Toughest part of 2014 Ryder Cup will be getting on the team

By Doug FergusonJanuary 5, 2014, 7:43 pm

KAPALUA, Hawaii – The most pressure involving the Ryder Cup this year is simply getting on the team.

It has never been more difficult – for Europe or the United States.

''I do not want to be missing out on that one,'' Graeme McDowell said last month at the end of a most successful season.

The former U.S. Open champion and Ryder Cup hero from Wales in 2010 won three times last year, including the World Match Play Championship in Bulgaria. He finished the year at No. 14 in the world, behind five Europeans – Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter.

But there are no guarantees in golf, especially in this era of great depth. McDowell goes into the year outside the top nine in the standings (four from European Tour money, five from world ranking points, both earned since September).

Both captains, Tom Watson and Paul McGinley, have three wild-card selections. Both teams have young players who were never part of the Ryder Cup conversation until now, whether that's Jordan Spieth of Texas or Victor Dubuisson of France.

''There's going to be two or three guys who miss,'' McDowell said. ''Good players. Quality players. I assume McGinley's wild cards are going to be very hotly contested. No doubt it's going to be a tough team to get on.''

It's like that for America, too.

All anyone has to do is look at the Presidents Cup last October – not because of who played for the American team, but who didn't.

Jim Furyk was left off the team when U.S. captain Fred Couples picked Spieth, and it was hard to fault him for that. Dustin Johnson, whom many regard as the best American talent under 30, didn't make the team and wasn't picked. Former Masters champion Bubba Watson stayed home. Rickie Fowler hasn't played on a U.S. team since he was a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup in Wales.

''It certainly is getting harder now – that, and I think the American players are hungry for it, so they're playing and they're working,'' Zach Johnson said. ''They are grinding and they want to make that team. It's harder to make those teams.''

Last fall, Johnson couldn't help but look at the rosters and say, ''He deserved to be on the team,'' or ''How do you not take that guy?''

''The obvious one was Jim,'' he said. ''How was he not on the team?''

Furyk had not missed a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team since 1997. Then again, Furyk was 43 and every year gets a new class of young players who made it even harder. Harris English won twice last year. Think he doesn't have the Ryder Cup on his mind, especially after having played in a Walker Cup?

Tiger Woods, when he was going through a season of mediocre golf and troubling injuries in 2011, was regarded in some circles as a questionable captain's pick for the 2011 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne. Woods didn't even qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs. Before heading down to Australia, his last top 10 was in April. Taking him would mean leaving PGA champion Keegan Bradley off the team.

All the opinions and analysis overlooked one important thing. He's Tiger Woods. And that made him an obvious choice.

How many guys are locks like that now?

Phil Mickelson, who turns 44 this year and is as unpredictable now as when he was a rookie, probably still fits into that category. And that's about it.

Consider who might be expected to play at Gleneagles the last week of September. Woods, Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Matt Kuchar, Zach and Dustin Johnson, Jason Dufner, Hunter Mahan, Keegan Bradley, Spieth, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson, Furyk.

We're already up to 14. The Ryder Cup takes only 12.

And that's overlooking which new star might emerge this year. English? Billy Horschel? Gary Woodland? Ryan Moore?

Europe was at its strongest in the middle of the 2000s decade. Again, the strength was measured more by who didn't make the team. That prompted Colin Montgomerie to say in Ireland in 2006 that Europe had reached a stage where it could field two quality teams. It used to be the Europeans barely had enough for one.

Rose and Poulter didn't make the '06 team. Darren Clarke was left off the 2008 team, even though he had won twice that year. Garcia didn't play in 2010.

The Ryder Cup already is closer than ever. Sure, the Europeans seem to have a lock on that gold chalice. They won in 2010 when it came down to the final match, even though the Americans won all but one session in that rain-filled week. Europe's win in Medinah required a stunning comeback on the final day. It effectively was decided on a 45-foot birdie putt by Justin Rose.

The competition is greater than ever – for three days of competition, and especially for the next eight months trying to make the team. One thing is certain. There will be a lot of players disappointed to be sitting in front of their TVs.

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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