Power Rankings: 2017 Masters

By Will GrayApril 4, 2017, 7:35 pm

The 2017 fantasy golf season heads down Magnolia Lane this week, as the focus of the golf world shifts to the season's first major with the Masters. A field of 94 players will tackle Augusta National Golf Club, with the winner leaving with a green jacket.

Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to submit your picks for this week's event.

Danny Willett won this event last year by three shots over Jordan Spieth and Lee Westwood. Here are 10 players to watch in Augusta:

1. Dustin Johnson: Any list this week should probably start with Johnson, who enters on as big of a heater as we've seen from any player in recent years. Brimming with confidence after three straight victories, Johnson will look to improve on his T-4 finish at Augusta National from a year ago. His drives will give him a leg up, but Johnson's key to victory will be from 125 yards and in.

2. Jordan Spieth: Through his first three trips to Augusta, Spieth has rewritten large portions of the club's storied record books. It's difficult to fathom that he might string together a fourth straight top-2 finish at this event, but he authored a dominating performance a few weeks ago at Pebble Beach and clearly transforms his game upon stepping back onto the grounds.

3. Justin Rose: An established player that doesn't seem to be receiving his fair share of the pre-tournament discussion. Rose has finished T-15 or better in five of his last seven starts, including a runner-up finish in Hawaii and T-4 finishes at both Torrey Pines and Riviera. His putter is coming around, and his 2015 performance would have been good enough to win all but a handful of Masters tournaments.

4. Rory McIlroy: McIlroy takes his latest crack at snagging the final leg of the career Grand Slam. While a rib injury slowed his spring, he logged top-10 finishes in Mexico and at Bay Hill in his lead-up to Augusta. McIlroy's game appears tailor-made for what Augusta National requires, but he hasn't truly put himself into contention during the final round since his 2011 debacle.

5. Phil Mickelson: When it comes to Augusta National, don't count out Lefty. Mickelson hasn't won a tournament since The Open in 2013, but Mickelson has a pair of top-10 finishes in his last three starts. Over the last five years, he has missed the cut twice but also cracked the top three on two other occasions including a T-2 finish in 2015.

6. Jason Day: The Aussie has been a perennial Masters contender in recent years, with three top-10 finishes since 2011 including a runner-up finish to Charl Schwartzel. His game has taken a back seat with his mother's recent cancer diagnosis, but few can challenge Day from tee to green and he wouldn't be the first to make an emotional charge up the leaderboard at this course.

7. Rickie Fowler: Fowler missed the cut last year, but he is arguably entering the season's first major better than ever. A win at the Honda Classic was validated with a charge into contention last week in Houston, and Fowler's ball-striking has been recently complemented by a strong short game that has him ranked third on Tour this season in scrambling.

8. Adam Scott: This was the site of Scott's biggest victory, as he outlasted Angel Cabrera in a playoff four years ago. He hasn't cracked the top 10 since, but he enters relatively fresh and with a pair of top-15 finishes in his last four starts. While he missed the cut in Houston, an opening-round 68 showed plenty of promise.

9. Jon Rahm: Rahm is clearly the most hotly-discussed Masters rookie this week, and he is unquestionably one of the hottest players in the world not named Dustin Johnson. Rahm hasn't slowed down since his breakthrough win in San Diego, with four straight top-10 finishes leading into the Masters, and he has the best chance to end the first-timer's victory drought that dates back to Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.

10. Paul Casey: Casey will look to continue England's good fortune at this event, and there's reason to think he can pull it off. A T-6 finish in 2015 was followed by a T-4 finish last year, and Casey has three top-20 finishes in his last four worldwide starts. Casey has plenty of experience around Augusta National and, at age 39, could be poised for a breakthrough.

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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