Day hoping for Fleck-like comeback at Oakmont

By Joe PosnanskiJune 19, 2016, 2:54 am

OAKMONT, Pa. – Everybody knows that you do not shoot 76 in the first round and then win the U.S. Open. It just doesn’t happen.

The last person to do that – to shoot 76 and actually win – was an Iowa club pro named Jack Fleck more than 60 years ago. And, you probably know, that was nuts, a once-in-a-century kind of fluke. Fleck shot 7 over par at Olympic and somehow that was good enough to force a playoff with Ben Hogan. Fleck then won that playoff in one of the great upsets in golf – and sports – history.

All of which reiterates the point: You don’t shoot 76 in the opening round and then win the U.S. Open.

Still, when a player – especially an accomplished one – does shoot a 76 (or thereabouts) in the opening round, he will always talk about trying to get back into it. He will have a plan, and it’s always the same plan.

1. Shoot under par the next day (just to make the cut).

2. Go low on Saturday.

3. Count on the brutal U.S. Open conditions to wilt the leaders and bring you back into play.

4. Win on Sunday.

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It’s actually a reasonable-sounding plan ... except nobody can do it. Rickie Fowler shot 76 in his opening round and followed with a 75. Rory McIlroy shot a 77 and, after briefly thrilling the gallery with a run of birdies, collapsed and missed the cut. This is how it usually goes. The comeback plan rarely even makes it past Step 1.

Only don’t look now – there’s world No. 1 Jason Day trying to scale the impossible wall. Day shot his disappointing 76, and it sure seemed like he was done.

Then, he shot a nice solid 69 in Round 2 and made the cut. That built his confidence. Then, he went out and absolutely blistered the front nine at Oakmont. He made four birdies in his first seven holes, eagled a hole and actually got all the way back to par. He did limp in, but he managed to shoot a dazzling 66 to pull into eighth place, six shots behind leader Shane Lowry.

Now, he needs Step 3 and Step 4 to pull off this crazy, impossible comeback.

“I just want it to play hard and fast for (Sunday),” he said. “And I think the harder the better like a normal U.S. Open Sunday should be. I think it would be fun for everyone.”

Well, actually, it wouldn’t be fun for everyone, which is exactly what Day is counting on. Yes, he’s still six back, and yes there are some terrific players in front of him. But he does have a couple of pretty sweet advantages going into Sunday.

One, he finished his round. Among the players in the top 10, only Day, Branden Grace and Bryson DeChambeau have finished their third rounds. That means the rest of the contenders have 5 a.m. wakeup calls and 7 a.m. tee times. Lowry probably has an hour or so of golf to play.

The second advantage – none of the seven players in front of Day have won major championships. Leader: Lowry has never been in full-blooded contention before.

Second place: Andrew Landry has never even played in a major championship before.

Third place (tied): Lee Westwood, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia all have very sad country songs to sing about their major championship heartbreak.

This is not to say they will all fold under the heat of a U.S. Open Sunday. But, let’s not kid anybody: Wouldn’t you rather be chasing players that have not yet endured the pressure and taken the trophy?

“It depends on how they look at it,” said Day, who ended his own sad major championship country song at the PGA Championship last year. “If they want to go out there and think they’re ready to win a major, then it’s obviously going to be tougher (for me) because they’re going to be focused and ready.”

Now, look, six shots is a lot to overcome, and Lowry has looked very solid all week. Landry has already quieted those who thought he would disappear from the leaderboard long ago. And the trio tied at 2 under are three of the most accomplished players of the last decade. So, the odds are still stacked heavily against Jason Day. But the best player in the world has put himself on the leaderboard where everyone can see him.

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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

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Green jacket tour

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Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

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Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

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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