Golfs Greatest Spectacle

By Randall MellOctober 4, 2010, 11:53 pm

Ryder Cup

NEWPORT, Wales – This is why the Ryder Cup is more than golf’s best event.

This is why it’s the game’s most riveting spectacle.

After the Europeans held off a magnificent American charge to win Monday, thousands of fans swarmed Graeme McDowell as he left the 17th green at Celtic Manor. That's where he defeated Hunter Mahan to win the vital final point in the final pairing in a thrilling finish that ranks among the best in the 83-year history of the competition. They swarmed him in raucous delight and paraded all the way to the clubhouse.

“It’s incredible,” Lee Westwood said in the aftermath of Europe’s 14 ½-13½ victory against the Americans. “It’s gotten out of control, but you can’t blame people. It’s been one of those Ryder Cups that’s had everything.”

Graeme McDowell
Graeme McDowell clinched the Ryder Cup for Europe. (Getty Images)

And he meant everything.

Through a difficult week, through two days of showers that brought more than half the rainfall the Usk Valley typically sees in the entire month of October, through more than 12 hours of rain delays, through downpours that ignited an American raingear controversy, this terrific Ryder Cup finish made all the trouble worth enduring.

This extra day, this ending, this heart-thumping closing act made the trek through the muck worth the journey and the wait for the spectators who kept showing up. It also reminded us what sets the Ryder Cup apart.

“I can safely say I have never felt this nervous before on a golf course in my life,” McDowell said.

This is the man who held off Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els in the final round to win the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in June.

“I’ve never cried after losing, other than at the Ryder Cup,” American Jim Furyk said.

Mahan’s eyes glistened afterward. He wiped his left eye after being asked about the final chip he chunked in front of the 17th green, the shot that cruelly will be remembered as the one that lost this Ryder Cup. He couldn’t give an answer but PGA officials provided quotes later.

“You feel like you’re playing for everybody,” Mahan said.

It was a day so compelling nobody in the crowd of 35,000 seemed to want to leave when it was over. They stayed around to celebrate Europe's fourth victory in the last five Ryder Cups.

You don’t see scenes like this at major championships. You don’t see the depth of emotions stirring players and fans alike at the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open or PGA Championship. You don’t see so much winning and losing, so much joy and misery packed into one day of golf like the final day of a Ryder Cup.

Atop the balcony in front of the Celtic Manor resort, McDowell led the traditional champagne celebration, shaking bottles before shooting sprays of the sweet stuff onto the crowd below. His fellow countryman, Rory McIlroy, barely old enough to drink the stuff, stiffened when somebody dumped an entire bottle over his head, filling his thick, curly mop of black hair with sparkling suds. Then McIlroy leaned over the balcony like a gorgeous, shaggy dog and shook his head, spraying the fans below.

Somebody winged a cap into the crowd, then a warm-up jacket. Comically, a pair of pants came floating down next. Somebody threw a golf shoe, then another shoe, then a shoe filled with champagne.

Miguel Angel Jimenez came out in a sport jacket and a full-size Spanish flag fashioned as a necktie while puffing one of his giant cigars.

Westwood, who hasn’t had a drop of alcohol in the eight weeks he’s been rehabilitating his torn left calf muscle, wasn’t going to waste the stuff. He lifted a bottle in the air to salute the crowd, then threw his head back and started guzzling.

Down three points to the Europeans starting singles play, a daunting margin in Ryder Cup play, the Americans mounted a brilliant charge.

Despite Europe’s strong start Monday, with eight European flags flying over 12 of the matches, the United States kept attacking, kept turning matches around.

Dustin Johnson officially started the American charge, giving the Americans their first point by routing Martin Kaymer, the German who won the PGA Championship that ended so bitterly and controversially for Johnson six weeks ago. Johnson felt like he should have been in the playoff Kaymer won at Whistling Straits. Johnson looked like he would have won it Monday, closing with four consecutive birdies to beat Kaymer 6 and 4.

Moments after Johnson’s point registered, Steve Stricker closed out his match, beating Europe’s best player, Westwood, 2 and 1.

Results from the 38th Ryder Cup

Session 1 Fourballs
Session 2 Foursomes
Session 3 Foursomes
Session 3 Fourballs
Session 4 Singles

Tiger Woods looked like, well, Tiger Woods. He played like even if he loses the No. 1 ranking this fall, he’s close to finding the form that will win it back. He played like he’s still going to blow past Jack Nicklaus on his way to setting the record for major championships. He played like he wanted to shut us all up with a 4-and-3 thumping of Francesco Molinari. Woods holed a shot from 133 yards for eagle. He made seven birdies and an eagle in a performance that rivaled any he’s delivered at the height of his powers. He was 9 under over 15 holes.

Phil Mickelson delivered, too. He ended his streak of four consecutive Ryder Cup singles losses defeating Peter Hanson 4 and 2.

It all paved the way to an American finish that looked like it might be remembered with USA’s improbable come-from-behind victory at the Country Club in Brookline, Mass., in 1999.

“There were a lot of points where I thought we weren’t going to win this,” Westwood said.

American rookie Rickie Fowler, a captain’s pick, put that thought in the entire European team’s head with the blows he delivered in a clutch finish. In a hole, 4 down with six holes to play against Edoardo Molinari, Fowler showed why his teammates rave about his unflappable nature. He birdied the final four holes under intense pressure. With his back against the wall, 2 down with two holes to play, the 21-year-old silenced the giant European crowds by rolling in an 18-foot birdie at the 17th. At the 18th, with European players and wives crowding the green waiting to celebrate Molinari’s victory, Fowler rolled in another 18-footer to halve the match.

“That’s why we picked him,” said Davis Love III, an American assistant captain. “There’s a star player who said he should be our first pick.”

With Woods playing behind him, Fowler said he was inspired at the 14th tee. That’s where he turned around and watched Woods.

“The point that turned me around in my match, or got me pumped up, was when I saw Tiger make that putt on the 13th from about 50 feet and walk it in,” Fowler said. “That kind of gave me a little extra life.”

Improbably, with American Zach Johnson’s victory tying this Ryder Cup 13½ to 13½, the day was down to Mahan vs. McDowell in the anchor match.

Mahan fought himself from 3 down with six holes to go to 1 down at the 16th tee. That’s where McDowell showed the nerve that won him the U.S. Open. He poured in a 12-foot putt for birdie to go 2 up again with two holes remaining.

“I had a massive amount of emotions going through my head,” McDowell said. “I was imagining winning, I was imagining losing in the same breath.”

This wild, wondrous day will always be remembered for what happened in the final act at the 17th hole, a 211-yard par 3.

After McDowell hit the right side of the green, Mahan made a poor, awkward pass. His shot parachuted 20 feet short of the green.

With what must have felt like the entire population of Wales watching, plus all his teammates and European opponents, Mahan set up over a chip shot that embodied everything wonderful and horrible about the Ryder Cup for the players who decide it. If you love golf, your hands were sweating just watching Mahan take the club back. And your heart might have skipped when he stabbed at the ball, chunking his chip, barely getting his ball to the fringe. His long putt for par curled away and this long, wild Ryder Cup was over.

There were sad moments for American golf fans, but many terrific moments to savor in a competition played as intensely as it is fairly.

The saddest thought is that we’ll have to wait two more years to see it played again.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 3, Tiger Woods

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:45 pm

After returning to competition at the Hero World Challenge in December 2016, Woods started the new year with an ambitious slate of tournament starts as he eyed his first full season since 2013. But he made it only three rounds, looking rusty en route to a missed cut at Torrey Pines before withdrawing abruptly in Dubai.

The “spasms” that led to that withdrawal turned out to be something far more serious, as Woods underwent his fourth and most invasive back surgery in April, a lumbar fusion. It brought with it an extensive rehabilitation, and at the Presidents Cup in September Woods humored the prospect that he might never again play competitive golf.

At Liberty National he also faced some scrutiny for an off-course incident from months prior. In May he was arrested for suspicion of DUI, an incident that produced a startling roadside video of an intoxicated Woods struggling to follow instructions from the arresting officer after driving erratically.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


While he was not drinking at the time, Woods was found to have a mix of several prescription medications in his system, including multiple painkillers. He checked himself into a private drug treatment program in July to address his dependency issues, and in October he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving.

But the incident was barely a memory when Woods again made a return to competition in the Bahamas at the tournament he hosts. This time around he exceeded nearly every expectation, twice shooting 4-under 68 while tying for ninth among the 18-man field. Having re-tooled his swing following fusion surgery, Woods appeared relaxed, happy and healthy while briefly taking the lead during the tournament’s second round.

What lies ahead for Woods in 2018 remains uncertain, as the stop-and-start nature of this past season serves as a cautionary tale. But after a harrowing arrest and another serious surgery, he seems once again focused on his game, intent on chasing down a new crop of elite talent, some of whom are barely more than half his age.

Woods' initial comeback short-lived, leads to another back surgery

Article: Woods undergoes "successful" fourth back surgery

Article: Woods (back spasm) withdraws from Dubai

Article: Players disappointed Woods withdraws from Dubai

Really, again: Tiger undergoes fourth back surgery

Begay on Tiger: Future is 'extremely uncertain'


Woods arrested for DUI, enters diversion program after getting "professional help"

Article: Woods arrested for DUI in May

Article: Police say Woods had 5 drugs in system when arrested

Article: DUI affidavit states Tiger asleep in parked car

Dashcam video released of Tiger's DUI arrest

Begay, Rolfing: Tiger's arrest needs to be wakeup call

Photos: Tiger Woods' car during DUI arrest

Tiger Woods at his 2017 DUI court hearing.

Photos: Tiger Woods in court for DUI hearing

Article: Tiger gets 'professional help' for prescription meds

Tiger Woods at his 2017 DUI court hearing.

Article: Woods pleads in court guilty to reckless driving


Woods goes from unsure of his pro golf future to resuming full golf activities

Article: Doctor clears Woods for full golf activity six months after back surgery

Article: Tiger doesn't know what future holds

Article: Woods back to making full swings

Woods admits he might never return to competition

Making progress: Breaking down Tiger's driver swing


Woods returns to competition for first time since February at Hero World Challenge

Article: Hero comeback a success for healthy Woods

Article: Woods discusses his back: 'No issues at all, none'

Tiger Tracker: Woods finished T-9 in return to competition

Chamblee: 'I was wrong' about some of my Woods skepticism

Tiger, if you were hurting, would you tell us? 'Yeah, I'd tell you'


Woods out and about in 2017

Article: Video, images of Tiger's round with Trump

Article: Woods posts photo as 'Mac Daddy Santa'

Article: Tiger at U.S. Open sitting in Nadal's box

Article: Shirtless Tiger holds up a massive lobster

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

NBC Sports' Coverage of LPGA Tour in 2017 Most-Viewed Season Ever for NBC Sports

By Golf Channel Public RelationsDecember 13, 2017, 8:45 pm

NBC Sports’ LPGA Tour Coverage Ties 2013 for Most-Watched Year Since 2011

NBC and Golf Channel Boast Top-6 Most-Watched Women’s Golf Telecasts in 2017

Beginning with the dramatic playoff finish at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic in January and concluding with Lexi Thompson winning the $1 million Race to the CME Globe, nearly 22 million viewers tuned in to LPGA Tour coverage across Golf Channel and NBC in 2017. This makes 2017 the most-viewed LPGA Tour season across NBC Sports since Golf Channel joined the NBC Sports Group in 2011. Additionally, 2017 tied 2013 as the LPGA Tour’s most-watched year across NBC Sports since 2011. Coverage drew an average of 221,000 viewers per telecast in 2017 (+24% vs. 2016), according to data released by The Nielsen Company.

NBC SPORTS GROUP CLAIMS TOP-6 MOST-WATCHED WOMEN’S GOLF TELECASTS IN ‘17

For the first time ever in televised women’s golf, Sunday’s final round of the RICOH Women’s British Open (Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017, 1.1 million viewers) delivered the most-watched and highest-rated women’s golf telecast of the year. NBC’s Saturday (Day 2) coverage of the Solheim Cup in August placed second with 968,000 viewers, followed by Sunday’s Solheim Cup coverage on NBC with 946,000 viewers. Golf Channel’s live coverage of Sunday’s final day of the Solheim Cup drew 795,000 viewers, the most-watched women’s golf event on cable in eight years.

Rank

Network

Event

Day

Avg. Viewers P2+

1

NBC

RICOH WOMEN'S BRITISH OPEN

Sunday

1,100,526

2

NBC

SOLHEIM CUP

Saturday

968,202

3

NBC

SOLHEIM CUP

Sunday

946,387

4

NBC

KPMG WOMEN'S PGA CHAMPIONSHIP

Sunday

839,983

5

NBC

RICOH WOMEN'S BRITISH OPEN

Saturday

808,578

6

GOLF

SOLHEIM CUP

Sunday

795,000

ADDITIONAL VIEWERSHIP MILESTONES FOR WOMEN’S GOLF IN 2017

  • ANA Inspiration - The LPGA’s first major championship delivered thefifth most-watched LPGA final round in Golf Channel history with 551,000 viewers when So Yeon Ryu defeated Lexi Thompson in a playoff following Thompson being assessed a four-stroke penalty earlier in the final round.
  • KPMG Women’s PGA Championship – The LPGA’s second major was seen by 6.6 million viewers across Golf Channel and NBC, the largest audience for the event on record (2006-17). Sunday’s final round on NBC, which saw Danielle Kang win her first LPGA Tour event over defending champion Brooke Henderson, also was the most-watched telecast in the event’s history with 840,000 average viewers.
  • RICOH Women’s British Open – NBC’s Sunday coverage of the RICOH Women’s British Open delivered the most-watched and highest-rated women’s golf telecast in 2017 (.78 U.S. HH rating, 1.1 million viewers). In total, 7 million unique viewers tuned in to coverage across Golf Channel and NBC, the most-watched RICOH Women’s British Open in the past 10 years and the most-watched among the five women’s major championships in 2017.
  • Solheim Cup – Seen by a total audience of 7.3 million viewers across Golf Channel and NBC, the Solheim Cup posted the largest total audience for women’s golf since the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open on ESPN/NBC. Golf Channel’s live coverage of the final day drew 795,000 average viewers, becoming the most-watched women’s golf telecast on cable in the last eight years, since the final day of the 2009 Solheim Cup.

GOLF CHANNEL DIGITAL POSTS RECORD STREAMING CONSUMPTION

Golf Channel Digital posted record numbers of LPGA streaming consumption with 11.9 million live minutes streamed across LPGA Tour telecasts in 2017 (+563% vs. 2016).

  • Solheim Cup – Three-day coverage of the Solheim Cup saw 6.3 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports’ Digital platforms, trailing only the 2016 Rio Olympics (9 million) as the most-ever for a women’s golf event airing on Golf Channel / NBC.
  • RICOH Women’s British Open – Four-day coverage of the RICOH Women’s British Open saw 2 million minutes streamed, +773% vs. 2016.

NBC Sports Group combined to air 31 LPGA Tour events in 2017 and a total of 420 hours of coverage, the most in LPGA history. The exclusive cable home to the LPGA Tour, Golf Channel aired coverage of four of five women’s major championships in 2017, with three majors also airing on NBC: the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, RICOH Women’s British Open and The Evian Championship. The biennial Solheim Cup also returned to network television for the first time in 15 years with weekend coverage on NBC.

Source: Nielsen 2017 Live+Same Day DVR vs. prior available data. Persons 2+ avg 000’s and/or Persons 2+ reach w/six-minute qualifier. Digital Metrics from Adobe Reports & Analytics. Details available.

Hensby takes full responsibility for violation

By Rex HoggardDecember 13, 2017, 5:28 pm

The PGA Tour’s Anti-Doping Program manual covers 48 pages of details, from the pressing to the mundane, but for Mark Hensby the key section of the policy could be found on Page 5.

“The collector may allow you to delay reporting to the testing area for unavoidable obligations; however, you will be monitored from the time of notification until completion of the sample collection process,” the policy reads. “A failure to report to the testing area by the required time is the same as a doping violation under the program.”

Hensby, a 46-year-old former Tour winner from Australia, didn’t read that section, or any other part of the manual. In fact, he said he hasn’t received the circuit’s anti-doping manual in years. Not that he uses that as an excuse.

To be clear, Hensby doesn’t blame his anti-doping plight on anyone else.

“At the end of the day it’s my responsibility. I take full responsibility,” he told GolfChannel.com.

Like Doug Barron, Scott Stallings and even Vijay Singh before him, Hensby ran afoul of the Tour’s anti-doping policy because, essentially, of a clerical error. There were no failed tests, no in-depth investigations, no seedy entourages who sent Hensby down a dark road of performance-enhancing drug use.

Just a simple misunderstanding combined with bad timing.

Hensby, who last played a full season on Tour in 2003, had just completed the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship when he was approached by a member of the Tour’s anti-doping testing staff. He was angry about his play and had just used the restroom on the 17th hole and, he admits, was in no mood to wait around to take the urine test.

“Once I said, ‘Can I take it in the morning,’ [the Tour’s anti-doping official] said, ‘We can’t hold you here,’” Hensby recalled. “I just left.”

Not one but two officials called Hensby that night to ask why he’d declined to take the test, and he said he was even advised to return to the Country Club of Jackson (Miss.) to take the test, which is curious because the policy doesn’t allow for such gaps between notification of a test and the actual testing.

According to the policy, a player is considered in violation of the program if he leaves the presence of the doping control officers without providing the required sample.

A Tour official declined to comment on the matter citing the circuit’s policy not to comment on doping violations beyond the initial disclosure.

A week later, Hensby was informed he was in violation of the Tour’s policy and although he submitted a letter to the commissioner explaining the reasons for his failure to take the test he was told he would be suspended from playing in any Tour-sanctioned events (including events on the Web.com Tour) for a year.

“I understand now what the consequences are, but you know I’ve been banned for a performance-enhancing drug violation, and I don’t take performance-enhancing drugs,” Hensby said.

Hensby isn’t challenging his suspension nor did he have any interest in criticizing the Tour’s policy, instead his message two days after the circuit announced the suspension was focused on his fellow Tour members.

“I think the players need to read that manual really, really well. There are things I wasn’t aware of and I think other players weren’t aware of either,” he said. “You have to read the manual.”

It was a similar message Stallings offered following his 90-day suspension in 2015 after he turned himself in for using DHEA, an anabolic agent that is the precursor to testosterone production and banned by the Tour.

“This whole thing was a unique situation that could have been dealt with differently, but I made a mistake and I owned up to it,” Stallings said at the time.

Barron’s 2009 suspension, which was for a year, also could have been avoided after he tested positive for supplemental testosterone and a beta-blocker, both of which were prescribed by a doctor for what were by many accounts legitimate health issues.

And Singh’s case, well that chapter is still pending in the New York Supreme Court, but the essential element of the Fijian’s violation was based on his admitted use of deer-antler spray, which contained a compound called IGF-1. Although IGF-1 is a banned substance, the World Anti-Doping Agency has ruled that the use of deer-antler spray is not a violation if an athlete doesn’t fail a drug test. Singh never failed a test.

The Tour’s anti-doping history is littered with cases that could have been avoided, cases that should have been avoided. Despite the circuit’s best educational efforts, it’s been these relatively innocent violations that have defined the program.

In retrospect, Hensby knows he should have taken the test. He said he had nothing to hide, but anger got the best of him.

“To be honest, it would have been hard, the way I was feeling that day, I know I’m a hothead at times, but I would have probably stayed [had he known the consequences],” he admitted. “You’ve got to understand that if you have too much water you can’t get a test either and then you have to stay even longer.”

Hensby said before his run in with the anti-doping small print he wasn’t sure what his professional future would be, but his suspension has given him perspective and a unique motivation.

“I was talking to my wife last night, I have a little boy, it’s been a long month,” said Hensby after dropping his son, Caden, off at school. “I think I have a little more drive now and when I come back. I wasn’t going to play anymore, but when I do come back I am going to be motivated.”

He’s also going to be informed when it comes to the Tour’s anti-doping policy, and he hopes his follow professionals take a similar interest.