Rookie makes auspicious debut at Sony Open

By Doug FergusonJanuary 15, 2010, 7:21 am

2007 Sony OpenHONOLULU – Troy Merritt had strong credentials as a PGA Tour rookie, just not the hype.

Even though he set an NCAA record by winning five straight tournaments at Boise State, and last month went wire-to-wire at Q-school to earn his PGA Tour card, he was overlooked Thursday in the Sony Open while playing alongside 21-year-old Rickie Fowler.

If that wasn’t enough, the standard-bearer had the wrong name on the sign – Merrick – which wasn’t fixed for an hour.

By the end of the round, Merritt was starting to make a name for himself.

One of four rookies who had never teed it up on the PGA Tour, the 24-year-old Merritt played with poise at Waialae for a 5-under 65 that gave him a share of the early lead with Davis Love III, defending champion Zach Johnson and Ryan Palmer.

“My fiancee asked me, ‘What do you want to accomplish on your first round?’ And I said, ‘I’d be ecstatic if I could shoot 3-under par.’ I wasn’t really thinking about that today,” Merritt said. “And things went way better than I thought they could have gone.”

Not so for Fowler.

The two-time Walker Cup star who lost in a playoff on the PGA Tour last fall began with a three-putt double bogey from 8 feet above the hole, picked up another double bogey and wound up with a 75.

Merritt isn’t bothered by the lack of attention, and thinks the world of Fowler. Chalk up the pairing and the results to coincidence, especially one round into a long season.

“He was the No. 1 amateur a few years back. He definitely deserves the attention he gets,” Merritt said. “And I’ve always enjoyed flying under the radar. With the cameras on him, and everybody asking about him, that’s just fine with me. I just go about my business and see what I can do.”

As for the name mix-up?

Merritt was mistaken for John Merrick, who played in the World Cup for the United States last year with Nick Watney.

“That’s the ultimate ‘flying under the radar’ right there,” Merritt said with a laugh.

Merritt, polite as he can be, is used to winning on a smaller scale. He won 12 tournaments in two years at Winona State in Minnesota, a Division II school, then transferred to Boise State and won nine times, including seven as a senior when he led the NCAA in scoring.

He won last year on the Nationwide Tour, although he didn’t fare well enough to finish in the top 25 and earn a PGA Tour card. Instead, he went to Q-school and starred, becoming one of only three players since 1992 to be atop the leaderboard all six rounds.

Merritt took a year to remind himself that there should be little difference between college and the big leagues except for the level of competition. Otherwise, it’s him against the course.

Thursday must have felt like old times.

“I thought I had to change a little bit to compete on the Nationwide Tour, and now on the PGA Tour,” he said. “I found out last summer I can take what I did in college and apply it to what I’m doing now. And the results ended up being pretty much the same.”

His first PGA Tour birdie was a 12-foot putt that banged into the back of the cup, with fortune on his side because he hit it too hard. Later came more pure shots, including a 6-iron he held against a strong wind on the par-3 11th to 6 feet.

Asked how he could shoot 65 in his PGA Tour debut, Merritt said he kept it simple. He played only one practice round before Thursday.

“You learn the course a little bit, you learn where not to hit it,” he said. “You get a good feel for the greens, and then when the tournaments comes, the focus level increases 10 times. It obviously worked out today.”

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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