Never Ceasing to Amaze

By Jay CoffinJuly 14, 2010, 8:43 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Tom Watson desperately would love to muster one last charge at the home of golf. The Scottish fans would love to see a performance that mirrors last year’s at Turnberry. A better ending would suffice, too.

Is it possible for Old Tom Watson to find the magic at an Open Championship one more time?

When Watson takes to the first tee Thursday morning with Padraig Harrington and Ryo Ishikawa it will be for his seventh Open Championship at the Old Course, but likely his last here. He has an exemption through the 2014 at Royal Liverpool and would need to do something special to make it back here to St. Andrews for the 2015 championship.

Anything indeed is possible, as Watson has shown us over the past 52 weeks. He’s wowed galleries at just about every turn beginning with his Open performance at Turnberry last year. There he arrived with memories of winning the Duel in the Sun – the famed slugfest against Jack Nicklaus in 1977 – and nearly created more memories as he was the leader standing on the tee of the 72nd hole, but ultimately lost to Stewart Cink in the four-hole playoff.

Tom Watson
Watson lost in a playoff at the 2009 Open Championship. (Getty Images)
Just when people thought he couldn’t find his swing again, Watson shot a first-round 67 at the Masters this year and was a shot out of first place. He tied for 18th place.

Less than a month ago Watson, 60, playing on a special exemption, arrived at Pebble Beach for what could be his final U.S. Open. An opening-round 78 made him a virtual afterthought until he shot 71 in the second round to make the cut on the number, then followed it up with a third-round 70 to get him into the top 20. He shot 76 and tied for 29th place.

Point is this man just never ceases to amaze.

“I never think about my history at the Open,” Watson said. “What I think about is I’m still here as a competitor to try to play the golf course the best I can, and that’s what I’m doing.”

Watson contends that his ballstriking is not as crisp as it was a year ago, although it was getting better during each of his three practice rounds. His wish is to hit nine out of every 10 shots the way he prefers rather than the 50-60 percent range he’s been stuck in since Sunday. He is pleased with his putting, which is the one thing that kept him from winning more major championships over the years. He’d have won at Turnberry last year had he converted a par putt from 8 feet.

“Every time I play with him I see that it’s possible [for Watson to contend] because he hits the ball very solidly, and I think if the wind blows, if it blows a lot and the course is dry and firm, that’s when Tom Watson has the best chance,” said Cink, who played a practice round with Watson Monday at Watson’s request. “He has a very good head on his shoulders and his swing is standing the test of time before all of our eyes.”

Watson is perhaps the best links player in the history of golf, having won the Open Championship five times on five different golf courses. But the one glaring omission – if there is such a thing from a man with his resume – is that Watson never won an Open on the Old Course. His second attempt was the closest in 1984, but he shot 73 in the final round and lost by two shots to a hard-charging Seve Ballesteros. Watson hasn’t finished better than a tie for 31st place in his next four championships here.

“When I went out to play on Sunday, it was like I was playing it all over again for the first time,” Watson said. “St. Andrews is a hard course to understand, and you have to relearn it and relearn it and relearn it all the time. That’s how I felt on Sunday and then Monday and yesterday. The same feelings come back.”

He’ll need to rely on all those past feelings of joy and find a way to dig deep this week, as the windy, rainy conditions will make contending a much more difficult task.

Following his performances at last year’s Open Championship and this year’s Masters and U.S. Open, it will be a tall task to expect Watson to provide one more thrill for the golf masses.

“There are certain places that I’ve enjoyed over my career where I’ve played and had some wonderful experiences,” Watson said. “Obviously the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach was at the top of my list. Playing at Augusta, I’ve had success there. It’s been a very special time.

“And here at St. Andrews, it would be a great triumvirate if I did well here at age 60.”

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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