A down year for Tiger leads to parity in golf

By Doug FergusonAugust 24, 2010, 11:46 pm
PARAMUS, N.J. – The dominance of Tiger Woods becomes even more defined when he can’t beat anyone at all.

In the years when he wasn’t winning a major or three, Woods compensated by winning at least five times on the PGA Tour against some of the strongest fields on some of the toughest courses. He won 31 times and six majors in the previous five years.

The only time during that stretch that Woods did not win PGA Tour player of the year was in 2008, when he made it through only half the year until his knee gave out. Padraig Harrington captured the last two majors to win the award, although Woods still earned some consideration. He won four times in six starts, including a U.S. Open.

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The FedEx Cup playoffs get under way this week at The Barclays, and Woods is at No. 112 in the standings, sandwiched between Bob Estes and Cameron Beckman.

Dominance has given way to parity.

Five players have multiple victories this year – Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Justin Rose and Hunter Mahan – yet none of them has more than two wins, and none of them won a major.

Why has no one filled the void?

“That’s how good Tiger Wood is – that’s what I make of it,” Adam Scott said Tuesday.

Els has been leading the FedEx Cup standings since winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March. He begins the playoffs with only a 149-point lead over Stricker. A year ago, Woods had a 1,276-point lead over Stricker going into The Barclays.

“This is just an observation,” Zach Johnson said Tuesday. “But I watched Greensboro for about six holes on Sunday and they showed the standings. I knew Ernie had been on top forever, but he still is. The other years it seemed like it was so volatile that even I was at No. 1 for like a week. Now it’s all bunched up.”

Golf is bunched up at the moment, at least on the PGA Tour.

“No one has separated themselves,” Mahan said. “Tiger hasn’t won five times. You’ve got a bunch of guys who have won twice.”

In its first three years, the FedEx Cup has provided four great tournaments after the majors were over, and the list of winners backs that up – three wins for Woods; two apiece for Mickelson, Stricker, Vijay Singh and Camilo Villegas; and Heath Slocum as the outsider, but only after beating Woods, Stricker, Harrington and Els on the last hole. Even so, it had little bearing on anything except a bank account.

This year – thanks to Woods – it’s a little different.

The four playoff events over the next five weeks most likely will decide who was the best player on the PGA Tour this year. Not only is there no clear-cut favorite for player of the year, it’s hard to determine the front-runner.

“Ernie?” pondered Mahan, but only after taking several seconds of thought. “He’s leading the points race, right? And he won twice. And he was right up there in two majors.”

Actually, only one major.

Els had a share of the lead Sunday in the U.S. Open until he started dropping shots along the Pacific cliffs and never got them back. He wound up third, then missed the cut in the British Open and fizzled at the PGA Championship.

Winning the FedEx Cup might be all it takes for Els to be voted player of the year. Then again, it’s mathematically possible for him to do that without winning another tournament. Can a guy get voted best player with only two wins and no majors?

“If Phil wins, it’s got to be over,” Mahan said, continuing to work this out while speaking to no one in particular.

The defining shot of this goofy season was the 6-iron Mickelson hit through the pines on the 13th at Augusta National when he won the Masters. He is the only major champion in the FedEx Cup because the other three – Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen and Martin Kaymer – were not PGA Tour members.

For the eighth time over the last three months, Mickelson will have yet another chance to replace Woods atop the world ranking. It should have happened by now, as poorly as Woods has performed. Trouble is, Mickelson hasn’t been much better. Lefty has not finished in the top 10 in the four tournaments he has played since the U.S. Open.

Mahan won in Phoenix, got engaged to a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, then won his first World Golf Championship title at Firestone. He would get consideration with a victory or two in the next month, plus the $10 million prize for the FedEx Cup.

The same holds true for Stricker, Furyk and Rose. Someone needs to separate themselves from the pack.

“I guess there’s a lot of people in the mix,” Dustin Johnson said. “But whoever has a good playoffs will probably be the top candidate.”

That might include Johnson, himself. Two playoff wins, a FedEx Cup, a victory earlier this year at Pebble Beach, sympathy for the bunker ruling at Whistling Straits. Why not?

“If I could win a couple of playoff events and the FedEx Cup, I’d be happy,” Scott said. “Even if you didn’t vote for me.”

Given the way this season has gone, the four playoff events could go to players who had not won anything all year.

Even someone like Woods.
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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

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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