Nirapathpongporn Collects 2nd Futures Tour Win
Virada Nirapathpongporn of Bangkok, Thailand, fired a final-round 69 to post a two-day total of 142 (-2) in the event shortened by rain. The former Duke University player earned her second win of the season and moved into the No. 1 spot on the Tour's money list with her champion's check for $9,800 at the event presented by Lincoln Financial Group.
'It's sweet, very sweet,' said Nirapathpongporn, who began the day three shots behind leader Seul Ki Kim of Incheon, Korea. 'I like to play on a more difficult shot-making course and I knew par would be good.'
Certainly, a field of players would have traded a few boxes of Pro V1s for par today on the toothy Gillette Ridge Golf Club -- an Arnold Palmer creation that proved to be a challenge in its many ever-changing faces. When more than two inches of rain soaked the opening round, the 6,340-yard course played long and hard in next-to-impossible weather elements. Friday's round was ultimately canceled when only 21 players had completed 18 holes by the time the round was suspended at 1:43 p.m.
When play resumed on Saturday, Gillette Ridge played soggy and slow. By today's final round, the course had drained, the greens and fairways had firmed up and players felt as if they played a wedge on every other shot just to get out of trouble as fairways and greens ran differently than any of the prior rounds.
But not for Nirapathpongporn, whose wedges were like the tools of an artisan deftly chipping away at the leader board. The player coaxed her 84-yard wedge shot to 3 feet for birdie on the 7th hole, then saved par from 2 feet with a 74-yard wedge on the ninth. Approach shots with wedges from 100 yards on the 12th and 13th holes earned her a share of the lead with Seon-Hwa Lee, before an 8-iron approach to 9 feet on the 14th gave the player a one-shot lead over Lee.
'I wasn't thinking a birdie would move me up,' said Nirapathpongporn. 'I was really just involved in my own shots and was trying to execute. I didn't realize I had birdied three holes in a row.'
But the former NCAA champion's demonstration in distance control wasn't over yet. On the tricky final two holes, she lobbed a gutsy 98-yard pitching wedge into the wind and softly landed it to 8 feet for par. On the 18th, she hit a perfect 110-yard wedge just over a gaping bunker lip to set up another par on a hole that was adding numbers to player's scores more often than not. Each shot was remarkable in its timing and level of difficulty, leaving galleries to mutter dismay at what first appeared to be an ill-timed error, only to seconds later, marvel at the beauty of the stroke. The Thai player was a magician, an artist, a daredevil and a savvy athlete all rolled into one.
'I give her the number and she trusts the yardages,' said her caddie Chris McCalmont. 'She goes with her gut. Oui has so much talent and ability, and under pressure -- with those pins today -- this was huge.'
Nirapathpongporn played her way into the lead this afternoon and turned the field into a bunch of chasers. Kim, who started out the day with a one-shot lead over Bo Mi Suh and Lee, faded with an 80, and dropped into a tie for 22nd at 6-over-par 150. Suh, of Seoul, Korea, struggled with a 6-over 78 to fall into a tie for 18th at 149 (+5). And Lee only managed to card a 1-over-par 73 to finish tied for second at even-par 144 with Jamie Stevenson of Mayfield, Utah.
'I had a lot of chances but I didn't make them count,' said Lee of Chonan, Korea, who hit 15 greens but used 34 putts in today's final round.
Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test
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."
Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage
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.
Swipe to see what’s up in my world. It’s long-winded.... short version, we lost the baby. Had to share this since we had shared the news already. I know you’re all so supportive and kind. I just couldn’t face it before. Now let’s get back to our regularly scheduled programming. #ihavealotoffeelings #andphotostocatchupon
“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
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.
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.
Green jacket tour
Man of the people
Ace at 17th at Sawgrass
Departure from TaylorMade
Squashed beef with Paddy
Victory at Valderrama
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18