Escaping Alcatraz

By Brandon TuckerSeptember 18, 2011, 9:42 pm

LA QUINTA, Calif. – PGA West's infamous Stadium Course was once deemed too tough for the PGA Tour's Bob Hope Classic. 

But it's front and center for the amateurs as the most feared course of four in the rotation at this week's Golf Channel Am Tour Senior National Championships

The good and bad news for the Sarazen flight (93 golfers between 12-16 handicaps) is that their first round would be on the Stadium. And perhaps the signature hole of the event is the par-3 17th, an island green akin to the 17th at the TPC Sawgrass. Escape 'Alcatraz' on Day 1, and it might be the difference come the final round on Wednesday and the top prize in your flight. 

The 17th, according to SkyCaddie, was playing 142 yards to the stick, slightly downhill with a little breeze in the face.  

Based on the 90 minutes or so I spent at the 17th Sunday morning, if you hit the green and escaped with a par, you were in the minority. Of the threesomes hitting, the average was at least two shots in the water (or a few found the bunker short-left), followed by a delicate little pitch from the drop zone about 60 yards away.

'That'll make up for the nine on the last hole,' quipped Ted Glarner as his tee shot found the green within about 15 feet. Unfortunately, his playing partner, Jamie Sansom, kept the group's nine streak alive with three water balls en route to his own nuevo

'Glad that's over…' Sansom smirked walking off the green. But Sansom was able to regroup for a bogey on the 18th, a bogey that would actually make up ground on the field. The finishing hole played 2.02 strokes over par Sunday. 

While the 17th may be one of the more intimidating shots on the course, there is no real 'breather' hole on the Stadium. You can't run the ball up onto any greens here, each of which is heavily-guarded with trouble. 

While the 18th, a long, dogleg left around water that is very similar to the TPC Sawgrass' finisher, played toughest, the 17th proved to be the 11th toughest hole this morning and not even the toughest par 3, that was the 13th hole, a longer 170-plus yard shot to a green guarded by water left and mounds and bunkering right. 

Two birdies were managed on Alcatraz, scored by Vic Okler from Baldwin, Missouri and David Spalasso from Castro Valley, California. Leaders in the clubhouse after day one for the Sarazen group were Dave Verhulst and Peter Kan Hou, both firing 81s. 

No aces on the 17th, yet. The Championship and Palmer flights will take on the Stadium Monday. 

Jamie Sansom at PGA West

Jamie Sansom takes a crack at Alcatraz on Sunday in the Golf Channel Am Tour Senior National Championships. 

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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