Big Easy taking it easy on travel

By Doug FergusonJanuary 14, 2010, 6:18 pm

2007 Sony Open

HONOLULU – Ernie Els came all the way from Florida to a small island in the Pacific Ocean to start his PGA Tour season in the Sony Open. Even for a globe-trotter like Els, it seems like a long way to go for one tournament.

Then again, the Big Easy most likely will not be making as many big trips this year.

The most global golfer of his generation, Els sounds as though he finally is going to make good on his promise to cut back his enormous travel schedule as he pursues trophies and appearance money across the world.

Els has played at least two tournaments in Asia – Dubai, Qatar, even India one time – since he resumed playing the Match Play Championship in 2006. This year, he won’t be leaving America.

The 40-year-old South African is now fully involved at his new home in south Florida having moved from London. His 10-year-old daughter, Samantha, is playing soccer, volleyball and basketball. His 7-year-old son, Ben, is making progress with autism.

“I’m not going to travel around as much this year,” Els said Wednesday. “I’m not going to the Middle East, so I can play a bigger schedule in the U.S. through the Masters.”

Instead of Qatar and Dubai, the Big Easy plans to be at Torrey Pines and Riviera. He might even throw Pebble Beach into the mix before heading to Arizona for the Match Play. Then, it’s off to Florida to play the entire swing except for Tampa. Els is a past champion at Honda, Doral and Bay Hill.

None of this would have been possible had he not moved to Florida.

“It was a very east start for me in the Middle East because it’s so close to South Africa,” he said. “You just fly to Dubai. But ever since we made this change to Florida, it seems like my international schedule, it’s really difficult to do from Florida. That’s why we lived in England for 10 or 11 years. It’s easy to get anywhere in the world within 12 hours.

“It’s difficult to do a Florida-to-Dubai trip, which is 16 to 18 hours, and then come back and try to be half-normal when you come back. It takes you two weeks to get back. The last two years, we’ve been talking about it.”

Ideally, Els would have been in Hawaii for two weeks. However, he failed to win last year for the first time in 20 years – not just the PGA Tour, but anywhere in the world – and thus was not eligible for the winners-only start at Kapalua.

As for the rest of the year?

Els turned 40 last fall. He looks around Waialae and sees Vijay Singh at age 46, Retief Goosen about to turn 41. He looks at the landscape of the PGA Tour and recognizes Phil Mickelson turning 40 this year. He also sees a lot of faces he doesn’t know, finding himself staring at the stitching on golf bags to figure out who some of these guys are.

Playing a practice round Tuesday with Bob Estes, they began talking about generation changes in 10 years. He has been through two of those cycles now.

Even so, Els is as optimistic about the year as everyone else, from 21-year-old Rickie Fowler to 50-year-old Tom Lehman.

“When you have a love of the game, you still want to achieve things,” Els said. “The first week is still quite exciting. You look around this week at who might be doing what for the future of the tour. Players like myself, Retief … Phil will be 40 this year. It’s like the sand in the hourglass is starting to run out. And we’d like to prove to everyone we still belong.”

Also in the field is John Daly, who has lost about 100 pounds over the past nine months through lap-band surgery. Daly is playing on a sponsor’s exemption, about the only way he can get into tournaments except those who recognize his status as a past champion on tour or a two-time major champion.

Daly played behind Els at the British Open, and the Big Easy hardly recognized him except for the loud pants. Daly is down to 190 pounds now, and Els might look at him the same way as some of the other rookies he doesn’t know.

He wouldn’t be alone.

Daly agreed to host the pro-am party Tuesday night at a Honolulu hotel, along with Rich Beem, and he was late for a good reason. The official at the door didn’t know who he was.

“They wouldn’t let me in,” he said. “If I weighed 300 pounds and had four chins, I’d have no problem getting in. No one recognized me.”

Indeed, the two-time major champion has a new look for the new season.

The question is whether he has a new game.

“I feel a tremendous amount of pressure, not from my sponsors, but from myself,” said Daly, whose only status comes from being a past champion. “My goal is to get my card. If I make enough money, fine. If I win, fine. Just so I can finally set up 2011 with a schedule.”

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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