Fairytale ends and continues

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2008, 4:00 pm
Editor's Note: In Backspin, the GolfChannel.com editorial staff takes a look back on the biggest stories from the past week in golf -- with a spin.
PADDY'S ENCORE: Padraig Harrington cemented his legacy Sunday by joining some of the legends of the game by repeating as the winner of the Open Championship. Harrington eagled the 71st hole after an all-time approach shot, thus being able to enjoy his walk up the 18th fairway - as opposed to his meltdown finish in regulation last year at Carnoustie.
BackspinIt's amazing to think that Harrington almost didn't even play last week at Royal Birkdale because of a sprained wrist, making his performance all the more noteworthy. The Irishman battled high winds and a resurgent Greg Norman and is now - again - the 'Champion Golfer of the Year.' And isn't that one of the coolest labels in all of sport? It's certainly up there.

SHARK WEEK: Greg Norman came to the Open Championship after enjoying a wedding and a honeymoon with tennis legend Chris Evert, and, well, played like the legend he is. After 54 holes, he held the lead - as he did with nine holes to play - but couldn't overcome Harrington's late heroics, eventually finishing in a tie for fourth.
Backspin Wow, wow and wow. This was - and will remain - one of the greatest all-time golf stories. The book on Norman is well known: the majors won, the majors - many in heartbreaking fashion - lost. The private helicopter, the wine, the swashbuckling, go-for-broke style. Before there was a Tiger, there was a Shark that was the most feared of animals. And in the end, the Shark, unfortunately, ran out of air.

SAY IT AIN'T SO: Michelle Wie was disqualified from the State Farm Classic after she failed to sign her scorecard before leaving the scorer's tent after her second round. The 18-year-old had just finished her third round, carding a 67 to sit just one shot off the lead, before being notified of her DQ.
Backspin Just when Wie seemed poised to capture her first career victory, this slip up cost her the chance at a major breakthrough. But signing your scorecard is one of the basic rules that every professional knows. That was a mistake that cost Wie dearly, one you can be assured she won't make again. But it also highlights some of the game's incredibly stupid rules. At some point, the USGA will enter into the 21st century and do away will some of the most outdated rules known to man. Even Major League Baseball thinks the USGA is behind the times.

U-N-C-L-E!: The 1985 Open champion, Sandy Lyle, and Rich Beem walked off the course halfway through their first rounds after being 11 and 12 over par, respectively. It was something R&A Secretary Peter Dawson did not appreciate saying, 'I think professional golfers should complete the round.'
BackspinBeem's scorecard through nine holes: six bogeys, a double, and a quadruple; and Lyle's was no better. Still, you can understand why the R&A was unhappy with their decisions. Beem and Lyle knew what the conditions were before they teed off. If they didn't think they could compete, letting an alternate have a chance at it might have been the right play. Add yet another double bogey to their scorecards.

LUCK OF THE DRAW: Mother Nature played her usual role in last week's Open Championship, as a player's first round tee time determined their round's outcome as much as their performance. Driving rain and a gusting breeze from the Irish Sea greeted early starters, while those teeing off in the afternoon faced far more timid conditions.
Backspin As always, a little serendipity is needed to succeed at golf's oldest championship. How much easier were conditions in the afternoon? The average score was three strokes higher in the morning, as only four early starters ended the first round in the top 27.

THE UNLUCKY FEW:Some of the pre-tournament favorites were unfortunate enough to draw an early tee time on Thursday. Ernie Els and Vijay Singh each carded an 80 in the opening round, while Phil Mickelson shot a 9-over 79.
Backspin Without Thursday's 80, Els actually had a good championship, finishing in a tie for seventh with two rounds under par. On the other hand, Mickelson's struggles at the Open continued, and he now has only one top-10 in his 16 trips across the pond ' dreadful for the world's second best player. Perhaps he'll join Kenny Perry next year at the John Deere instead?

OUT OF GAS: Perry came into the John Deere as the big story - for several reasons. He finished, however, almost as an afterthought, completing the event in a - ho-hum - tie for sixth. Richard S. Johnson won the event, his first career win on the PGA TOUR.
Backspin A soon-to-be 48-year-old, three-time winner on this year's schedule, the always low-key Perry drew harsh criticism from many in and outside of golf for his decision to bypass a major. That debate will never end. But what did end was his two-event winning streak. He admitted that all the outside stress - and the stress that comes with winning - had finally taken its toll. Said a suddenly somewhat perturbed Perry, I dont know. I mean, Im doing what Im going to do. Im not listening to nobody else. Period.' OK, Kenny, roger that. See you at Valhalla. Oops, we mean Oakland Hills. We think.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:Colt Knost captured his second victory on the Nationwide Tour with a four-stroke win at the Price Cutters Championship; Michigan St. junior Jack Newman defeated John Chin, 5 and 3, Saturday to win the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship; Jack Nicklaus made headlines after saying that today's players make too much money, and in turn do not have enough desire; Kim Welch, winner of the most recent Big Break, captured her first career professional title on the Nationwide Tour.
Backspin If Knost wouldn't have turned professional he would have been playing at Birkdale, but to each his own. Oops - and he probably wouldn't have just tied up his PGA TOUR card for next season; With the win, Newman has earned his way into next year's Masters, something he called, 'a dream since I was a little kid.'; Even though Jack probably has a good point - especially since Paddy Harrington earned about $1.5 million, more than 25 percent of Nicklaus career, some will certainly think sour grapes; Welch has plenty of game to go along with those good looks.
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  • Newsmaker of the Year: No. 3, Tiger Woods

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:45 pm

    After returning to competition at the Hero World Challenge in December 2016, Woods started the new year with an ambitious slate of tournament starts as he eyed his first full season since 2013. But he made it only three rounds, looking rusty en route to a missed cut at Torrey Pines before withdrawing abruptly in Dubai.

    The “spasms” that led to that withdrawal turned out to be something far more serious, as Woods underwent his fourth and most invasive back surgery in April, a lumbar fusion. It brought with it an extensive rehabilitation, and at the Presidents Cup in September Woods humored the prospect that he might never again play competitive golf.

    At Liberty National he also faced some scrutiny for an off-course incident from months prior. In May he was arrested for suspicion of DUI, an incident that produced a startling roadside video of an intoxicated Woods struggling to follow instructions from the arresting officer after driving erratically.

    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

    While he was not drinking at the time, Woods was found to have a mix of several prescription medications in his system, including multiple painkillers. He checked himself into a private drug treatment program in July to address his dependency issues, and in October he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving.

    But the incident was barely a memory when Woods again made a return to competition in the Bahamas at the tournament he hosts. This time around he exceeded nearly every expectation, twice shooting 4-under 68 while tying for ninth among the 18-man field. Having re-tooled his swing following fusion surgery, Woods appeared relaxed, happy and healthy while briefly taking the lead during the tournament’s second round.

    What lies ahead for Woods in 2018 remains uncertain, as the stop-and-start nature of this past season serves as a cautionary tale. But after a harrowing arrest and another serious surgery, he seems once again focused on his game, intent on chasing down a new crop of elite talent, some of whom are barely more than half his age.

    Woods' initial comeback short-lived, leads to another back surgery

    Article: Woods undergoes "successful" fourth back surgery

    Article: Woods (back spasm) withdraws from Dubai

    Article: Players disappointed Woods withdraws from Dubai

    Really, again: Tiger undergoes fourth back surgery

    Begay on Tiger: Future is 'extremely uncertain'

    Woods arrested for DUI, enters diversion program after getting "professional help"

    Article: Woods arrested for DUI in May

    Article: Police say Woods had 5 drugs in system when arrested

    Article: DUI affidavit states Tiger asleep in parked car

    Dashcam video released of Tiger's DUI arrest

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    Photos: Tiger Woods' car during DUI arrest

    Tiger Woods at his 2017 DUI court hearing.

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    Article: Tiger gets 'professional help' for prescription meds

    Tiger Woods at his 2017 DUI court hearing.

    Article: Woods pleads in court guilty to reckless driving

    Woods goes from unsure of his pro golf future to resuming full golf activities

    Article: Doctor clears Woods for full golf activity six months after back surgery

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    Article: Woods back to making full swings

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    Getty Images

    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:30 pm
    Getty Images

    NBC Sports' Coverage of LPGA Tour in 2017 Most-Viewed Season Ever for NBC Sports

    By Golf Channel Public RelationsDecember 13, 2017, 8:45 pm

    NBC Sports’ LPGA Tour Coverage Ties 2013 for Most-Watched Year Since 2011

    NBC and Golf Channel Boast Top-6 Most-Watched Women’s Golf Telecasts in 2017

    Beginning with the dramatic playoff finish at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic in January and concluding with Lexi Thompson winning the $1 million Race to the CME Globe, nearly 22 million viewers tuned in to LPGA Tour coverage across Golf Channel and NBC in 2017. This makes 2017 the most-viewed LPGA Tour season across NBC Sports since Golf Channel joined the NBC Sports Group in 2011. Additionally, 2017 tied 2013 as the LPGA Tour’s most-watched year across NBC Sports since 2011. Coverage drew an average of 221,000 viewers per telecast in 2017 (+24% vs. 2016), according to data released by The Nielsen Company.


    For the first time ever in televised women’s golf, Sunday’s final round of the RICOH Women’s British Open (Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017, 1.1 million viewers) delivered the most-watched and highest-rated women’s golf telecast of the year. NBC’s Saturday (Day 2) coverage of the Solheim Cup in August placed second with 968,000 viewers, followed by Sunday’s Solheim Cup coverage on NBC with 946,000 viewers. Golf Channel’s live coverage of Sunday’s final day of the Solheim Cup drew 795,000 viewers, the most-watched women’s golf event on cable in eight years.





    Avg. Viewers P2+
































    • ANA Inspiration - The LPGA’s first major championship delivered thefifth most-watched LPGA final round in Golf Channel history with 551,000 viewers when So Yeon Ryu defeated Lexi Thompson in a playoff following Thompson being assessed a four-stroke penalty earlier in the final round.
    • KPMG Women’s PGA Championship – The LPGA’s second major was seen by 6.6 million viewers across Golf Channel and NBC, the largest audience for the event on record (2006-17). Sunday’s final round on NBC, which saw Danielle Kang win her first LPGA Tour event over defending champion Brooke Henderson, also was the most-watched telecast in the event’s history with 840,000 average viewers.
    • RICOH Women’s British Open – NBC’s Sunday coverage of the RICOH Women’s British Open delivered the most-watched and highest-rated women’s golf telecast in 2017 (.78 U.S. HH rating, 1.1 million viewers). In total, 7 million unique viewers tuned in to coverage across Golf Channel and NBC, the most-watched RICOH Women’s British Open in the past 10 years and the most-watched among the five women’s major championships in 2017.
    • Solheim Cup – Seen by a total audience of 7.3 million viewers across Golf Channel and NBC, the Solheim Cup posted the largest total audience for women’s golf since the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open on ESPN/NBC. Golf Channel’s live coverage of the final day drew 795,000 average viewers, becoming the most-watched women’s golf telecast on cable in the last eight years, since the final day of the 2009 Solheim Cup.


    Golf Channel Digital posted record numbers of LPGA streaming consumption with 11.9 million live minutes streamed across LPGA Tour telecasts in 2017 (+563% vs. 2016).

    • Solheim Cup – Three-day coverage of the Solheim Cup saw 6.3 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports’ Digital platforms, trailing only the 2016 Rio Olympics (9 million) as the most-ever for a women’s golf event airing on Golf Channel / NBC.
    • RICOH Women’s British Open – Four-day coverage of the RICOH Women’s British Open saw 2 million minutes streamed, +773% vs. 2016.

    NBC Sports Group combined to air 31 LPGA Tour events in 2017 and a total of 420 hours of coverage, the most in LPGA history. The exclusive cable home to the LPGA Tour, Golf Channel aired coverage of four of five women’s major championships in 2017, with three majors also airing on NBC: the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, RICOH Women’s British Open and The Evian Championship. The biennial Solheim Cup also returned to network television for the first time in 15 years with weekend coverage on NBC.

    Source: Nielsen 2017 Live+Same Day DVR vs. prior available data. Persons 2+ avg 000’s and/or Persons 2+ reach w/six-minute qualifier. Digital Metrics from Adobe Reports & Analytics. Details available.

    Hensby takes full responsibility for violation

    By Rex HoggardDecember 13, 2017, 5:28 pm

    The PGA Tour’s Anti-Doping Program manual covers 48 pages of details, from the pressing to the mundane, but for Mark Hensby the key section of the policy could be found on Page 5.

    “The collector may allow you to delay reporting to the testing area for unavoidable obligations; however, you will be monitored from the time of notification until completion of the sample collection process,” the policy reads. “A failure to report to the testing area by the required time is the same as a doping violation under the program.”

    Hensby, a 46-year-old former Tour winner from Australia, didn’t read that section, or any other part of the manual. In fact, he said he hasn’t received the circuit’s anti-doping manual in years. Not that he uses that as an excuse.

    To be clear, Hensby doesn’t blame his anti-doping plight on anyone else.

    “At the end of the day it’s my responsibility. I take full responsibility,” he told GolfChannel.com.

    Like Doug Barron, Scott Stallings and even Vijay Singh before him, Hensby ran afoul of the Tour’s anti-doping policy because, essentially, of a clerical error. There were no failed tests, no in-depth investigations, no seedy entourages who sent Hensby down a dark road of performance-enhancing drug use.

    Just a simple misunderstanding combined with bad timing.

    Hensby, who last played a full season on Tour in 2003, had just completed the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship when he was approached by a member of the Tour’s anti-doping testing staff. He was angry about his play and had just used the restroom on the 17th hole and, he admits, was in no mood to wait around to take the urine test.

    “Once I said, ‘Can I take it in the morning,’ [the Tour’s anti-doping official] said, ‘We can’t hold you here,’” Hensby recalled. “I just left.”

    Not one but two officials called Hensby that night to ask why he’d declined to take the test, and he said he was even advised to return to the Country Club of Jackson (Miss.) to take the test, which is curious because the policy doesn’t allow for such gaps between notification of a test and the actual testing.

    According to the policy, a player is considered in violation of the program if he leaves the presence of the doping control officers without providing the required sample.

    A Tour official declined to comment on the matter citing the circuit’s policy not to comment on doping violations beyond the initial disclosure.

    A week later, Hensby was informed he was in violation of the Tour’s policy and although he submitted a letter to the commissioner explaining the reasons for his failure to take the test he was told he would be suspended from playing in any Tour-sanctioned events (including events on the Web.com Tour) for a year.

    “I understand now what the consequences are, but you know I’ve been banned for a performance-enhancing drug violation, and I don’t take performance-enhancing drugs,” Hensby said.

    Hensby isn’t challenging his suspension nor did he have any interest in criticizing the Tour’s policy, instead his message two days after the circuit announced the suspension was focused on his fellow Tour members.

    “I think the players need to read that manual really, really well. There are things I wasn’t aware of and I think other players weren’t aware of either,” he said. “You have to read the manual.”

    It was a similar message Stallings offered following his 90-day suspension in 2015 after he turned himself in for using DHEA, an anabolic agent that is the precursor to testosterone production and banned by the Tour.

    “This whole thing was a unique situation that could have been dealt with differently, but I made a mistake and I owned up to it,” Stallings said at the time.

    Barron’s 2009 suspension, which was for a year, also could have been avoided after he tested positive for supplemental testosterone and a beta-blocker, both of which were prescribed by a doctor for what were by many accounts legitimate health issues.

    And Singh’s case, well that chapter is still pending in the New York Supreme Court, but the essential element of the Fijian’s violation was based on his admitted use of deer-antler spray, which contained a compound called IGF-1. Although IGF-1 is a banned substance, the World Anti-Doping Agency has ruled that the use of deer-antler spray is not a violation if an athlete doesn’t fail a drug test. Singh never failed a test.

    The Tour’s anti-doping history is littered with cases that could have been avoided, cases that should have been avoided. Despite the circuit’s best educational efforts, it’s been these relatively innocent violations that have defined the program.

    In retrospect, Hensby knows he should have taken the test. He said he had nothing to hide, but anger got the best of him.

    “To be honest, it would have been hard, the way I was feeling that day, I know I’m a hothead at times, but I would have probably stayed [had he known the consequences],” he admitted. “You’ve got to understand that if you have too much water you can’t get a test either and then you have to stay even longer.”

    Hensby said before his run in with the anti-doping small print he wasn’t sure what his professional future would be, but his suspension has given him perspective and a unique motivation.

    “I was talking to my wife last night, I have a little boy, it’s been a long month,” said Hensby after dropping his son, Caden, off at school. “I think I have a little more drive now and when I come back. I wasn’t going to play anymore, but when I do come back I am going to be motivated.”

    He’s also going to be informed when it comes to the Tour’s anti-doping policy, and he hopes his follow professionals take a similar interest.