Expert picks: The Masters

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 3, 2012, 8:00 pm

The focus of the golf world now descends upon Magnolia Lane and Augusta National for the season's first major. Each week a panel of experts will offer up their picks from four groups of players based on Golf Channel's new fantasy game, Fantasy Challenge. We will also keep track of their scores and standings. The panel consists of: senior writers Rex Hoggard, Randall Mell and Jason Sobel; contributors John Hawkins and Win McMurry; editorial director Jay Coffin;'s Rob Bolton; 'Morning Drive' hosts Gary Williams and Erik Kuselias; and Golf Talk Central contributor Ryan Ballengee.

Gary Williams

Group 1: Rory McIlroy: After 2011, McIlroy returns to Augusta with something to prove. With the way he has been playing in 2012, I'm excited to see what he will do. In 1952, Sam Snead returned to Augusta National after shooting 80 in the final round and won. We may be hearing more about that story.

Group 2: Bill Haas: Already a winner this year at Riviera, Haas is making his third Masters appearance and I think he will improve on his best finish of T-26 in 2010. The Masters runs in his family as his great uncle Bob Goalby won the green jacket in 1968.

Group 3: Zach Johnson: Johnson won the Masters in 2007 in incredibly challenging conditions by playing his own game and never going for a par-5 in two. While he has not had another great finish here since '07, he has shown that he is tough. If the weather gets challenging, watch out.

Group 4: Fred Couples: The 1992 Masters champion has shown repeatedly that age is but a number, and many of those moments have come at Augusta. He has consecutive top-15 finishes here and was T-3 at the age of 46. When he is healthy, don't bet against this guy.

Erik Kuselias

Group 1: Phil Mickelson: The three-time champ has shown over and over again what he is capable of in big moments. He may be one behind Tiger in terms of green jackets, but in the ten years since the last significant changes to Augusta he has the edge, winning three times to Tiger's two.

Group 2: Keegan Bradley: Yes, I know he is making his first Masters appearance but I like his chances. Prior to Masters Week none other than Phil Mickelson showed him around Augusta and he has not been out of the top 25 in nine starts in 2012.

Group 3: Geoff Ogilvy: Amazing to think that an Australian's never won here, but that drought could be coming to an end. Ogilvy has never missed the cut in six starts at Augusta and was T-4 here last year.

Group 4: Angel Cabrera: When I saw Cabrera's name in Group 4, I was shocked! The 2009 champion tends to raise his game in the majors and he is exceptionally comfortable at Augusta. Along with his win, he has four other top-10 finishes including 7th in 2011. 

Win McMurry

Group 1: Tiger Woods: Top picks this week include Phil and Rory, but neither have the history that Tiger does at the Masters. After his win at Bay Hill, the multiple-victory years are ready to return and so is the hunt to beat Jack's record.

Group 2: Bo Van Pelt: He's had a solid year that includes four top-10s in his last five starts and he leads the Tour in strokes gained putting. Always be wary of the ailing golfer, and this one tied for eighth here last year.

Group 3: Jim Furyk: He's been working his way back up the leaderboards lately with three T-11 or better finishes in the last two months. Finished inside the top 25 at the Masters two of the last three years.

Group 4: Henrik Stenson: He's finished inside the top 25 in all four starts on Tour this year, currently stands sixth in scoring average and is first in scrambling. Of the guys in Group 4, you'll be hard-pressed to find someone who is entering the first major of the year in better form.

Ryan Ballengee

Group 1: Tiger Woods: He's a four-time winner, won at Bay Hill and was T-4 here the last two years - almost on sheer will.

Group 2: K.J. Choi: Top 10s in the last two years here are a good sign, as well as no missed cuts on the PGA Tour this year.

Group 3: Geoff Ogilvy: In the hunt last year, Ogilvy loves this MacKenzie test and arranging its puzzle pieces.

Group 4: Angel Cabrera: The forgotten member of the final group last year. Coming on strong now and a past champion here.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Rory McIlroy: Through 3 1/2 rounds last year he was dominant and whatever lingering ghosts he had following last year's meltdown on No. 10 have been long vanquished.

Group 2: Brandt Snedeker: After cracking his driver earlier this season, he's finally found a new 'gamer' and few know the course as well or putt better than Sneds.

Group 3: Charles Howell III: It's a home game for CH3, but don't expect him to become overwhelmed by the additional pressure. He's been as consistent as anyone this season and has dreamed of this his entire life.

Group 4: Angel Cabrera: Former champion showed signs of life last week at the Shell Houston Open and his record at Augusta is Tiger-like. He's ranked outside the top 10 just once in his last nine rounds at the Masters.

Jason Sobel

Group 1: Luke Donald: After last year's T-4 result, the world's No.1-ranked player is ready to be No. 1 at a major, too.

Group 2: Brandt Snedeker: Underrated putter who has shown a proficiency on these greens in the past.

Group 3: Johnson Wagner: The 'stache is raking in the cash this year - and there's no reason to think he'll stop now.

Group 4: Henrik Stenson: Big sleeper pick here, as the Swede has finished 21st or better in all four appearances this season.

Randall Mell

Group 1: Rory McIlroy: Command with the driver gives him a slight edge on Tiger.

Group 2: Bill Haas: The win at Riviera showed us he's ready for the next step.

Group 3: Geoff Ogilvy: He was right in the mix on Sunday a year ago, and has the experience and nerve to close the deal.

Group 4: Angel Cabrera: His form doesn't seem to matter; Augusta National will bring out his best.

Rob Bolton

Group 1: Tiger Woods: Four-time champion coming off a five-stroke victory at Bay Hill, where he's won seven times. Yeah, good enough for me.

Group 2: Keegan Bradley: Firing on all cylinders. The first-timer at the Masters is shattering the mold for the traditional learning curve. Reigning PGA champion.

Group 3: Gary Woodland: Without a clear go-to here, I'll take my chances with the long hitter who placed T-24 in his debut last year. At some point, his swing modifications will click and he'll contend.

Group 4: Angel Cabrera: Superb value in this group. The 2009 champ has five top-10 finishes in 12 starts at Augusta National, including last year's solo seventh. Top-25s in two of his last three starts entering the week.

Tune in to Golf Channel all week long for comprehensive Live From: The Masters coverage.

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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