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D. Johnson (65) one behind Henley in playoff opener

By Doug FergusonAugust 24, 2017, 11:32 pm

OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. – Golf hasn't felt this easy to Dustin Johnson since he was making it hard for anyone to beat him.

Coming off a week in the Bahamas and switching back to his old putter to rely more on feel, Johnson ran off three birdies over his last six holes at Glen Oaks Club and finished with a 5-under 65 to trail Russell Henley by one shot after the opening round of The Northern Trust.

Johnson missed only two fairways and two greens Thursday afternoon, and he finished with a shot up the hill to 4 feet for one last birdie that gave him his lowest round since he won at Riviera in February to rise to No. 1 in the world.

''Today was much easier than it has been in the past,'' Johnson said. ''I've been saying it's close and I've seen signs of it. But today was the first day where I felt like all day I was really in control of the swing. Hit a lot of really good shots. Drove it well. Did everything really well. It's the first time in a long time I've done that.''

He specifically used as a reference the weeks leading into the Masters, when Johnson looked nearly unstoppable by winning three straight tournaments. And then he was stopped by a staircase in his rental home at the Masters, slipping in socks and wrenching his back. He had to withdraw from Augusta National the next day, and since then he has been trying to get over the back injury and get back his game.

The first of four FedEx Cup playoff events moved this year to Glen Oaks, a course no one in the field knows particularly well. It is spacious and immaculate, the contoured greens that can be difficult to negotiate outside of close range.

Henley brought a conservative strategy of aiming for the safe part of the green, and he converted eight birdies. Seven of them were from 12 feet or closer, a testament to how well he was playing. He also chipped in from 80 feet.


The Northern Trust: Articles, video and photos

FedExCup standings entering the playoffs


''I don't know what the key is, or the secret,'' Henley said. ''I just tried to hit the fairway, make sure I hit the green when I was in the fairway, and the greens are great and I rolled in a couple of putts.''

Scott Brown, Camilo Villegas and Chris Kirk were at 66, and it was an important start for Villegas and Kirk.

The top 100 in the FedEx Cup after this week advance to the second playoff event at the TPC Boston. Kirk is at No. 97, Villegas is one spot behind. It was even better for a few players who opened with a 67, such as Bubba Watson (No. 113), Martin Flores (No. 118) and Harold Varner III (No. 123).

Flores only got into the top 125 by finishing with an ace, a par and a birdie at the Wyndham Championship.

Phil Mickelson, meanwhile, needs to see a score much better than his 72, which featured two straight birdies at the end but also a pair of double bogeys. Mickelson has played in every Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup since 1994, and he is in danger of being left out of the Presidents Cup next month at Liberty National.

U.S. captain Steve Stricker has said he needs to see signs from the five-time major champion, and Mickelson knows that.

''I would love to be on that team, but I've got to bring something to the table,'' Mickelson said.

PGA champion Justin Thomas, still sluggish from a busy week of trying to deal with his new status as major champion, wasn't expecting much out of his game and dropped two shots early before he rallied for a 68. In his first start since his two-shot victory at Quail Hollow, Thomas was not introduced on the tee as the PGA champion.

''After the drive I hit, I'm kind of glad they didn't,'' he said.

He hit it on the toe of the driver, a duck-hook that he says would have gone about 130 yards. He was exaggerating. It went 221 yards after it clanged out of the trees and into the fairway, leaving him a 2-iron to the green when most players are hitting a wedge or short iron.

British Open champion Jordan Spieth had a 69, while Hideki Matsuyama, the No. 1 seed going into the PGA Tour's version of the postseason, didn't make a birdie and opened with a 74. Rory McIlroy made three bogeys on the back nine and shot 73.

Johnson switched to a TaylorMade Spider putter during the playoffs last year, and he stuck with that up until returning this week and going back to what he used when he won the U.S. Open last summer at Oakmont.

''I got a little bit more feel with the putter instead of the Spider I was using,'' he said. ''I was getting a little bit too mechanical and I was worrying about too many things when I was putting instead of just putting.''

He ran a long birdie putt some 15 feet by the hole at No. 2 and three-putted for bogey. After that, his speed was better and his game was sharp. The 65 was his best round since a 64 in the second round at Riviera.

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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