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Stock Watch: Highs and lows of 2017

By Ryan LavnerDecember 5, 2017, 3:33 pm

This week, we’re examining which players’ stocks and trends were rising and falling in the world of golf in 2017.

RISING

JT (+10%): No longer just Jordan Spieth’s “good buddy,” Thomas asserted himself as one of golf’s superstars with a breakout 2017 that included his first major, a FedExCup title and Player of the Year honors. If he stays hungry, Thomas should close the gap on Spieth.

Jordan (+9%): It was his iron play and mental fortitude – not his famously hot putter – that carried him to another major title. Those memorable final six holes at Birkdale epitomized Spieth’s unique gifts.  

Team USA (+8%): After steamrolling the competition in the past two international events, and with its core intact, the talented, fearless, young Americans will head to France as heavy favorites as they look to win on foreign soil for the first time in 25 years.

Jon Rahm (+7%): In just a year and a half, he has skyrocketed from 551st in the world to No. 4. There are no holes in his game – he ranked third on Tour in strokes gained-tee to green – and it’s a matter of when, not if, he wins majors and challenges Dustin Johnson for the top spot.

Tommy Fleetwood (+6%): The Englishman might look more like a grunge rocker than an elite player, but he broke out in a big way this year, winning twice, finishing runner-up in two events and taking the season-long European Tour title.

Xander Schauffele (+5%): Just six months ago, he was a struggling newcomer who was in danger of being sent back to the minors. He held his own at Erin Hills, won a few weeks later at The Greenbrier and used a torrid back nine in the playoffs to reach the Tour Championship, which he won to collect a $4 million bonus. Not bad, rook.

Patrick Cantlay (+4%): One of the year’s feel-good stories, after being sidelined for years because of an injury and personal loss, the former No. 1-ranked amateur reminded observers of his immense potential, winning in Vegas for what should be his first of many titles.

Caddie-bros (+3%): How about this trend: Five of the top 12 players in the world ended the year with a caddie who had no prior looping experience. It seems players these days want friends with them inside the ropes, not grizzled veterans.

Lexi (+2%): Yes, she developed even more scar tissue after two heartbreaking losses, but Thompson made huge strides by shoring up her biggest weakness (putting) and nearly completing a dominant season. Perhaps next year she’ll put it all together.

Tiger (+1%): He seems happy and healthy, and best of all his game showed plenty of promise. Tiger vs. the generation he created is the battle we all want in 2018.


FALLING

Lydia (-1%): The former teen phenom and world No. 1 changed coaches, equipment and caddies … and then had a winless year. Go figure.

Women’s No. 1 (-2%): Five different players held the top spot this year – and another, Lexi, should have – which is concerning for a tour that desperately needs a dominant player to reach a mainstream audience.  

J-Day (-3%): On the top of the world at the start of 2017, he endured a difficult year on and off the course, with a slumping long game, his mother’s health scare and the deterioration of his relationship with longtime caddie/father figure Colin Swatton.

Rory (-4%): His injury-plagued year was so disappointing, he decided to shut it down this fall, before the end of the European Tour season. He should show up in January highly motivated – and, hopefully, with improved wedge play and putting.

Season finales (-5%): The rarely fair (and usually awkward) ending to the FedExCup might soon include a one-day, $10 million shootout for the top players after the Tour Championship. Because apparently 18 or 36 holes better determines a season-long race?

Bubba (-6%): Changing his golf ball was always a silly risk for someone who shapes the ball as much as Watson. Now he’s outside the top 80 in the world and without a ball deal for 2018.

PGA (-7%): Beginning in 2019, the year’s final major is moving to May, sandwiched between the Masters and the U.S. Open. Its new identity will be … um … any ideas?

Major records (-8%): Thanks to Branden Grace and Justin Thomas, there is now a sub-63 score in a major and a 9-under round at the U.S. Open. (Sorry, Johnny.) Unless the governing bodies address equipment technology, this could become an annual occurrence.

Presidents Cup (-9%): Time to blow this thing up and try again. The U.S. won by eight at Liberty National (and it wasn’t even really that close) to extend its record in the biennial event to 10-1-1. The Tour’s brainchild is not a compelling product.

Rules issues (-10%): After another year of head-scratchers – from Lexi’s post-round scorecard penalty to Bernhard Langer’s questionable putting stroke to a non-concession at the U.S. Girls’ Junior to the increased use of backboarding on Tour – here’s wishing more officials could use common sense and not the strict, overly penal rulebook.

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
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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.