Laird takes Bay Hill lead Tiger still in picture

By Doug FergusonMarch 25, 2011, 10:08 pm
Arnold Palmer InvitationalORLANDO, Fla. – Martin Laird didn’t split up with his coaches. It just sounds that way.

And it’s not because he was playing poorly. Quite the opposite.

A playoff loss at the opening FedEx Cup playoff event all but assured him a spot in the majors this year. Then came a trip home to Scotland and a tie for fifth in the Dunhill Links, followed by a return to America and a playoff loss to Jonathan Byrd’s hole-in-one in the dark of Las Vegas. Laird then went to Malaysia and tied for third.

One similarity to that stretch was that Laird didn’t practice. He showed up and played.

“It showed me that I’ve always been more of a grinder,” he said Friday after a 7-under 65 for a one-shot lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. “It was funny to me that when I really just turned up at tournaments and let it happen, I played better. My coach and I decided this offseason to see a lot less of each other.”

The idea was to get together every half-dozen tournaments to check positions, because Laird is doing something right.

“And it’s paying off,” he said.

He did get together with coach Mark McCann at the start of Bay Hill, only because he felt he hit the ball poorly at Innisbrook last week, when he chipped and putted to a tie for fifth. They worked on one swing key, and Laird was on his way.

Nine holes into his practice round, it all came back to him.

Thirty-six holes into the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Laird was at 9-under 135 and had a one-shot lead over Spencer Levin, who struggled to a 70 in the morning, and K.J. Choi, who had a tournament-best 64 in the afternoon.

Staying atop the leaderboard will be the tricky part.

There were 16 players separated by six shots going into the weekend at Bay Hill, a group that included – barely – six-time Bay Hill champion Tiger Woods.

Woods played a clean round Friday, the only big mistake coming on the third hole when he made solid contact out of the rough but turned the ball over enough to twice bounce off the rocks framing the green and staying in the hazard. He still pitched up to 2 feet and did no worse than bogey, his only dropped shot in a round of 68 that put him six shots behind.

For Woods, that constitutes progress these days.

“I had a hard time getting the ball to the hole today,” Woods said. “That was probably the main thing. I left five putts that were dead center short, and this could have been a pretty special round if I had hit it a little harder.”

Even so, he was still in the picture. That wasn’t the case at Doral or the Match Play Championship, where he was beaten in the first round. Bay Hill takes on more significance because it’s his last tournament before the Masters.

“We’re trying to build toward the first major, and that’s kind of how my game is,” he said. “It’s building and it’s coming.”

The same could be said for a couple of other players far closer to the lead.

Levin has been feeling more comfortable on the PGA Tour and contending more often. He didn’t play his best Friday in the slightly easier morning conditions, but leaned on his belly putter – all four of his birdies were longer than 15 feet.

The group at 6-under 136 included Steve Marino, who some consider the best player over the last year to have never won on the PGA Tour. Marino has given himself two shots this year, at the Sony Open and Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, and is back for another chance.

“Every time I put myself in a position like that, it gives me more confidence,” Marino said. “If I have the game to do what it takes to get to that point, it’s just a matter of time for me until I just keep doing the same things and finish one off.”

Also at 136 was Charles Howell and Vaughn Taylor. Both have won on the PGA Tour, and both are desperate for win right about now, especially since it’s the only way they can play in their hometown tournament in a few weeks at the Masters.

Rickie Fowler also is looking for his first win. He was making his way up the leaderboard until bogeys on his last two holes for a 71. He was at 4-under 140, along with Jason Dufner.

Laird didn’t talk about the swing key McCann gave him, but he couldn’t be happier with his driver.

He reached three of the par 5s in two shots, converted one of them into an eagle, and played the longest holes in 5 under. And it wasn’t just the par 5s. Even without any wind in the afternoon, Laird hit driver on the 384-yard fifth hole to set up a simple pitch and another birdie. He closed his round with a 321-yard tee shot on the ninth and a 12-foot birdie.

“I’m driving the ball really well and putting really well,” Laird said. “Ask any pro – that’s a pretty good combination to have, especially on a golf course this long where you have to drive the ball in the fairway.”

Choi put in three hybrids to go with his driver and two fairway metals, all to get ready for the Masters. It paid dividends at Bay Hill with a tournament-best 64. Levin didn’t play his best in the morning, but his putting carried him to a 70. Levin made all four of his birdie putts outside 15 feet to stay atop the leaderboard until Laird’s late surge.

“I would never have thought that I would score 8 under today on a course like this,” Choi said. “I’m just happy that I’ve done that, and I just want to keep this rhythm going on for the last two days.”

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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
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Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.