A Season of Giving
All the man needs from Santa is a breakfast ball. That Great Big Comeback would have worked better if it hadn’t spent most of the year traveling in reverse. How else do you explain claims of progress after frittering away four shots on a Sunday afternoon?
Not that Woods is by himself in the Land of Fallen Stars. If 2009 was draped in twisted storylines – Tom Watson headed an illustrious cast in a compilation of major-championship heartbreak – 2010 should be remembered for its competitive landmines. Phil Mickelson basically turned invisible after winning his third Masters. Lee Westwood missed six weeks in the heart of premium-field season, then returned to find the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking waiting in his locker, his only triumph coming four months earlier after Robert Garrigus’ 72nd-hole collapse in Memphis.
Dustin Johnson? America’s most consistent leaderboard presence won tons of money and three truckloads of sympathy – lovely consolation prizes for anyone who vaporizes in the final round of a U.S. Open, then grounds his club in a fake bunker with a PGA Championship on the line. Now that Woods isn’t picking up a half-dozen or so victories and gaining a vertical mile on the climb up Mount Nicklaus, pro golf seems sort of rudderless.
We keep slobbering over the potential of Rory McIlroy, but in recent months, he has looked like just another kid with a balky putter down the stretch and a bottle of butter-pecan hair dye. Paul Casey didn’t take the next step. Padraig Harrington is still looking for that magical 2008 calendar – a very good player, not a great one. Geoff Ogilvy managed to go eight months without a top-10 finish. Anthony Kim? Never mind.
Poor Sergio. He spent the better part of 10 years hunting Tiger, sometimes with a butter knife, but if Eldrick Almighty’s career hasn’t been the same since the fire hydrant, Garcia seems to have suffered a head-on collision with a mid-life crisis. Woods made domination look routine, as if it was his divine right to leave everyone else feeling mentally and physically inferior. In a game in which all the random variables combine to undermine a competitive dynasty, Tiger ruled the earth for 13 years, give or take a week.
Name another athlete who ever pulled off that stunt. Didn’t think you could.
In the rare previous instances when Woods reached the crossroads, he’d take a deep breath, duck into a corner market and emerge with three or four new trophies. This time, in lieu of any real oncoming traffic, there’s a blinking yellow light. Earl and Tida’s kid is about to turn 35, no big deal, but more than in the past, Tiger seems preoccupied with the mechanics of the golf swing, as if you win tournaments by having the best form, not shooting the lowest score.
His latest coach, Sean Foley, is basically a swing scientist. Fifty-five percent of your weight here, then 80 percent of it there. . .from the sharp-eyed, old-school method of Butch Harmon to Hank Haney, who tutored under master instructor John Jacobs, Woods has found himself a dude with a slide ruler and a theory.
That’s not to say Foley isn’t an excellent instructor or that Tiger won’t turn things around under Foley’s watch. We’re talking about the greatest feel player of all-time, however, a guy with surreal golf instincts whose most amazing shots often come from the trees 25 yards right of the fairway. Tiger turns into Houdini when he’s in trouble, maybe because he’s forced to think about flight and shape instead of his position at the top of the backswing.
Now he’s plotting a much bigger escape – fleeing the land of the winless. His 2010 was a bust, but Woods can rationalize the poor season by blaming his personal problems or the swing changes brought on by a new coach, as was the case in 2004. He hasn’t won a major since the 2008 knee surgery, a drought due to poor putting more than anything, but again, Woods can look you in the eye and tell you he has gone 2 ½ years without winning a major twice before.
If the last 12 months taught us anything, it’s that the Dude in the Red Shirt played the game at a higher level than anyone has ever seen – and for longer than anyone could imagine. His shortcomings in 2010 provided a unique opportunity for his primary rivals, none of whom were able to assert themselves, which makes 2011 the Year of the Question Mark. Tiger has built a career out of exclamation points, but as the calendar turns, Woods finds himself with a challenge unlike any he has ever faced. Period.
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