Sabbatini vaults into lead; Woods one back

By Doug FergusonJune 2, 2012, 12:50 am

DUBLIN, Ohio – That other Rory – Rory Sabbatini – played his best golf in the worst weather Friday at the Memorial and made a surprising appearance atop the leaderboard. Right behind him was a Tiger Woods that looked all too familiar.

Sabbatini played bogey-free over his final 12 holes, and despite missing a 5-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole, put together a 3-under 69 in the cool, blustery conditions at Muirfield Village to take a one-shot lead going into the weekend.

Woods looked strong for the second straight day, though he also had another double bogey that slowed his progress. What pleased him was controlling his ball in the wind for plenty of birdie chances that led to a 69.

''I hit the ball well all day, and it was a day that I needed to,'' Woods said. ''The wind was blowing out there, swirling in those trees, and it was just a tough day.''

It was plenty tough for Rory McIlroy.

The U.S. Open champion, who returned to No. 1 in the world only four weeks ago, missed the cut in his third straight tournament. McIlroy was in good shape until a shot just outside a creek hit the bank and went backward into the water, leading to the first of two double bogeys on the back nine. He shot 79 and missed the cut by three shots.

''I'm definitely hitting the ball better than I did last week, so I can see an improvement there,'' he said. ''But I've still got a long way to go.''

It was tough for everyone on a day that began with a two-hour rain delay in the morning. That softened the course, but the wind featured gusts strong enough that it was difficult to attack the pins. It showed in the scores.

Sabbatini was at 6-under 138, the highest score to lead the Memorial in 22 years.

''We basically just kept the ball in play all day, and that's the challenge out there,'' Sabbatini said. ''And we did that very well, and I'm very, very excited, very content with the way that things went.''

Woods has 72 wins on the PGA Tour, one away from tying Jack Nicklaus for second on the career list. What better place to catch him than on the course Jack built, though Woods wasn't ready to entertain such thoughts only halfway through the tournament.

And while he commands attention at Muirfield Village - a four-time champion who has shot par or better in 22 of his last 23 rounds on this course – there were plenty of possibilities going into the weekend.

Spencer Levin (72) and Scott Stallings (73) played in the morning and joined Woods at 5-under 139.

Jim Furyk, another former champion, matched the best score Friday with a 68 and was in the group only two shots behind. There were 21 players within four shots of the lead, a list that includes Quail Hollow winner Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson, Lucas Glover and Adam Scott, who was contending for the lead until closing with three straight bogeys for a 72.

The surprise was Sabbatini. He has missed the cut eight times this year, and his only top 10 came at the season opener in Kapalua, when he was 10 shots behind. The spunky South African has been toiling with his swing coach, Rick Smith, and for all the work they have done with his swing, even more crucial was keeping his patience.

''It's definitely shown me I have to be a little more patient out there,'' Sabbatini said. ''There's nothing that's going to get achieved in an instant. You've got to make sure that you take your time and just make sure that you continue to run the process, and ultimately things will change.''

That's what happened Friday, when Sabbatini made a couple of bogeys in his opening six holes. It started to turn with a 15-foot birdie on the ninth, and he was solid the rest of the way. He took care of the par 5s with good wedge play - both those holes were into the wind - and picked up a key birdie on the 14th to a back pin, leaving it below the hole and making a 12-foot birdie.

Woods did little wrong at the start except for missing a few birdie putts inside 10 feet and failing to take advantage of the par 5s. Even so, he didn't come close to a bogey until he reached the par-3 12th hole, which played into the wind. The question was how much wind.

Woods was trying to decide between an 8-iron and a 9-iron on the 159-yard hole over the water, guarded front and back by bunkers. He watched Fred Couples hit a 6-iron that a big gust knocked down and deposited in the water. Woods went with a 7-iron that he hit like a bullet, over the water, over the green, into the gallery. From there, he hit a poor flop shot that didn't reach the green, chipped to 10 feet and missed the putt to take double bogey.

''I didn't feel comfortable hitting 7,'' Woods said. ''I thought I had to take a lot off of it, but I didn't want it to ride, so I started it way left and just bailed out on it, hit it long. And I drew a good lie. It was just a bad chip shot.''

He recovered with a wedge into 6 feet for birdie on the 15th, then a tee shot that covered a front flag on the par-3 16th and settled about 8 feet away.

Woods, coming off his worst three-tournament stretch as a pro, said he played as well as when he won at Bay Hill to end a 30-month drought on the PGA Tour.

''The things that I'm supposed to be doing for the past few tournaments, I was able to do,'' he said. ''This is the way that I hit the ball at Bay Hill and the way I hit it at the end of last year. That's what's exciting about it.''

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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