Fans are the focus at Phoenix's 16th hole

By Jason SobelFebruary 2, 2014, 1:32 am

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Ryan Palmer knocked his tee shot to within 13 feet of the cup on the infamous 16th hole here at TPC Scottsdale on Saturday, then made a beeline for the rowdy fans sitting just left of the entrance.

Like so many other players, he’d decided to stay in their good graces by tossing gifts into the stands. Like no other players, he opted for something each of them could use.

Cold, hard cash.

“I don’t know why, I just thought it would be pretty cool to tell them to go have a beer on me,” said Palmer, who threw $100 to the crazed fans. “Everyone was just screaming and grabbing. With the wind, it kept blowing back at me, so I couldn’t get it all the way up there. I handed some to a few people. It’s one of those deals where you try to think of something clever.”

An hour later, fan Stuart Parnell was still raving about the gesture. “I got 40 bucks!” he crowed.

Video: Lefty goes righty for football tosses

If the 16th hole is a study in the sociology of spectators, the idea can similarly be applied to competitors. In a game where personalities aren’t often displayed inside the ropes, it’s one time when they’re actually encouraged.

When Scott Langley safely found the green during the third round, he pumped his fist and pointed toward the boisterous fans. When J.B. Holmes nestled one to a similar distance in the same group, he barely displayed any expression.

Phil Mickelson stepped to the tee with his usual grin and trademark thumbs-up toward the gallery. When he missed the green left, the fan favorite motioned to the masses that he was well deserving of being booed.

It didn’t last, though. Within seconds, he was firing footballs into the stands – righty – with some pretty tight spirals.

“I think it's the last time I'm going to do that, because mentally I was thinking about throwing it a couple holes prior,” he admitted. “It took me out of my element. I hit the worst shot imaginable on that 16th hole.”

Not everyone was thrown off. Roberto Castro has long been serenaded with chants of “FIDEL!” at the 16th. So this time, he jogged over to the fans and produced a box labeled “Fidel’s Finest” then tossed cigars into the crowd.

Some of ’em even got a gift in return. When Ryan Moore followed a par by tossing his golf ball to a fan in a Seahawks jersey, the favor was returned as a few Seahawks pins rained down on him from above.

Not every gift was a tangible item, though.

In light of the PGA Tour’s decree that caddie races are banished this year, a trio of players bent the rules without breaking ‘em. Kevin Na, John Merrick and Brendan Steele picked up their own bags and raced with them.

“It was Kevin Na’s idea and we just wanted it to be funny,” Steele later said. “But once we got close to the green, we couldn’t help going into a sprint.”

In addition to posting a tidy little 9-under 62, he also won the race in a near-dead heat.

Cade Fredrickson didn’t need a photo finish. The 12-year-old was serving as a standard-bearer and raced his father, Rob, a member of the Thunderbirds, to the 16th green. The son dusted his dad so easily that he jogged the final 10 yards backwards.

He walked off with a big smile on his face, but emotions were often mixed on this day. Seven holes earlier, Hunter Mahan was told by a fan that if he made a putt he’d get half of the outside-the-ropes wager. When he holed it, he gave the Johnny Manziel money motion, then mirrored it after a birdie on 16. Meanwhile, Y.E. Yang suffered embarrassment in front of the game’s biggest gallery, hitting a putt into a bunker en route to posting triple bogey.

The 15,000 spectators on the hole come with varying degrees of golf pedigrees, but plenty of ’em know their stuff. Upon seeing caddies walk off yardage or discuss club selection, Mike Leonard would yell, “Give him the gap wedge! It’s 128 yards!”

Never mind that the hole was playing 131. It sounded good.

Not every yell was helpful, though. When Vijay Singh, who is involved with a messy lawsuit against the PGA Tour over alleged use of deer-antler spray, stepped into the arena, they chanted, “A-ROD! A-ROD!” When Matt Every walked in, they sang, “Puff the Magic Dragon … in Iowa …” a not-so-thinly-veiled reference to his arrest on marijuana possession there four years ago.

Yes, there was a little bit of everything at the 16th hole Saturday. As for Palmer, who became the first player to throw cash, he might have established a dangerous precedent for himself.

“I’ll have to make it a ritual there,” he said. “But I’ll just bring a bunch of ones next time.”

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 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.