The Race to Magnolia Lane

By Mercer BaggsMarch 6, 2002, 5:00 pm
The Honda Classic doesnt normally register as a red-letter event on the PGA Tour calendar. In fact, it probably ranks fourth in the quartet of events that comprise the Florida Swing.
This year, however, the Honda has major significance ' as in the Masters Tournament.
This is the final week (aside from winning The Players Championship) that a player, not already exempt, can earn a free trip up Magnolia Lane.
Come Sunday evening, the top three on the 2002 money list, as well as the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking, can punch their tickets to Augusta National.
Granted, most of the field has been finalized. But there are still spots remaining, and many an anxious player primed to fill them.
In terms of hard-core cash, the top 27 on the current money list are alive to qualify via their earnings. However, only one of those players not already exempt is in Coral Springs, Fla.
That would be No. 16 Pat Perez.
Perez is $449,798 behind No. 3, Jose Maria Olazabal. Therefore, the reigning Q-School medallist would need to do something he could not at Pebble Beach, win the tournament. Perez must finish first and collect the $630,000 first-place prize to book a tee time on April 11.
Conspicuous by their absences this week are Matt Gogel, Len Mattiace, John Cook, Fred Funk and David Berganio, Jr. None of the five are in the Masters field, and none are trying to play their way in either.
Gogel is 11th on the money list after his Pebble Beach victory, while Mattiace is 13th following his triumph at Riviera. Both could have finish first or second at the Honda and made it to Augusta.
Even without a win, a strong finish could have vaulted either man inside the top 50 in the world rankings. Gogel is currently 54th; Mattiace is 55th.
Cook, Funk and Berganio would have needed to win at the TPC at Heron Bay in order to qualify. But in Lottery terms: You cant win if you dont play.
While the money list is pretty cut and dried, the world rankings are a tricky lot.
It would seem that those ranked 46th and higher are secure. Rory Sabbatini hopes that extends one spot lower. The South African is 47th in the world and skipping the Honda, as are No. 49 Kirk Triplett and No. 50 Steve Lowery.
Triplett and Lowery, however, are already among the Masters elite, thanks, in part, to their positions inside the world rankings at the end of the 2001 season.
Pierre Fulke currently resides in the 51st position. Hes not in Florida, but rather in the United Arab Emirates for the Dubai Desert Classic. Fulke can gain entry to Augusta with a solid finish, thanks to the stature of field present: World No. 3 Ernie Els, No. 11 Padraig Harrington, No. 15 Darren Clarke, No. 23 Colin Montgomerie and No. 31 Thomas Bjorn.
The stronger the field, the more it can boost your world ranking.
Phillip Price, who is ranked 65th in the world, is also in Dubai.
Steve Flesch is the primary person in the States to keep an eye on. At No. 60, the left-hander is the only player inside the 51-70 area, not already exempt for the Masters, in the Honda field.
Aside from Gogel and Mattiace, Cook (No. 63 in the world), Loren Roberts (No. 67), Peter OMalley (No. 68) and Funk (No. 69) are idle this week.
Those outside the top 70, and competing this week, need only look to Mattiace for inspiration. The journeyman was 157th in the world prior to his Nissan Open victory. The following Monday, he woke up 102 spots higher at No. 55.
Getty Images

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."

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