Bunker Shots The Kings New Clothes

By Randall MellMarch 23, 2010, 6:25 pm

Blasting into the week ahead, from the home of a King to the LPGA's return to American soil:

Arnold Palmer Invitational

Thirteen events, 13 different winners this season.

Is that good for the PGA Tour?

Does it mean, in the absence of Tiger Woods, there’s impressive depth and a balance of power enhancing the nature of the competition?

No, not according to one of golf’s great storytellers.

Frank Chirkinian, the retired CBS producer who told his stories through a television camera’s lens while directing so many Masters, always believed parity was bad for the game.

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, is it’s always looking for a star,” Chirkinian said. “It’s the only sport where fans will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

Phil Mickelson at 2008 Arnold Palmer Invit.
Phil Mickelson at the 2008 Arnold Palmer Invitational, the last time he played the event. (Getty Images)
Stars win multiple events. They dominate. There’s nothing close to a dominant figure this season with Woods gone.

The Arnold Palmer Invitational begins this week at Bay Hill in Orlando with the possibility we could have a 14th winner in 14 weeks.

Stance: Woods won Palmer’s event at 5-under a year ago, the highest winning score in relation to par at Bay Hill since Mike Nicolette won at 1-under in 1983. The winning score promises to rise this year with more birdie chances. As part of Palmer’s redesign last summer, the course was returned to a par 72 after playing as a par 70 the last three years. The fourth and 16th holes will play as par 5s again. The course has been lengthened to 7,381 yards from the 7,162 it played at a year ago.

Takeaway: Sean O’Hair hasn’t contended since his tie for fourth at the season-opening SBS Championship, but Bay Hill seems to inspire him. He finished second to Tiger Woods last year and tied for third when Woods won two years ago. With Woods absent from the field, maybe this is the year O’Hair claims the big prize.

Bunker shot: If you believe Chirkinian, the ideal scenario for the PGA Tour in Woods’ absence might have been for Phil Mickelson to win two or three times before the Masters. But Mickelson’s off to a sluggish start after a strong finish last season. Mickelson will tee it up at Palmer’s event this week looking for his first victory this year. This is the deepest the 37-time PGA Tour winner has gone in a season without winning since he won the Bell South Classic by a whopping 13 shots in 2006 and then went on the next week to win the Masters.

Kia Classic presented by J Golf

The LPGA didn’t have to wait long for its first repeat winner this season.

Japan’s Ai Miyazato won the first and second events of the new year. The problem is that it’s nearly April and that’s all the golf we’ve seen from the LPGA in 2010.

Miyazato will be looking to achieve something no LPGA player has accomplished in the 61-season history of the tour when the schedule resumes Thursday at the Kia Classic presented by J Golf at the La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, Calif. She’ll be looking to win the first three stroke-play events of an LPGA season.

Stance: The upside to the limited LPGA schedule is that nearly all the stars tee it up every week. No. 1 Lorena Ochoa, No. 2 Jiyai Shin and No. 3 Miyazato are in a field that includes everyone in the top 10 in the Rolex Women’s World Ranking. Paula Creamer is the highest ranked player in the world who won’t tee it up. She has slipped to No. 11 while recuperating from injury. Creamer is out this week with a stretched ligament in her left thumb, the same injury that caused her to withdraw from the season-opening Honda PTT LPGA Thailand and miss the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore.

Takeaway: This week is more than a strong tune-up for the year’s first major, next week’s Kraft Nabisco Championship. It’s also a qualifier. Anyone who finishes in the top 10 at the Kia Classic who isn’t otherwise qualified for the Kraft earns a spot into the major.

Bunker shot: Michelle Wie is No. 9 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Ranking, which makes her the second highest ranked American in the world. Only Cristie Kerr hovers above her at No. 6. Watch out for Wie out west the next two weeks. She’s taking the quarter off at Stanford and should be able to completely focus on picking up where she left off when she broke through to win in Mexico late last year.

Around the rest of the world . . .

European Tour: For the first time this year, the European Tour actually stages an event on European soil. Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen is the defending champ at the Open de Andalucia in Spain, but 23-year-old Spaniard Pablo Martin is worth keeping an eye upon. Martin grew up playing the Parador de Malaga Golf course that is home to this week’s event. Martin made worldwide news when he became the first amateur to win a European Tour event three years ago.

Champions Tour: Fred Couples will be going for his third consecutive victory on the Tour when the Cap Cana Championship begins Friday at the Punta Espada Golf Club in the Dominican Republic. Couples hasn’t finished worse than second since joining the senior circuit.

Nationwide Tour: Steve Pate will be aiming to extend his record when he tees it up at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open at Le Triomphe Country Club in Broussard, La., on Thursday. He became the oldest winner (48) of a Nationwide Tour event when he won the Pacific Rubiales Bogota Open earlier this month.

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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

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

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

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