Ko, Lewis resume tight competition in Bahamas

By Randall MellJanuary 23, 2014, 9:06 pm

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – Lydia Ko picked up right where she left off.

So did Stacy Lewis.

This was a marvelous formula for Thursday’s start of the LPGA’s 2014 season, with Ko and Lewis jockeying back and forth atop the leaderboard in the first round of the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.

The 16-year-old phenom, maybe the future of the game, traded shots with Lewis, the best American in the game, with the shimmering, turquoise waters of the Bahamas as a spectacular backdrop at the Ocean Club Golf Course.

With a birdie at the 18th, Ko pulled a shot ahead of Lewis, moving atop the leaderboard with Meena Lee at the end of the morning wave. Ko opened her rookie season as an LPGA member with a 5-under-par 68 that felt like it could have been so much better.

“I thought I was playing much better than my scores,” Ko said. “I was just more shocked that I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be. I just felt relaxed and felt really confident.”

New clubs? New coach? New caddie? Same old story for Ko.

“Not many things seem to faze her,” Lewis said. “You can change her golf clubs. You can change her coach. You can change all this stuff, but she’s still the same person on the golf course. That’s what I like about her. She gets it done, and that’s all you can ask.”

Ko is making her rookie start with David Leadbetter and Sean Hogan as her new coaches, with Callaway as her new clubs and with Scott Lubin as her new caddie.

A lot of changes didn’t work out so well for Rory McIlroy last year. Ko was asked if the derailment of top players after major changes concerned her.

“Over the last month, hearing the word change, it could pretty much be my middle name,” Ko said. “I know what happened before, with other players, but you never know what’s going to happen . . . I wanted a challenge.”

Ko got one making her rookie in a pairing with Lewis.

Lewis, 28, became the first American in 18 years to win the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year in 2012. She followed that up last year becoming the first American in 19 years to win the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. And she begins this year burning for more.

Her goals?

“I’d like to get back to No. 1 in the world,” Lewis said. “That’s kind of the most immediate thing.

“I’d like to do both of those things (Player of the Year and Vare Trophy) in one year, at some point in my career. I have a list of things kind of in the back of my head that I want to check off, and those are two things that are on it. But you try not to think about it too much, because there are so many good players, and so many people who can be No. 1. It’s a hard place to be.”

Yes, Thursday was just the first round of the new season, but Lewis and Ko got off to the kind of start that should get the attention of Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park, who isn’t playing this week.

When Ko birdied the sixth hole, she seized a share of the lead, a stroke in front of Lewis. When Lewis birdied the 10th, she moved into the lead, a shot ahead of Ko. With another birdie at the 13th, Lewis moved to 5 under, two shots ahead of Ko, who responded with a late charge after a Lewis bogey at the 14th.

“I think our games are very similar, just the way we play,” Lewis said. “We both hit it solid and make some putts.”

With the Ocean Club exposed to the winds blowing off the Atlantic, control is an especially large factor this week.

“I think it’s a ball striker’s course with the greens,” Lewis said. “The greens are really grainy, and they do get pretty bumpy with spike marks. The best ball striker is probably going to win this week.”

That means Ko and Lewis could be jockeying all week on the leaderboard.

That’s fine with Lewis. Watching her and Ko chat and laugh throughout the round, it’s clear there is a growing rapport and mutual respect.

When Lewis was told after the round that Ko was impressed being paired with Lewis and Beatriz Recari, whom Ko called two of “the world’s greatest players,” Lewis good naturedly chuckled. Lewis is No. 3 in the world, Ko is No. 4.

“It’s unbelievable,” Lewis said. “She must not think she’s any good or something. I think she’s really good. Gosh, when she gets some confidence and really figures that out, watch out for the rest of the tour.”

Lewis didn’t mean that Ko lacks confidence. She just believes that when Ko’s confidence catches up with her talent, she’s going to surge to yet another level.

Ko, who turns 17 in April, has already won five professional titles, two of them LPGA titles.

Lewis ended last year with 11 consecutive top-10 finishes, including a victory at the Ricoh Women’s British Open, her second major championship triumph. Ko ended last year beating an elite field at the Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters, her first title since turning pro.

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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