Golf on the cusp of new Golden Age

By Jason SobelMarch 6, 2012, 12:00 am

Rory McIlroy had just finished polishing off the field at the Honda Classic in impressive fashion, never relinquishing the 54-hole lead, prevailing by two strokes and becoming the world’s No. 1-ranked golfer in the process.

That increasingly famous perma-smile etched across his face, he sat down at the dais in the tournament’s interview room and was asked questions about the past, the present and – mostly – the ever brightening future.

In one such instance, McIlroy was posed with a query about the current state of the game. After all, Phil Mickelson has enjoyed some inspired play over the season’s first two months, Tiger Woods reverted to form on Sunday while posting an 8-under 62 to tie for second place and of course Rory’s own monumental performance. As a fan of golf, what did he think about it all?

“Exciting times,” he ruminated with a head nod.

Allow me to expand upon that notion. These aren’t just exciting times; they could be the beginning of golf’s next Golden Age, a period serving as an intersection between those superstars still successfully navigating the back nine of their careers and those still traversing the early journey of the front nine.

Big Bang Theory notwithstanding, most eras are gradually transitioned into. There are rarely singular incidents which marks a definitive passage from one to the next.

This instance is no different, though it is earmarked by a few pivotal moments in the timeline.

The so-called Tiger Era ended – or at least suffered an interminable delay – when his Thanksgiving night fire hydrant crash in 2009 and subsequent personal scandal precluded a lengthy display of uncharacteristic play. It later converged with what many termed the Rory Era, starting with his eye-popping eight-shot victory at last year’s U.S. Open.

Similarly, the date March 4, 2012 should persevere as one of the more pertinent milestones on the extended timeline. Never mind the fact that McIlroy teed off 70 minutes after Woods in the final round of the Honda Classic, ensuring that they likely never even saw each other. Forget that Woods never inched closer than two strokes to a lead that McIlroy never surrendered throughout the day.

No, this may not have been Duel in the Sun, Part II, a reenactment of the 1977 Open Championship throwdown in which 27-year-old Tom Watson edged decade-older legend Jack Nicklaus at Turnberry for his third career major title. What it did, though, was provide hope that the current generation can and will spark comparable encounters in coming years.

What we witnessed on Sunday was just a small glimpse into the next Golden Age in the game. I’m not telling any golf fans anything they don’t already know, obviously, as the excitement level emanating from such a noteworthy tournament is palpable and nearly tangible. Even McIlroy understands the effect that he, in large part, is employing on the game.

“I think it's fantastic for the game,” he said. “The more that we can create interest in the game and get more people watching, it can only be good. You know, seeing Phil do what he did at Pebble; Tiger playing the way he did today; hopefully I'm in there somewhere, getting to No. 1. It's great for the game.”

It’s about more than just those three players, though. Just as the original Duel in the Sun transpired amidst older generation stars such as Gary Player and Lee Trevino still in the mix with younger up-and-comers like Seve Ballesteros, this Golden Age is about several players.

Erstwhile No. 1-ranked golfers Luke Donald and Lee Westwood are very much part of the picture, as are twenty-something major winners Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel and Keegan Bradley. Toss in some old-school pros with possibly a little gas left in the tank – Ernie Els and Vijay Singh come to mind – and the game hardly lacks for potential storylines on a week-in, week-out basis.

Much like on Sunday, however, it will all circle back to Tiger and Rory – or as some people have deemed them, Tiger and New Tiger.

The 22-year-old McIlroy has the obvious tools and talent necessary to someday rival the storied accomplishments of Woods, 36, though the latter will have long since faded away when the former is still trying to reach such levels, all while youngsters termed New Rory nip at his heels.

No offense to this weekend’s festivities, but the true test of such a rivalry – or maybe the most notable intersection between the generational gap – won’t happen at a Honda Classic or any other PGA Tour stop.

Woods knows that, claiming acceptance for McIlroy’s new world ranking will come easier than his predecessors based on having a major championship to his name. And McIlroy knows it, too, already looking ahead to the year’s first major as the possible high-water mark for this newest era.

“I think everyone is excited for Augusta to roll around,” he explained. “I definitely know I am. Looking forward to getting back there and giving it another shot.”

Exciting times, indeed.

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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
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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.