Nicklaus entertains RC hopefuls with tales, trophies

By Will GrayFebruary 26, 2016, 8:15 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The road to Hazeltine officially kicked off Thursday night in North Palm Beach, Fla., as Jack and Barbara Nicklaus hosted nearly two dozen U.S. Ryder Cup hopefuls at their home near the site of this week’s Honda Classic.

The Nicklauses were joined by captain Davis Love III as well as assistant captains Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk and Tom Lehman. Dustin Johnson, who is not in the field at PGA National, flew in for the dinner while the rest of the room comprised major champs Phil Mickelson, Jason Dufner and Keegan Bradley as well as lesser-known American hopefuls like Zac Blair, Ben Martin, Andrew Loupe and John Huh.

“It was just great to get everybody together,” Love said. “That’s not even all the guys that might make the Ryder Cup team, but it was a big group of guys that are now excited about thinking about it and are part of the process.”

“The guys who were there, the tournaments that have been won, the tournaments that are going to be won,” added Jimmy Walker, “it was a cool group.”

Players were served steak and lobster – along with some Nicklaus-brand ice cream – while being treated to a tour that encompassed both major championship hardware as well as a guest house that Nicklaus has converted into a hunting trophy room.

“I didn’t know he was such a big game hunter,” Martin said. “He had some sort of marlin, like a black marlin maybe, that he said was a world record. I guess 18 majors wasn’t enough; he had to catch a world-record fish, too.”

The highlight of the evening for most, though, came when Nicklaus fielded questions from the room and offered insight and tips about how he prepared for big events.

“I think some of it was just learning a little bit more of his prep work, kind of how he went about things and then the confidence and belief he had going into a tournament once he had that preparation done,” said Rickie Fowler. “It was cool to kind of hear a little bit more of his background, and he’s in a position now where he can kind of share that and he’s not giving away any secrets.”

While some attendees like Brendan Steele focused on “soaking it all in” during the Q&A, some of the elder statesmen like Mickelson and Furyk stepped up with questions for the 18-time major champ.

“It was kind of like, those were all the guys that I grew up watching, and they grew up watching Jack,” Steele said. “Just different generations were all coming together to try to learn from each other.”

The night’s main theme centered on laying the groundwork for “changing the culture” as the Americans look to end a streak that has seen them lose six of the last seven times in the biennial matches.

“I think it was just to let all the guys know that this time around is going to be executed differently,” said Keegan Bradley.

While the invite list went down to Bradley at No. 42 in the latest Ryder Cup standings, not all invitees were in attendance. Per Love, Patrick Reed missed because of a sick family member while Zach Johnson and Charles Howell III had a late round Thursday coupled with an early start for their second rounds.

"I didn't get out of the locker room until 7:30 p.m. I was the second-to-last one out," Johnson said. "I’m never going to shy away from meeting with potential teammates and captains, but it’s February. That list could change dramatically. There could be guys who make it who weren’t there, multiple guys. I wouldn’t put a whole lot of merit into who was there and who wasn’t there."

This was the first of multiple team-building exercises planned ahead of the matches Sept. 30-Oct. 2 in Chaska, Minn. According to Love, the next event will come at the Memorial in early June, when Nicklaus will again host a smaller group of invitees for a dinner as well as a uniform fitting.

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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