Woods maintains control amid windy conditions at Sherwood

By Jason SobelDecember 8, 2013, 1:55 am

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - If you're reading this from a winter wonderland like Denver or Duluth or even Dallas, if you're scrolling this page with a lone fingertip cut out of your fleece-lined mittens, if all you've had to eat today were the marshmallows floating in your hot cocoa, well, those probably aren't sympathy pains you're feeling for some of the world's best golfers right now.

I know, your heart isn’t exactly bleeding for the 18 players competing in this week’s Northwestern Mutual World Challenge. Even though they’ve already endured hour-long frost delays before each of the first two rounds and Saturday’s third round featured - hold onto your furry hat – gusting winds of more than 20 miles per hour.

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On the final hole, holding a two-stroke advantage, Tiger Woods stood over his ball in the fairway, cocked his club back and did one of those things that only he does. Just as he started his downswing, Woods recoiled, feeling another gust howling through the trees. After a few more minutes of guessing and gauging, he finally hit the ball. Ten minutes later he rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt to match that of Zach Johnson and retain the lead, and 10 minutes after that he was sitting in the tournament’s interview room, hands cradling a cup of coffee so hot it was still steaming.

Yes, my frozen friends, this was a day that required some heat, as the sun only thawed conditions to brisk temperatures in the mid-50s. Surely you can relate. Some locales are afflicted by two feet of snow and some are afflicted by a two-club wind, but hey, we’re all in this together, right?

After the round, in between sips of coffee, Woods was still so focused on the breezes that had baffled him all day that he uttered the word “wind” nine separate times during his news conference. It affected his drives; it affected his approach shots; it even affected his putting.

“The wind was all over the place,” he maintained, and those words were more description than hyperbole.

One day after posting a 10-under 62 that was so good it looked easy, Woods’ even-par 72 might sound sloppy by comparison, but not when we consider how Mother Nature turned Sherwood Country Club into an entirely different golf course.

OK, so it wasn’t hurricane-type conditions. It wasn’t even Carnoustie-type conditions. What is was, though, was unsettled and unsteady. There was no consistency to the wind. This was no toss-some-grass-and-take-an-extra-club wind. This was the kind of wind that if you didn’t like which way it was blowing, you just had to wait a few seconds and it would change direction.

“Well, it's just trying to get a bead on this wind because it literally is going all over the place. It gets in these canyons and it starts swirling all over the place,” Woods explained. “You miss the ball in the wrong spots here, you're making bogeys. It's very difficult to save pars. And with conditions like this, it's very difficult to make birdies. So you want to be conservative on some of the iron shots in there, but you look at, ‘Where am I going to go?’ Because the target areas are so small around this place.”

Two by two, the windblown players trudged off the course, shaken if not stirred. Only three of them – in a field consisting of nothing but top-30 players – broke 70 for the day. On the devilish par-3 15th hole, with the wind huffing and puffing, eight of them found the hazard and three of those eight found it again.

When it was all over, when the dust had figuratively settled and literally kept blowing through the air, Woods held the same two-stroke advantage he’d owned entering the day, leaving him with an opportunity to win his own tournament for a sixth and final time before it leaves for theoretically benign climates in Florida next year.

This is the time when it’s appropriate to remind you that his record when holding the outright 54-hole lead in PGA Tour events is a not-too-shabby 39-for-41. And while this one may not be considered official, he doesn’t plan on treating it any differently.

“If you get the lead it's totally different; they’ve got to come get you,” he said. “If Zach and I go out there or any of the top guys go out there and shoot the same score, I win. … I'd always much rather protect leads when the golf course is hard, because you know that pars - dump it in the fairway dump it on the green, make it par after par after par - will win the golf tournament.”

Here in the dead of winter, where it can be a little chilly and the wind blows a bit, Woods has already dealt with plenty of adversity. Certainly you can empathize, even if it’s in between shoveling mounds of snow away from your own frosty troubles.

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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