Fixing Whats Not Broken
When the Player Advisory Council meets at the Memorial Tournament this week to discuss the Tour’s most pressing issues, the poor health of its weak-field events will be at the top of the list. Why doesn’t Woods ever play in Memphis? Can’t something be done to improve the product in key markets such as New Orleans and Dallas? Despite cutting the number of regular-season events from 47 to 41 in a dubiously schemed attempt to repackage itself under the FedEx Cup banner (2007), the Tour continues to deal with reality pangs.
The Tigers and Phils show up only half the time. Take away the four majors, which are run by other governing bodies, and the separation between the Haves and Have-Nots becomes far too obvious. How to fix? Well, uh, you can’t. The PAC’s latest plan is to designate five third-tier tourneys each year as “special” and make everybody in the top 50 play at least one of the five. This is an offshoot of the previous bright idea, which would mandate Joe Tour Pro to appear at every Tour stop over a five-year period.
By theory or application, neither proposal would work. Both rules are designed for – and aimed at – one guy, fostered by a mentality that reflects the downside of the Tiger Effect. Woods is the Only Player Who Matters? How dare he skip the Honda Classic every year! Besides, you can’t call them independent contractors one minute, then tell them where to stick their peg in the ground the next. Not the player who spends every fall fighting for his card, not the guy who makes $2.5 million for a pile of T-8s, and most certainly, not the Hand That Feeds, the one holding 14 major titles.
Since winning the Masters by a dozen strokes in 1997, Woods clearly has held up his end of the deal. He still doubles the size of a TV audience and vaults the Tour into the first block of the 11 p.m. SportsCenter. Is some contrived, play-‘em-all provision a real solution, or is it actually a penalty imposed on the world’s best golfer? We’re talking about potential legislation that could do a lot more harm than good.
Do you really care whether Trevor Immelman plays in the Shell Houston Open? After Woods and Mickelson, which Tour stars move the proverbial needle even a tiny bit? The problem isn’t how often the superstars play, but how poorly the would-be stars have performed. Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott head the ample list of post-Tiger phenoms who haven’t done enough to secure the mainstream public’s attention, and thus, remain largely incapable of carrying a tournament’s promotional campaign, selling tickets or getting people to drop what they’re doing to watch CBS on a Saturday afternoon.
Yes, it would be nice if Woods altered his schedule to include a few Have-Nots. It would be nice if Mickelson committed to the Travelers Championship near Hartford, an event he won in 2001 and 2002 but hasn’t played in since ’03. “The hard thing is figuring out how to do it without pushing too hard,” PAC member Paul Goydos said last week. Of course, perfect-world scenarios are hard to come by, if there is such a thing as a perfect world at all. In the NBA, teams play an 82-game schedule, more than half of which can seem almost meaningless.
Major League Baseball deals with lengthy stretches of insignificance over the course of a six-month season – only in the NFL does every game matter. The PGA Tour? There are the four majors and The Players, three WGC tournaments and the FedEx Cup Playoffs – those 12 weeks stand out above all the rest. Add another half-dozen or so strong fields and you come up with what amounts to four solid months of premium competition. That sounds about right for a niche sport, a niche in which the landscape has barely changed since April 1997.
Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test
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."
Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage
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.
Swipe to see what’s up in my world. It’s long-winded.... short version, we lost the baby. Had to share this since we had shared the news already. I know you’re all so supportive and kind. I just couldn’t face it before. Now let’s get back to our regularly scheduled programming. #ihavealotoffeelings #andphotostocatchupon
“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
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.
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.
Green jacket tour
Man of the people
Ace at 17th at Sawgrass
Departure from TaylorMade
Squashed beef with Paddy
Victory at Valderrama
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18