Four Major Stories in 2002

By Mercer BaggsDecember 22, 2002, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)A years conclusion is the beginning of reflection. Each golfing season offers amazements to ponder, controversies to debate, and renewals, revelations and retirements to assess.
The PGA Tour delighted in the parity of a record 18 first-time winners, and distressed in a swamp of sponsorship woes.
Tiger Woods again led the tour in everything from wins to cash to Swedish girlfriends.
Arnold Palmer took his final bow at Augusta National, while Sam Snead took one last shot.
There were finishes to remember ' Steve Lowery at the International, and finishes to forget ' all not named Tiger at the Masters.
There was the technical ' club regulations, and the exceptional ' Jeff Julian competing with ALS.
Gene Sauers, Dan Forsman and Bob Burns won. David Toms, David Duval and Davis Love III did not.
The Phil Mickelson Story continued, with the latest chapter reading much the same as the first 10.
There were several headlines of note this year, but four in particular that were bold in type and lasting in longevity.
These were the PGA Tours four major stories in 2002:

Tigers Grand Slam Run
After the first day of the 2002 British Open the world's No. 1 ranked player was three shots off the lead. After Day 2 the deficit was trimmed to two.
It seemed inevitable. By Sunday evening in East Lothian, Scotland, Woods would have the third leg of the Grand Slam.
Augusta, check. Bethpage, check. Muirfield, next.
No man had been able to stop Woods from becoming the first player in 30 years to win the first two majors of the season. He squared off against five of the top-seven ranked players in the world Sunday at the Masters and defeated them all ' simply by shooting 1-under 71. He then captured his second U.S. Open crown, finishing as the only man under par at an overly vociferous venue.
However, it wasnt a man, but a figurative entity that emphatically ended Tigers Grand Slam run.
Mother Nature showed her hand Saturday off the Firth of Forth, and smacked around the worlds greatest player. Amid a darting and driving rain, wind gusts measured over 30 mph, temperatures dropped into the 40s, and Woods couldnt break 80.
Tiger, who won six times around the world in 2002, shot a career-worst 81 in the third round and eventually finished tied for 28th.
The dream had died, or at least was deferred to another year.

Ernie and the Beemer
When Tigers major monopoly ended at Muirfield, anothers career was resurrected.
It had been over five years since Ernie Els had won a major championship. He had won a bevy of tournaments around the world during that span, but there was that one glaring omission ' what defines a Hall of Fame player like Els.
The two-time U.S. Open champion started the second round of the British Open in a five-way tie for the lead. And while Woods crashed, and others burned, Els fought mightily to a 1-over 72.
That magnificent round ' under traumatic conditions ' put Els in perfect position to drench his major drought. Leading by two as the final round began, he extended the margin to three on the back nine.
Seemingly in control, Els suddenly found himself trailing after bogeying the 14th and double bogeying the 16th. He recovered, however, with a birdie on 17 and a par on 18 to force a playoff with Steve Elkington, Thomas Levet and Stuart Appleby.
What could have been his worst defeat proved to be his greatest triumph as Els won the five-hole playoff with a quintet of pars, culminated with a championship bunker shot at the last.
The 32-year-old earned the trophy he coveted most.
The seasons final major was once again the most compelling and cinematic.
When Rich Beem bogeyed two of his final five holes in the third round of the PGA Championship, he appeared to earn the 'Hey, Nice Try, Heres a Pat on the Back' award.
He now trailed Justin Leonard by three shots. A former car stereo salesman versus a past major winner. It was no contest.
Leonard shot 77. Beem became the improbable champion.
Having shelved the pressure throughout the first three days, he shouldered the load Sunday.
The 32-year-old, in just his fourth-ever major championship start, held off a furious rally by Woods, who birdied his final four holes.
Beem eagled the par-5 11th, lacing a 3-wood from 271 yards to within 10 feet of the hole to take command of the tournament. He then made a 35-foot birdie on the dangerous par-4 16th, two-putted the 17th for par, and made a harmless bogey at the last.
A star was born.

Hootie vs. Martha
Unfortunately, Annika Sorenstam wasnt the most talked about female in the world of golf as 2002 came to a close. That distinction ' dubious it may be ' belonged to National Council of Womens Organizations chairperson Martha Burk.
The Augusta National controversy began with a private letter from Burk to club chairman Hootie Johnson.
The 71-year-old Johnson fired back with a letter of his own ' publicly ' and the battle was on.
Burk wanted a woman member at the all-male club, which annually hosts the Masters Tournament. Johnson said he would not be bullied into admitting a female into its 300-male membership, and added there would be no such addition by next years event.
Sponsors were dropped, boycotts were threatened, defections were made, and players were questioned ' all ad nauseam. Everyone had an opinion ' even Rev. Jesse Jackson ' though not all wanted to express it.
Like a Ken Burns documentary, the debate wont end soon enough, and is sure to be a major story leading to the first major of next season.

Ryder Cup
The scenario was the same, and so was the end result. The Americans, champions on paper, were crumbled and tossed into golfs wastebasket by a more inspired than inferior European team in the 34th Ryder Cup.
In 1985, Sam Torrance made the Cup-clinching putt to give Europe its first victory in the biennial event in 28 years. This time he led the way as captain at The Belfry.
A year after being postponed due to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the matches proved as stirring and competitive as ever.
With the two sides tied after two days, Torrance let his thoroughbreds out of the gates early in the Sunday singles. With a boisterous backing from a partisan, yet respectful crowd, the big boys did their parts, as did the unheralded duo of Phillip Price and Paul McGinley.
The Europeans won 7 of the 12 available singles points to win the event, 15 - 12.
Inasmuch as Torrance was regaled for his Sunday strategy, U.S. captain Curtis Strange was scrutinized for his. Strange allowed Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, the top-two ranked players in the world, to bring up the rear. Mickelson lost his match to Price, while Woods half against Jesper Parnevik proved inconsequential.
The Europeans have won and held onto the Cup six of the last nine competitions.
Getty Images

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

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.