Leftys Magic Carpet Ride

By Randall MellApril 11, 2010, 5:55 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Phil Mickelson’s wedge and putter conjured the same magic that comes with the wave of a maestro’s wand.

He created soul-stirring music in the third round that will rank among the legion of great concerts they’ve been witness to in the natural amphitheater they call the back nine at Augusta National.

Rachmaninov couldn’t have topped the crescendo of roars Mickelson summoned nearly making three eagles in a row in one of the most thrilling three-hole charges ever seen on a Masters’ Saturday.

Mickelson’s back-to-back eagles at the 13th and 14th holes and his near hole-out for another eagle at the 15th thrust him thickly in the hunt for his third Masters title going into Sunday’s final round. His spectacular display of shot making left him one shot behind front-running Lee Westwood and in the final pairing with the Englishman who’s bidding to win his first major championship.

Butch Harmon, Mickelson’s swing coach, was standing near the 14th green when Mickelson holed a pitching wedge from 141 yards.

“That roar at 14 was unbelievable,” said Harmon, who’s heard his share of roars over the years as Tiger Woods’ former swing coach. “I haven’t heard a roar like that in a long time.”

Augusta National was treated to what has to rank as the most thrilling 27-minute shot-making display ever seen at the Masters. One roar after another erupted amid Mickelson’s run. Fred Couples chipped in for eagle right before Mickelson’s final eagle. Ricky Barnes chipped in for birdie at the 13th right after Mickelson made eagle there.

“It was amazing,” Couples said. “The roars were unbelievable.”

From the pairing directly in front of Mickelson, Couples enjoyed a clear view of Mickelson’s eagle-eagle-birdie charge.

“I watched them all,” Couples said. “Phil really wants to win. He’s going to be the guy to beat.”

The interaction between Couples and Mickelson was almost comical as they playfully taunted each other amid the pressure of a “Moving Day” at a major. They went at each other like they were playing for a local club championship.

“Fred was giving us the business,” said Jim Mackay, Mickelson’s caddie.

The fun began before the round.

“It was pretty funny because we were texting a little bit about how low I was going to have to go to catch him and maybe play with him tomorrow,” Couples said.

Mickelson, who posted a 5-under-par 67, started the day two shots behind Westwood. At the turn, with Westwood off to a terrific start, Mickelson had fallen five back. In that dizzying 27-minute span, Mickelson seized the lead with his charge.

“There was no need to look at scoreboards,” Westwood said of all the noise.

Mickelson set up his first eagle at the 13th with a monster fade around the bend in the fairway. He slammed a 7-iron from 195 yards to 8 feet.

At the 14th, Mickelson thrust both arms in the air after holing that wedge from 141 yards.

“I can’t believe that ball disappeared and went in,” Mickelson said.

Couples was so impressed he tried to shout to Mickelson that he wanted the ball as a memento.

“He didn’t hear me,” Couples said.

After Couples chipped in for eagle at the 15th, he asked Mickelson if he wanted to trade golf balls.

Mickelson played with so much confidence, he said he was trying to hole the 87-yard wedge at the 15th for a third consecutive eagle. His shot curled to within inches for a tap-in birdie.

“I thought it was possible that somebody had two eagles in a row, but I didn't think anybody had three,” Mickelson said. “I was trying to go for that.”

Harmon said the beauty of the day was that Mickelson could go home and share his remarkable charge with his wife, Amy. Mickelson’s wife and three children arrived Tuesday. It’s the first time they’ve been together at a tournament since The Players Championship last year. It was a week after The Players that news broke that Amy had breast cancer. Shortly after that, news followed that Mickelson’s mother, Mary, also had breast cancer.

Amy’s famously known as Mickelson’s most passionate supporter.

Harmon says Amy’s situation took more a toll on Mickelson earlier this season than people realized this season, but his player’s relishing having his family together at the year’s first major. Phil’s parents and Amy’s parents also are here this week. Mary walked nine holes on Friday.

“Having his family here is a huge factor,” Harmon said. “He gets to go home at night and be with his family. He’s not been able to do that at a tournament this year. Amy is Phil’s biggest supporter. They go through rounds and talk about shots. I think it’s a big reason he’s been able to relax this week.”

Amy has not appeared on the course at any event since her diagnosis, and there are no plans for her to do so.

If Mickelson wins, though, she’ll be sure to get all the inside info on the shots that won it. If he wins, and her children spill onto the green to greet her husband, it’s sure to make for an extraordinary scene.

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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