McDowell leads Poulter, Watson at WGC-HSBC

By Doug FergusonNovember 7, 2014, 8:33 am

SHANGHAI – The HSBC Champions has a familiar look to Graeme McDowell, with a few exceptions.

He goes into the weekend at Sheshan International in contention for a World Golf Championship, with Ian Poulter and a big-hitting American alongside. Only, now, the American is Masters champion Bubba Watson - not Dustin Johnson, who overpowered the course on his way to victory last year.

And at least this time, McDowell has the lead.

McDowell leaned on a hot putter to carry him to another 5-under 67 on Friday. That gave him a three-shot lead over Poulter, with Watson and Hiroshi Iwata of Japan right behind.

Tournament organizers might be missing the presence of Johnson, the defending champion who is on a ''voluntary leave'' for what he described as personal challenges. Just don't count McDowell among them, especially not the way Johnson set the tournament record at 24-under 264.

''He looked unbeatable last year the way he played this golf course,'' McDowell said. ''But we've got a fairly decent replacement in Bubba, who in his own way has got the same kind of talents as Dustin, the way he drives it and the short game. In many ways, it's a very similar scenario - myself and Poults against the long-hitting American.''

McDowell saved par when he had to and strung together back-to-back birdies early and late in his round to reach 10-under 134.

Poulter and Watson showed that a deficit can be made up quickly, particularly on the dynamic finishing holes at Sheshan International.

WGC-HSBC Champions: Articles, videos and photos

Watson was seven shots behind when he made birdie on the par-5 14th, and he was just getting warmed up. He blasted a drive just through the end of the fairway on the 487-yard 15th hole and hit gap wedge to 8 feet for birdie on the 15th. He chipped in twice for birdie on the next two holes, and had a simple up-and-down on the par-5 18th to end his round of 67 with five straight birdies.

''Hit some good shots but couldn't make some putts. Hit some bad shots and made some putts,'' Watson said. ''It was a great last five holes.''

Poulter was five shots out of the lead when he birdied four of the last five holes - he made par on the par-3 17th - for a 67 that put him three shots back.

''Probably the best I've played all year, which is very exciting,'' Poulter said. ''It was a little frustrating the first 13 holes that I was missing chances, but four birdies in the last five holes ... chances started to go in at the end and I'm very happy.''

Rickie Fowler opened with 14 straight pars, added a few birdies and shot 70 to reach 5-under 139, along with Tim Clark (70), Jonas Blixt (68) and Kevin Na (68).

McDowell is not one to complain about a pair of 67s on any golf course, though they were different. He only missed one fairway in the opening round, which set up plenty of birdie chances. He had to scramble more on Friday, though at least he could rely on his putter.

''I have to improve tee-to-green to have a chance on Sunday,'' McDowell said. ''I'm putting great - I love these greens. I've just got to keep doing it. I have to go out there tomorrow and not think about making mistakes. Just have to keep the pedal down, execute my game plan, and give myself a chance to win on the back nine on Sunday.''

Adam Scott might have cost himself a chance with a wild round.

The Australian opened with four birdies through seven holes to get within a shot of McDowell. A poor tee shot changed everything. He pulled his drive into a water hazard on the 603-yard eighth hole and had to drop at one of the forward tees. Trying to reach the green in two, he came up just short of the creek in front of the green, and then his pitch from gnarly rough didn't quite reach the green and rolled into the hazard next to a large rock.

Scott decided to take a penalty drop from the other side of the creek and made a quadruple-bogey 9, wiping out those four birdies. He followed with an approach into the water on the ninth for a double bogey, and made eagle on the back nine to salvage a 72. He still was eight shots behind.

Poulter liked his position much better.

''We've got 36 holes to go. You've got 36 potential birdies,'' he said. ''So three shots is pretty close.''

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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

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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

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Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

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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