Goosen Furyk trail by two in Tampa

By Doug FergusonMarch 19, 2010, 4:19 am

Transistions Championship

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Padraig Harrington was playing the Transitions Championship for the first time, and there were no surprises.

“I knew the golf course was good,” he said. “It’s as good a venue as we play all year.”

That type of word-of-mouth reputation might explain why the field is as strong as it has ever been since this tournament north of Tampa was moved into the Florida swing in March.

And it’s why Garrett Willis – and Jeff Maggert, for that matter – were lucky to even get into the field.

Willis lives up the road in Dade City, and having regained his PGA Tour card through the Nationwide Tour last year, he counted on the Transitions Championship as one he would be able to play. Imagine his surprise when enough players signed up that Willis was not among the 144 players who qualified.

“I thought I was a shoo-in,” Willis said.

Instead, he had to get a sponsor exemption two weeks ago to secure his spot. Taking full advantage, and with some family and friends tagging along Thursday, Willis went from steady to spectacular on the back nine with five birdies for a 6-under 65 and a two-shot lead.

Those at 67 included a pair of Innisbrook champions – Retief Goosen and Carl Pettersson – along with Jim Furyk, Jonathan Byrd, rookie Rickie Fowler and Maggert, perhaps the biggest surprise of the day.

Maggert got his card back through Q-school, but he didn’t fare well on the West Coast and fell back down the priority list. He was the seventh alternate at one point, and figured he would be home in Houston.

In fact, Maggert spent Wednesday afternoon at home with a shovel and some elbow grease as he tried to remove dead palm trees. It made him sore, but not above the shoulders. Learning he had moved up to the first alternate, the 46-year-old Maggert thought it would be in his best interest to at least fly to Tampa in case he got in.

He arrived at the course Thursday morning in time to hear that Vijay Singh was hurting, and minutes later the big Fijian decided to withdraw because of a back injury. Maggert warmed up, then heated up in a round of 67.

“I enjoy the golf course,” Maggert said. “I wish I didn’t have to wait until the last minute to get in, but it just worked out.”

Furyk and Pettersson deserve special consideration for when they played as much as how they played, both in the afternoon. Willis was in the second group out in the morning, and the wind didn’t really pick up until he was headed for lunch.

“I was happy to get done,” Willis said.

The cool air mixed with the steam coming out of Furyk’s ears when he failed to convert a routine up-and-down for birdie on the par-5 opening hole, knowing birdies would only become more rare as the afternoon wore on.

To his surprise, he picked up three straight birdies in the meat of the front nine and managed to get through without a bogey.

“I was kind of kicking myself, because I knew it was going to be a tough day,” Furyk said. “Then I went on a tear and birdied some really hard holes. It was nice to get off to a good start. The greens are quite quick, and these greens have a lot of undulation. When the wind is blowing, it’s just a tough day to score.”

Pettersson challenged for the lead until he had to scramble for bogey at No. 7, then make a key putt to save par on the par-3 eighth. Those were almost as important as the five birdies he made earlier.

“Those are the things when you’re playing well that keep the round going,” Pettersson said. “I’m happy with the round.”

Ross Fisher of England was the only afternoon starter in the group at 68, while Harrington had to hole a bunker shot from short of the 18th green to post a 69 in his debut at Innisbrook.

It wrapped up a whirlwind two days for Ireland’s three-time major champion. He left Tampa after lunch Wednesday to fly to the Washington. He found himself exploring various rooms in the White House during the afternoon, attending a St. Patrick’s Day celebration with President Barack Obama in the evening, then coming back to Florida.

The only regret? Not shaking hands with Obama.

“When it finished off, people obviously were going up to say ‘Hello,’ and I sort of stayed back,” Harrington said. “I missed the opportunity, but it will happen again. And the end of the day, it was just nice to be there. I was close enough, let’s say.”

What amazed Harrington was the punctuality of the day – he is anything but that.

“The party was from 6 to 9. We arrived at 6 and left at 9,” Harrington said. “That’s very unusual for me.”

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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