Woods major march takes a detour

By Doug FergusonJune 1, 2010, 11:48 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – Tiger Woods, dressed in a royal blue shirt, hopped over a short fence and onto the range at Muirfield Village. Jack Nicklaus, in gray blazer and tie, hosted a ceremony on the other end of the range.

Two players so closely linked in golf history suddenly seem so very far apart.

A year ago, after Woods won the Memorial for a record fourth time, Nicklaus was more convinced than ever that Woods was going to take another step toward his record 18 majors.

“I suspect No. 15 will come for Tiger Woods in about two weeks,” Nicklaus said, referring to the U.S. Open. “If he drives the ball this way, and plays this way, I’m sure it will. And if not, it will surprise me greatly.”

Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods has to win four more majors to tie Jack Nicklaus on the all-time list. (Getty Images)

Woods didn’t win the U.S. Open because of a balky putter. He didn’t win the British Open because of a shocking six-hole stretch in Turnberry that caused him to miss the cut. He didn’t even win the PGA Championship despite a two-shot lead going into the final round.

If that wasn’t enough to make Nicklaus wonder whether his record was safe, he watched Woods’ personal life unravel with sordid tales of infidelity that shattered his image.

One thing hasn’t changed, though.

Nicklaus still talks more in terms of “when” than “if” while talking about Woods’ pursuit of his record.

“I don’t think my feeling has changed,” Nicklaus said. “I felt for a long time that my record would probably get broken someday. Tiger has come along, obviously the best player that’s come along in a long time.

“Do I still think Tiger will break my record? Yeah, I think he probably will,” he said. “He is a very dedicated, hard-working golfer. But then again, I’ve always said you have to do it. It’s not just a gimme. You’ve got to go do it. We’ll watch.”

Adding to his tumultuous six months were Woods’ last two tournaments – events unbecoming the world’s No. 1 player. He missed the cut at Quail Hollow with the highest 36-hole score of his career, then failed to finish The Players Championship because of a neck injury that only Woods knew about.

Of greater interest to Nicklaus is what happens in the next two majors.

First up is the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, which Woods dominated like no other 10 years ago with a 15-shot victory. Then it’s off to St. Andrews for the British Open, where Woods has won twice by a combined 13 shots. He will try to become the first player to win the claret jug three times at the home of golf.

Nicklaus won two of his majors at the British Open. He won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, and nearly won another won until Tom Watson holed a chip for birdie on the 17th hole of the final round.

“Pebble Beach and St. Andrews were important golf courses for him,” Nicklaus said. “He basically won on those fairly easily through the years. If he has problems with those golf courses, sure, they won’t come around for a while. Maybe it might be tougher.”

Catching or even passing Nicklaus sure looks harder than it did a year ago.

Woods has never been more unpredictable than he is now. He went from a tie for fourth at the Masters – amazing in that it was his first competition in five months – to struggling to break 80. His health is now in question. His credibility is at an all-time low. Whatever is going on with his swing he’ll have to figure out on his own because he split with coach Hank Haney two weeks ago.

Even some of his peers are starting to wonder if he can catch Nicklaus.

“A year ago, I would have said 100 percent chance,” Robert Allenby said. “Now I would say 70 percent. It’s just the instability in his life right now, and the way he has played golf. And the older you get, it doesn’t get easier. But he’s still the fittest athlete in the world.”

Woods won 10 majors before he turned 30, and he won his 14th major when he was 32, well ahead of the Nicklaus pace. Then came a third knee surgery that kept him out eight months, and personal problems that kept him out five months.

Even among his closest friends, there is some doubt.

“It has changed a bit,” John Cook said. “I thought at one point he would win 25 majors. I do think he’ll break the record. But I think with last year and this year, getting golf back in his mind is a difficult task. And just because he loves St. Andrews and Pebble Beach, that doesn’t make it automatic. He’s got to find his golf swing, believe in the golf swing and have no other drama off the course.”

Even so, time is critical.

Nicklaus won 14 majors in his first 14 years on the PGA Tour, and it took him 11 years to win his final four majors. That includes the 1986 Masters at age 46, which Nicklaus jokingly referred to as a “mistake.”

Nicklaus believes most golfers hit their prime in the mid-30s, the area Woods is approaching.

The one thing Woods has going for him is a finish line. He knows that 18 majors represent the benchmark for greatness in golf. Nicklaus wasn’t even aware of the record he was chasing – Bobby Jones’ 13 majors – until he won his 10th. He broke the record when he was 33, and Nicklaus no longer had a carrot to chase.

Thinking his record would be broken, Nicklaus only wondered whether he would be around to see it. When Woods came along, the Golden Bear figured it would be a matter of time.

“I just want to be the first one there to shake his hand,” Nicklaus said.

He might have to wait longer than he would have expected a year ago.

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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

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Green jacket tour

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Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

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Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

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Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

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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