Parity in golf the norm, not the exception

By Jason SobelJuly 18, 2012, 3:05 pm

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – There have been five different teams to win the last five World Series titles and nine in the past 11 years – and Major League Baseball is widely lauded for its virtuous parity.

Four different teams have claimed the last four Super Bowls and six in the past eight years – and the National Football League is universally celebrated for its equitable diversity.

Fifteen different golfers have captured the last 15 major championships, including nine consecutive first-time winners – and the prevailing feeling is that something is “wrong” with golf.

What a crock. Instead, something’s wrong with the prevailing feeling.

It’s no secret that in the dozen years from 1997-2008, we all became desensitized to domination. Tiger Woods won 14 of the 48 majors that were contested during this period, peeling ‘em off at a clip that was never before witnessed in the game.

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Whether you recognized his individual greatness with each additional achievement or gradually took him for granted – or both – there was a sense that Woods’ accomplishments were somehow normal after a while, that we should expect him to triumph more often than not.

The truth is, that was the deviation from the norm. Not this.

In the years since that dominance has subsided, the game has reverted to form. Much like its championship counterparts in most team sports, the list of major champions is once again an eclectic mix of superstars prevailing over their peers, up-and-comers breaking through and one-hit wonders getting a turn to shine in the spotlight.

Call it a Parity Party.

No longer are questions posed in regard to choosing one player over the rest of the entire field. Such queries have instead transitioned into inquiries about the current depth of fields, which the pros almost unanimously concur are more extensive than they’ve ever been before.

“I think the fields are deeper, there's no doubt,” Woods said in advance of this week’s Open Championship. “You need to have a hot week at the right time. That's what it comes down to. I think that there are more guys now have a chance to win major championships than ever before and I think that will just continue to be that way. What do we have, 15 in a row I think it is now? It just goes to show you the depth of the field.”

The current streak of varied winners isn’t the lengthiest in the game’s history – from the 1983 U.S. Open through the 1987 Open Championship, there were 18 different champions – but it’s difficult to argue that field depths aren’t monumentally stronger than those of past generations.

Don’t believe the players who are competitive now and have only known it one way? Then ask a guy whose career has spanned two separate eras.

“I was in the right era for my time, for the tournaments that I won,” explained Mark Calcavecchia, the 1989 Open champion who is again competing this week. “I think if I was in my prime today, I seriously doubt I’d win a major or win 13 times. Just because everybody else is that much better than they were 20 years ago.”

All of which begs the question: Which is better?

Is it more beneficial for the game to have a singularly dominant player who draws worldwide interest every time he tees it up? Or is it more advantageous to boast a competitive balance that features a different champion on any given week?

Well, it depends whom you ask.

“I think you can argue it both ways,” Rickie Fowler contended. “I think it's fun knowing going into the week that there's a full field of guys and almost anyone can win. Not saying, ‘OK, there's a 50 percent chance that this guy is going to win this week; we'll try to give him a run, if not we'll play for second.’ As a player, I think it's a lot more fun playing against a handful of guys fighting it out for a championship versus trying to beat down one guy and play for second.”

That may be the case, but any notion that something is “wrong” with the current state of the game just because it has become less predictable is foolish at best and insulting at worst.

Think back to that 12-year period when Woods claimed those 14 major titles. If the first question before each of those performances was, “Tiger or the field?” then the second was often, “Why won’t anybody step up and challenge Tiger?”

Guess what, golf fans? It isn’t just one player who has stepped up. It’s many of ‘em, consistently and constantly.

In other sports, parity is proof that the system is working, forever regenerating itself with new, different champions. In golf, the current state of the game is too often perceived in a negative light.

Instead, the prevailing feeling should be that this is perfectly normal.

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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