Bunker Shots Out of the Fog
It approaches with the hope of a freshening breeze.
Golf sorely needs some new storylines to help move the fog off the game.
Twenty-eight players will be aiming to deliver something hopeful when the 2010 PGA Tour season begins Thursday at the SBS Championship in Kapalua in Hawaii.
The game could use something medicinal right now, maybe history-making, like a round of 59 to match the PGA Tour record shared by Al Geiberger (1977), Chip Beck (1991) and David Duval (1999). Or a closing run of seven consecutive birdies to win on Sunday, a feat that would break Mike Souchak’s 54-year-old PGA Tour record six closing birdies to win. Or a Craig Parry-like hole out to win from long distance, some unforgettable final shot like the one the Aussie sank from 176 yards with a 6-iron to win at Doral six years ago.
Golf could use some magic this week if only to remind us that Tiger Woods didn’t take it all with him when he announced he was leaving on an indefinite break.
The PGA Tour could use a good beginning to help soothe the pain from last year’s lousy ending.
Not so long ago, PGA Tour veterans used to say the new season didn’t begin until the Florida Swing. After Woods came along, it didn’t feel like the season was fully launched until he teed it up for the first time. That didn’t happen until the Accenture Match Play Championship last year, with Woods delaying his start after rehabilitating from reconstructive knee surgery. He started the three previous seasons at the Buick Invitational in San Diego, winning all three times. The last time he started the season in Hawaii was 2005, when he won the Mercedes Championship.
Nobody outside the Woods’ camp – and maybe inside of it – is quite sure when Woods will return, whether it will come sooner than expected in San Diego at the end of this month, though that seems unlikely, or at the CA Championship at Doral or Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando in March. Or perhaps the Masters in April. Or if he’ll take the entire year off to rebound from his fall from grace.
Whenever he comes back, it’s certain to be an epic event, the nature of the comeback’s storyline almost overshadowing the competition itself.
In that respect, the SBS Championship and all the events that will come before Woods’ return will offer a respite.
Or so we hope.
Stance: Just two of the top-10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking are in the field, No. 3 Steve Stricker and No. 10 Kenny Perry. All four major championship winners are scheduled to compete (Masters’ winner Angel Cabrera, U.S. Open winner Lucas Glover, British Open winner Stewart Cink and PGA Championship winner Y.E. Yang). Defending champion Geoff Ogilvy is also back.
Takeaway: The only player who can come close to Woods’ star power is Phil Mickelson, but he’s skipping the season-opening event for winners yet again. Henrik Stenson, winner of last year’s Players Championship, also is skipping the opener.
Bunker shot: Combine his significantly improved driving with his formidable wedge game and putting prowess and Stricker appears poised to be a larger factor in golf’s biggest events this year. Stricker turns 43 in February, but he’s building the kind of game late in his career that could give him a chance to break through and win his first major. Stricker won three times in ’09 while finishing on a roll. He won the FedEx Cup playoff event at the Deutsche Bank Championship, closing hard under pressure. He played well while paired with Woods a bunch of times during the FedEx Cup playoffs, then teamed with Woods in a dominant Presidents Cup pairing. The way he performed in Woods’ presence says something about the rising level of his confidence. It makes you wonder if Stricker might be following the path of Mark O’Meara, who won his two majors at 41 after beneficially matching his game against Woods in countless rounds together and pairings in team events. Stricker’s late-blooming development makes him a man worth watching this new year.
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