Notes: East Lake's last produces few gasps

By Doug FergusonSeptember 21, 2011, 10:02 pm

ATLANTA — The first year of The Tour Championship at East Lake offered great promise for dramatic theater on the par-3 18th. Hal Sutton saved par from a deep bunker to get into a playoff, then hit a 4-wood to 6 feet for a birdie to beat Vijay Singh.

That was in 1998.

And that was the last time a player won with a birdie on the closing hole at East Lake.

That's no surprise. The par 3 is 235 yards and plays slightly uphill, guarded by deep bunkers to the right. The green has a false front. Most players would be happy with par. Jim Furyk last year had a one-shot lead, found the right bunker and got up-and-down to capture the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup.

But it's not conducive to excitement.

In fact, most players would say it's harder to make a birdie 2 than a double-bogey 5.

'I've had some putts at 2,' Geoff Ogilvy said. 'But it's mostly 3s and 4s.'

Matt Kuchar, who played East Lake when he was at Georgia Tech, called it an 'interesting' hole, but maybe not a hole where anything can happen, such as the closing holes at the previous three playoff venues — a reachable par 4 at Plainfield, a par 5 at TPC Boston where Chris Stroud made eagle to advance, and even the long par 4 at Cog Hill with water hugging the left side of the green and bunkers right.

'It's fun when you have a finishing hole and you can make a birdie, make a bogey, where stuff can happen,' Kuchar said. 'It seems like you pretty much see pars and bogeys on the last hole. You don't see many 2s. And you see even less 5s.'

Dustin Johnson, who has to hit a 4-iron from the back of the 18th tee, was playing a practice round Tuesday when he wondered how the end of the Tour Championship might be different if officials switched the nine holes. The ninth at East Lake is a par 5 that can be reached in two with a big, and straight, tee shot.

'You've got guys who can reach the green, making eagles, or to come from one or two back to tie or win,' Johnson said. 'I think that definitely makes for a little more excitement.'

East Lake is among the few courses that finish with a par 3. Another one is at The Greenbrier, which was a wedge or a 9-iron. Scott Stallings made a birdie in regulation and in a playoff to win. It was exciting.

Then again, most people are used to the par-3 finish at East Lake.

'It's kind of become a signature hole, and I guess a birdie there would certainly look pretty cool,' Kuchar said. 'To finish with a 2 there is kind of a heroic effort.'

CRUNCHING NUMBERS: For the first time in three years, no one from outside the top 100 in the FedEx Cup at the start of the playoffs reached the Tour Championship.

Kevin Streelman made it to East Lake last year after starting at No. 102. The year before, Heath Slocum was at No. 124 when he won the opening playoff event at The Barclays and assured himself a spot in the Tour Championship.

The highest seed at East Lake this year is Geoff Ogilvy, who started at No. 79.

Only seven players who started in the top 30 got bumped after three playoff events, the highest being Martin Laird at No. 17. He tied for 58th at The Barclays, tied for 74th at the Deutsche Bank Championship and tied for 12th at the BMW Championship. He fell to No. 31.

Masters champion Charl Schwartzel skipped the opening event, and it cost him. He wound up at No. 32. He hoped to follow Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk, who won the FedEx Cup after not playing the first event. But they started much higher — Woods was No. 1 in 2007, while Furyk was No. 3 last year.

The others who fell out of the top 30 this year were Rory Sabbatini, D.A. Points, Rickie Fowler, Spencer Levin and Tommy Gainey. For Fowler, it was the second straight year he started the playoffs inside the top 30 and failed to get to the Tour Championship.

THE PARTY'S OVER: Matt Kuchar was the No. 1 seed in the FedEx Cup last year and never had a chance. He attributes that to missing too many fairways, although his wife came up with another plan for this year.

They won't be doing as much entertaining.

Kuchar used to live in Atlanta, had just sold his house and stayed with friends as he prepared to move to Sea Island. The trouble was having so many friends in town who wanted to catch up over dinner.

This year, don't bother calling.

'My wife has made me limit the off-course activities — getting together with friends, dinners, those sort of things, which has been tough to say 'no' to friends,' Kuchar said. 'This year, we're going to try to stay a lot more quiet. I love Atlanta, and I love being here. I've got so many great friends. But my wife said, 'You really owe it to yourself to make this as much of a regular tournament as you can, and to not just feel like you're entertaining all week.''

He was to attend a dinner hosted by PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem on Wednesday night, 'and then I'm going to stay pretty quiet for the rest of the week.'

CHUBBY'S STABLE: Chubby Chandler's magnificent stable of golfers has one less star.

At the end of a weekly blog on his website, Ernie Els said he is leaving International Sports Management because he is living in South Florida and wants to consolidate his management to a new office.

Chandler's clients include major champions Darren Clarke, Rory McIlroy and Charl Schwartzel, along with Lee Westwood, who was No. 1 in the world this year. Els joined him at London-based ISM in 2004.

'I feel like it's the right time to make this move,' Els said. 'After so many years based in the U.K. and traveling the world golf circuit since turning pro, it is nice to consolidate our activities in one place.'

Els thanked Chandler and the ISM team for their seven years together and said he was proud to be associated with 'one of the most talented stables in world golf.'

He did not say who would handle his management.

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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