Punch Shot: Who could crash the Big 4 party?

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 9, 2016, 7:20 pm

The first few months of the new years has brought discussion of a Big 4 ... and everyone else. But who among the pack could bowl over the rest and join the in-crowd? Our writers weigh in with their pick as the Big 4 party crasher:

By RYAN LAVNER

Nearly two years after his infamous declaration, Patrick Reed has all of the tools – and the most potential – to become a legitimate top-five player.

Among the 25-and-younger set, only Jordan Spieth, with eight, has more PGA Tour wins than Reed’s four. Indeed, he is the total package, a rare combination of power, precision and finesse whose all-around game has seen an uptick since reuniting with former college coach Josh Gregory.

The inclusion of Reed would be a welcome addition to the top of the golf hierarchy, as well. His head-to-head clashes with Spieth, most recently at Kapalua, are must-see events, and Reed, overlooked for much of his junior, amateur and pro career, has an edge and attitude that would add a different element to the otherwise chummy vibe that permeates the so-called Big 4.


By REX HOGGARD

He has the power of Rory McIlroy and Jason Day, a short game that has shown flashes of Jordan Spieth, the moxie of Rickie Fowler and the resume, sans the crucial presence of a major title, to be a part of any conversation about the game’s top players.

As entertaining as the conversation over golf’s Big 4 may be, Dustin Johnson certainly deserves a seat at the table based on his track record and his potential.

Johnson is, after all, on a PGA Tour winning streak that stretches back to his rookie season in 2008 and ranks inside the top 10 in two of the most crucial categories – driving distance (seventh) and birdie average (third).

There will always be an element of doubt when it comes to Johnson and his major resume, but there is no ignoring his ability to put himself in contention when it counts.

There have been dramatic near misses (the 2015 U.S. Open and 2011 Open Championship immediately come to mind), but along with those missteps has come a surprising amount of consistency (he’s finished inside the top 10 on 10 occasions at Grand Slam starts).

But those who doubt Johnson’s ability to join the game’s ultra elite assume he hasn’t learned from his mistakes, and that’s an unrealistic assumption.



By RANDALL MELL

Dustin Johnson’s the wild card in this equation.

I mean “wild” in the best possible way now, because he has the abundance of talent required to overtake players with the special skills that Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler have. Johnson’s head and heart haven’t always been in the right place, he has told us that himself. He looks like he’s all in now, and that’s making him a factor in nearly all the big events. Look at his record over the last 14 months in majors, World Golf Championships and FedEx Cup events. While he won just one of them (2015 WGC-Cadillac), he has put himself in position repeatedly against the game’s strongest fields. He just might be on the verge of something special this season.

There isn’t a lot of talk about Johnson with so much focus on the Big 4, but he has the mega talent to blow into the mix if he can break through and finally close the deal in a major. If he does that, a door could blow wide open in the same way it has for Day, who had his own issues closing majors. At 31, Johnson is still learning. He’s right at the age we used to think players were at their best in majors. 


By WILL GRAY

I picked him as an outsider to win Player of the Year last month, so I'll stick to my guns and suggest that Patrick Reed has the game - and the attitude - to crack golf's upper echelon. 

While he has been quiet in recent weeks, Reed started the year by challenging Jordan Spieth en route to a runner-up finish in Maui. And let's not lose sight of the fact that his trophy haul - four wins since August 2013 - compares favorably against many of his peers not named Spieth, Fowler, Day or McIlroy. 

Reed's greatest asset, though, may be his competitive nature. It helped him earn a spot on Tour via Monday qualifiers, it helped him become a Ryder Cup standout and it led to his infamous "top five" boast after winning two years ago at Doral.

While that claim has yet to come to fruition, he's getting closer. Reed is now up to No. 9 in the latest world rankings and his play to close out 2015 shows that another win is on the horizon. With that should come plenty of momentum, and it won't take much of a spark to get Reed speeding toward a spot among the very best in the game. 

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

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.

PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

The statement reads:

The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Web.com Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.