Tiger Woods faces tricky test at the Heath

By Doug FergusonNovember 11, 2009, 7:18 pm
JBWere Masters

MELBOURNE, Australia – The sun-baked fans let out a cheer Wednesday when Tiger Woods pulled his driver from the bag, a rarity at the Australian Masters on the shortest golf course he has played all year.

That doesn’t mean Kingston Heath, a par 72 at a mere 7,059 yards, will be his easiest test.

Woods played the entire course for the first time in the pro-am before another massive crowd, picking his spots around the sandbelt course that is framed beautifully by bunkers and native brush.

“He’s going to have to show some of his best stuff playing around a course like this,” Geoff Ogilvy said. “He’s going to have to play smart, play imaginative golf and stuff. That’s what he has really been good at the last few years, especially shaping his ball around and playing proper golf … old-style golf. I think it’s going to be fun to watch.”

The Australian Masters has been sold out for months, not long after it was announced that Woods was receiving a $3 million appearance fee for his first individual tournament Down Under since the Australian Masters at nearby Huntingdale in 1997.

That was two months before Woods, who was 21, captured his first major by winning the Masters by 12 strokes.

He now has 14 major championships and victories in 12 countries – but not yet in Australia. Even so, the bookies have installed him as the heavy favorite at Kingston Heath.

The JBWere Masters gets under way Thursday, with Woods playing alongside defending champion Rod Pampling and Craig Parry, who won the last time Woods competed in this part of the world. That was the New Zealand Open in 2002.

“A good omen for me,” Parry said.

Woods is coming off a tie for sixth last week in Shanghai at the HSBC Champions, where he started two shots out of the lead and in the final group only to falter with a 72 to finish five behind Phil Mickelson.

His only other experience in Melbourne was at Huntingdale in 1997 and Royal Melbourne in 1998 for the Presidents Cup.

“Some local knowledge helps around here,” Adam Scott said. “But if anyone can figure it out, Tiger Woods obviously can. He’s the best player in the world and he’s playing well. There’s no question he’s the man to beat this week.”

Woods didn’t even try to reach the 294-yard sixth, one of the signature holes at Kingston Heath. Instead, he hit a stinger 3-wood and tried to run the ball into the front bunker, missing his target and winding up in the gallery just left of the green.

Why not the driver?

Woods laughed, noting it would be impossible to keep a ball on the greens, which are expected to get even firmer under sunny conditions with temperatures approaching 90 degrees.

“I’d wind up in the bushes,” he said.

In the 18 tournaments Woods has played this year, only two of the par-72 courses were under 7,200 yards – the Buick Open at Warwick Hills (7,127 yards), which he won by three shots; and the HSBC Champions last week at Sheshan International (7,143 yards), where he tied for sixth.

Bay Hill was 7,162 yards as a par 70, and Woods rallied to win that from five shots behind in the final round.

“You don’t need a golf course that is 7,500 yards for it to be hard,” Woods said. “You can build it just like this, and have it nice and tricky. It’s just a treat to play.”

Woods has played somewhere outside the United States every year since he turned pro in 1996, and only three years he has he failed to win around the globe. This is final tournament overseas this year, with his last competition coming at his Chevron World Challenge in California the first week in December.

His presence at Kingston Heath has dwarfed the rest of the field, which counts only Woods and Ogilvy from the top 50 in the world ranking. It also features Michael Sim, who crushed his competition on the Nationwide Tour this year.

“He is clearly the favorite going into almost any tournament he plays,” Ogilvy said. “But the clear favorite doesn’t always win. Sometimes the local guys that added emotional, home-tournament drive to win it. So he’s up against it this week to win. But he is definitely, clearly the favorite.”

Ogilvy’s pace has slowed dramatically from his victories in January (Hawaii) and February (Accenture Match Play in Arizona), while Scott has endured the toughest year of his career. Scott is coming off a tie for third at the Singapore Open last week, moving him up to No. 62 in the world. He started the season at No. 17.

Australia had five players in the top 50 at the end of last year. Now it is down to two – Ogilvy and Robert Allenby.

“If it happens four or five years in a row, then we panic,” Ogilvy said. “But I think we’re going to be all right.”

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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

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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