New grooves making a differnce on PGA Tour

By Doug FergusonJanuary 18, 2010, 9:52 pm

2007 Sony Open

HONOLULU – The small crowd far down the eighth fairway could see John Daly, just not where his golf ball was headed.

Daly is hard to miss these days, even from more than 300 yards away – not because he has lost 100 pounds, rather the colorful prints he wears, some that look like a gum ball machine.

On this day at the Sony Open, the gallery was curious to see whether players would go at the green more than 450 yards away with a stiff wind at their backs. Daly’s tee shot sailed over the trees and just through the fairway. Next was Bubba Watson, even longer off the tee, and his drive stopped in the short grass about 70 yards short of the green.

So much for that notion of playing it safe this year.

While one hole – especially those two players – is not the best sampling of strategy on the PGA Tour, two weeks into the new year did little to support the theory that players will give up distance for accuracy because of V-shaped grooves now required in irons.

What followed was worth noting.

Daly is using 20-year-old Ping wedges that still have square grooves (legal through a loophole), and he couldn’t figure out how to play toward the pin. He chose a low trajectory and wound up 40 feet short. Watson played a higher trajectory and still came up 25 feet short.

Clearly, there will be some adjustments to make this year.

In an effort to put a greater premium on accuracy, golf’s governing bodies served up the most significant rollback in technology by banning box-shaped grooves that generate greater spin.

Will that make golf harder?

Not necessarily.

Geoff Ogilvy defended his title at Kapalua with a 22-under 280, two strokes higher than last year, and that can be attributed to the strong Kona wind that makes the course slightly tougher.

Ryan Palmer won the Sony Open on Sunday at 15-under 265, the same winning score Zach Johnson had last year.

Whether scores will suffer will not be noticeable until more tournaments are played on different grasses in a variety of conditions. The new grooves at least appear to make the game different.

The best example came at the decisive par-5 18th hole in the final round at Waialae, when Palmer and Robert Allenby were tied for the lead, both in the rough right of the fairway.

Palmer had 226 yards to the hole for his second shot, thought about a 6-iron, then changed to a 5 because the ball was sitting up in the grass and he didn’t think it would jump off the club. He guessed wrong, and the ball came up 50 feet short.

“It obviously didn’t jump out like I thought it would,” Palmer said. “It caught a little bit high on the club face.”

Next up was Allenby, who was in about the same spot the day before when he hit a 4-iron. This time, he opted for a 5 from 218 yards and it came out hot, running through the back of the green and against a TV tower. With a nasty lie, he opted to pop up a wedge and did well to leave himself a 10-foot putt up the hill, which he missed and lost by one shot.

“I had the same yardage as yesterday, and I hit one club less and it went further,” Allenby said. “And that’s the beauty of the grooves today. It has changed the game of golf, which I think is for the better. I think it’s great, because now we have to all of a sudden manufacture our way around the golf course.

“Before, it would have come out soft, and we know that,” he said. “Today, you don’t know where it’s going to go.”

It has hurt some players.

Pat Perez was amazed at some of the fliers he got out of the rough, hitting one 7-iron from 210 yards that was “all grooves.” He prepared for those shots. What stumped him was chipping around the green with new grooves in his wedges.

“I can’t chip,” he said, which was evident on the 13th hole Saturday when he came up 6 feet short on a standard chip and took bogey. “I’ve tried them all – a bump, a flop. I haven’t figured it out yet.”

Steve Stricker believes it already has cost him a few shots, including one at Kapalua on the ninth hole when he was expecting the ball to check up after one bounce, and instead it released.

On the 10th hole Thursday at Waialae, what was supposed to be a low trajectory with a sand wedge climbed into the blue sky.

“It climbed right up the face, went up and went down,” said Stricker, who still managed to make birdie because he can still putt. “I’ve tried different techniques. It’s not the normal trajectory I’m used to seeing. I look down on the club face and I’ve got a grass stain in the middle. It really is a guessing game now.”

New grooves aren’t necessarily bad.

Vijay Singh had a shot from the left rough on the 16th hole in which he ordinarily might have been blocked by a tree. With more shallow grooves, he was able to get the ball higher and over the tree with a wedge.

That’s the kind of situation to which Ogilvy was referring at Kapalua when he said, “We lost a bit, but we gained somewhere else.”

The next lab test comes this week at the Bob Hope Classic, which typically doesn’t feature much rough. Then it’s onto Torrey Pines, Riviera and Pebble Beach, with grass that is longer, thinner and typically more damp.

More learning awaits.

“The skill is to try to land it where you need to,” Allenby said. “But there is a lot more luck involved now.”

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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

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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

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Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

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

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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