Spieth, Simpson among quartet of Hyundai leaders

By Will GrayJanuary 4, 2014, 2:54 am

With the Kona winds cooperating this year moreso than last, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions got underway on schedule Friday at the Plantation Course. Here is how things stand after one round in Maui, where four players sit tied atop a crowded leaderboard:

Leaderboard: Webb Simpson (-7), Jordan Spieth (-7), Chris Kirk (-7), Michael Thompson (-7), Jason Dufner (-6), Kevin Streelman (-6), Zach Johnson (-6), Ryan Moore (-6)

What it means: As is often the case, the scores were low Friday along the Hawaiian coastline as players took full advantage of scoring conditions. While Kirk and Thompson were the first into the clubhouse with rounds of 66 on the par-73 layout, they were soon joined by Simpson and Spieth as the limited field has yet to show much separation, with eight of the 30 participants set to begin Saturday's second round within one shot of the lead.

Round of the day: One of 13 first-timers in Maui this week, Spieth is also the youngest in the field at age 20 - though he showed no signs of inexperience Friday. The reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year carded seven birdies without dropping a shot during his opening round, capping a closing stretch that included four birdies over his final five holes with a 12-foot putt on No. 18. Spieth missed just two greens and three fairways Friday, and as a result is once again near the top of a PGA Tour leaderboard.

Best of the rest: Kirk started slowly Friday, as a bogey on No. 10 dropped him to just 2 under on his round. He closed in a flurry, however, with a birdie at the par-4 14th hole the first of five such red figures with which he closed his round. A winner at the McGladrey Classic in November, Kirk missed only one green during his opening-round 66 and as a result finds himself firmly in contention as he seeks his third career PGA Tour win.

Biggest disappointment: It's tough to make a case for 67s ever being a disappointment, but for Streelman and Dufner that might just have been the case Friday. Streelman appeared poised to take the clubhouse lead at 8 under thanks to a hot putter, but errant approaches led to bogeys at both Nos. 17 and 18 to close his round. Dufner, meanwhile, began the day 6 under for his first nine holes and seemed ready to threaten the course record before finishing his round with nine consecutive pars on a back nine that yielded birdies by the bunches Friday.

Main storyline heading into Saturday: It remains to be seen how this packed leaderboard will begin to thin, but likely the player to keep an eye on is Spieth. After a rookie campaign for the history books in 2013, the Texan appears poised to shake off any notion of a sophomore slump with a fast start in Hawaii. Should he falter, though, major champions Simpson and Dufner headline the group of current contenders on a course where birdie will continue to be the name of the game for the next three days.

Shot of the day: After a strong drive left him just 212 yards from the hole on the par-5 fifth, Jason Dufner took dead aim and barely missed. His approach cleared the native area in front of the green and rolled to within four feet of the hole, setting up a kick-in eagle that helped spark the reigning PGA champion to an outward nine of 6-under 30.

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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