Expert Picks: HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 14, 2014, 4:36 pm

This week marks the first event of the European Tour's three-week Desert Swing, as many of the game's best tee it up at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. It's also the first two-event week for fantasy in 2014, as our experts' picks for the PGA Tour's Humana Challenge can be seen HERE. Each week, a panel of experts will offer up their picks from four groups of players, based on Golf Channel's fantasy game, Fantasy Challenge. We will also keep track of their scores and standings. The panel includes: senior writers Rex Hoggard, Randall Mell and Jason Sobel; contributor John Hawkins; editorial director Jay Coffin; 'Morning Drive' host Gary Williams; staff writer Ryan Lavner and defending fantasy champion Charlie Rymer.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Rory McIlroy: Following a difficult 2013, the former world No. 1 seems poised to regain his world-beater form and has played some of his best golf in the United Arab Emirates.

Group 2: Branden Grace: He was stellar to start the European Tour season in South Africa, finishing sixth and second in consecutive starts, and has something to prove in 2014 following a poor Presidents Cup showing at Muirfield Village.

Group 3: Dawie van der Walt: Although not well known to American audiences, the South African won the Nelson Mandela Championship in December and is poised for a breakthrough season.

Group 4: Robert Rock: He stunned Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, among others, in 2012 at the Abu Dhabi stop when he ranked 117th in the world. Imagine the surprise if he did it again, this time from the 314th position in the world ranking?

Ryan Lavner

Group 1: Rory McIlroy: A believer once more, especially with five top-11 finishes in his last six starts worldwide. Throw out last year's clunker and he's never finished worse than 11th in Abu Dhabi.

Group 2: Jamie Donaldson: The defending champion here has been on fire recently, with five consecutive top 15s.

Group 3: Simon Dyson: Given the cold shoulder by his peers in the wake of the cheating scandal, Dyson could be extra-motivated to play well this week. Finished third in his most recent start.

Group 4: Robert Karlsson: Hasn't missed a cut since July, and two starts ago he finished sixth at Mayakoba.

Jason Sobel

Group 1: Sergio Garcia: Owns a solid record in Abu Dhabi, where ball-strikers often flourish.

Group 2: Peter Uihlein: Might only be one really solid finish away from breaking into the world's top 50 for the first time.

Group 3: Thomas Aiken: Still a mystery as to why the man with one of the game's best putting strokes doesn't contend more often.

Group 4: Robert Karlsson: Sneaky, sneaky, A reminder to always check these lists carefully, because the rejuvenated Karlsson is a steal in Group 4.

Randall Mell

Group 1: Henrik Stenson: Memories of last year's torrid finishes still dancing in the head.

Group 2: Branden Grace: Good start at Volvo last week (second), good finish at Abu Dhabi last year (fifth).

Group 3: Morten Orum Madsen: Hey, he's already got a win under his belt this wrap-around season (South African Open).

Group 4: Robert Karlsson: Flashes here and there, waiting for the big spark now.

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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