news for the Englishman, who turns 41 in April and would love nothing more than to shake the ‘greatest golfer to have never won a major’ label oft-time associated with him.

But first, he must tackle TPC Scottsdale, and most notably, the 16th.

“I’m obviously a virgin to this tournament and the 16th,” Westwood said. “Don’t really know what to expect. … I’m glad it’s only an 8-iron.”

With the dust finally starting to settle and the beers free-flowing at the WMPO, this event may be the perfect place for Westwood to again find the winner’s circle. But just in case he doesn’t, we know where we can find him.

“If I had bought a ticket and I was coming to this tournament, I’d be in 16 drinking beers, too,” Westwood joked.

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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