PGA Mulls Waste Bunker Dilemma
The PGA of America, The Golf Channel has learned, is close to announcing that it agrees.
Quick background: Cink beat Ted Purdy in a playoff at Harbour Town after some creative but legal 'gardening' with loose impediments in a waste area to the left of the 16th hole.
Part of the fallout was the realization that Whistling Straits, site of next month's PGA Championship, has hundreds of waste areas. In a waste area, a player is allowed, among other things, to ground his or her club and remove loose impediments.
Late Tuesday Kerry Haigh, the PGA of America's Managing Director of Tournaments, said his organization was leaning toward playing everything 'through the green' at Whistling Straits.
'Through the green' means players would be able to ground their clubs in sandy areas, including greenside bunkers, throughout the course. What's imperative, Haigh added, is that players know exactly what constitutes a loose impediment.
In other words, if the PGA of America decides on 'through the green,' it will strive to eliminate the ambiguities of Harbour Town that led to what many people thought was a preferred lie that helped Cink win the tournament.
The last time the PGA of America played sandy areas as 'through the green' was at the 1991 Ryder Cup matches at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island in South Carolina. Not coincidentally, course architect Pete Dye, designed the Ocean Course and Whistling Straits.
Haigh said the decision on whether to play 'through the green' at Whistling Straits could come as late as the Thursday morning of the event. He pointed out that players hitting into sand outside the ropes under 'through the green rules' will be at an obvious disadvantage because, in many cases, spectators will have walked in those areas. Sandy areas inside the ropes, he said, will be maintained.
But players won't have to rake bunkers. And they won't have to worry about grounding their clubs.
Earlier this week, defending PGA champion Shaun Micheel, who played Whistling Straits for the first time last June, told me he favored the PGA declaring all waste areas as hazards. But, he conceded, 'they'd have to put rakes everywhere. I don't know if there are that many rakes. They might have to go to Home Depot.'
Instead there might not be any rakes. Which is the other way to attack the potential problem.
Micheel and several other players praised Haigh and the PGA of America as even-handed in its course set-ups over the years. But at least one Tour player said the conditions at Whistling Straits, which, at 7,597 yards, will play as the longest course in major championship history, could produce scores in the 90s.
Haigh is acutely aware how severe conditions can get along Lake Michigan at Whistling Straits when the prevailing winds blow. Plus, the last thing the PGA of America wants is the kind of notoriety the USGA achieved at the U.S. Open last month at Shinnecock Hills when the course temporarily, at least, got out of control during the final round. Nor does the PGA of America want a repeat of the Cink controversy.
'We will make everything absolutely clear on the rules sheet (distributed to the players),' Haigh said.
Haigh also said his organization will, if conditions dictate, consider shortening the 618-yard par 5 11th, the 516-yard par 4 15th, and the 500-yard par 4 18th. If this happens, Haigh said, it won't be because of the lengths of the holes (the 15th is the longest listed par 4 in major championship history). It will be because of the carry distances off the tee.
'It's a difficult golf course with challenges unlike any other,' Haigh said of Whistling Straits.
And it's terrific to see the PGA of America assessing the upsides AND the downsides of those challenges with an open mind.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test
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."
Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage
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.
Swipe to see what’s up in my world. It’s long-winded.... short version, we lost the baby. Had to share this since we had shared the news already. I know you’re all so supportive and kind. I just couldn’t face it before. Now let’s get back to our regularly scheduled programming. #ihavealotoffeelings #andphotostocatchupon
“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
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.
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.
Green jacket tour
Man of the people
Ace at 17th at Sawgrass
Departure from TaylorMade
Squashed beef with Paddy
Victory at Valderrama
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18