Stricker grabs lead on cold rainy day at Riviera
Johnson’s 8-iron from 152 yards landed between the pin and the famous bunker in the middle of the green at No. 6, spinning back into the cup for an ace that put him in the lead for most of the afternoon. He had two holes remaining when play was halted by darkness.
Stricker, playing in a morning rain that never relented, chipped in for birdie on the 18th and nearly made an ace on No. 4 when his hybrid from 230 yards lipped out. He shot a 6-under 65 and had the clubhouse lead.
“I’m very happy to be done with the round, to tell you the truth,” said Stricker, who was at 10-under 132. “It was pretty miserable out there today.”
Johnson, also 10 under after making his lone bogey on the 15th, was to return early Saturday to face the par-5 17th and the 473-yard closing hole at Riviera, which was playing so long in the cold and rain that some players barely reached the green with a 3-wood.
Johnson and Stricker were three shots clear of Andres Romero, who had three holes remaining. Forty-one players failed to finish the second round.
Phil Mickelson, trying to become the first player to win three straight years at Riviera, had a 66 and was at 4-under 138 after starting the day in a tie for 83rd.
Padraig Harrington, in his first tournament of the year, was 2 over with two holes to play. He was on the par-5 17th, where he hit a tee shot that went only 204 yards.
Darkness came early because of the gray clouds, and completing the second round in such conditions was impossible. Players had to spend extra time on every shot to wipe off the grips of their clubs and the brims of their hats. Late in the day, the maintenance crew had to roll water off the soaked tee boxes.
That made the performance of Stricker and Johnson even more remarkable.
“Dustin Johnson is 11 under,” Paul Goydos said in amazement as he walked off the 11th tee. “That’s like being 47 under through three rounds at the Hope (Classic).”
Ahead of him was Stephen Ames, bundled in rain gear and making light of the gloomy conditions.
“I don’t play golf for money. I play golf for fun,” Ames said, breaking into a smile. “And this is not fun.”
Johnson, who opened with a 64 for a one-shot lead, caught the brunt of the weather. Temperatures dipped into the 50s F (low teens C), and with the steady rain and soaked conditions, some players couldn’t carry their tee shots much more than 225 yards.
“I don’t like it, but do I mind playing in it? No,” Johnson said. “Everyone has got to play in it. Hitting it a long way helps, too, because the course is by far the longest I’ve ever seen this course play.”
Johnson is not one to get excited, and explained his ace on No. 6 thusly: “Probably my best shot of the day. Hit 8-iron and made it.”
If anyone can handle the rain, leave it to Johnson. He won at Pebble Beach last year when the tournament was cut to 54 holes because of rain, and at Turning Stone in 2008, which was slowed by rain early in the tournament.
The forecast was for more rain overnight, and throughout Saturday.
Stricker, the runner-up at Riviera last year, left the course with no idea when he would hit his next shot. He was four shots ahead of anyone who had finished the second round, with Kevin Stadler (71) and Tim Wilkinson (67) at 6-under 136.
Stricker played in the same group with Anthony Kim, who drove onto the par-4 10th green to open his round and managed eight birdies in his round of 66 to finish at 5-under 137, along with Steve Marino (67) and Ricky Barnes (71).
Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test
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."
Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage
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.
Swipe to see what’s up in my world. It’s long-winded.... short version, we lost the baby. Had to share this since we had shared the news already. I know you’re all so supportive and kind. I just couldn’t face it before. Now let’s get back to our regularly scheduled programming. #ihavealotoffeelings #andphotostocatchupon
“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
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.
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.
Green jacket tour
Man of the people
Ace at 17th at Sawgrass
Departure from TaylorMade
Squashed beef with Paddy
Victory at Valderrama
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18