Must-see LPGA season finale in store

By Randall MellSeptember 17, 2009, 10:38 pm
LPGA Tour _newYou like cliff hangers, don’t you?

Drama that plays out to the final scene, right?

Not if you’re like most people who watch televised golf.

Golf viewers aren’t like most sports fans, who turn the channel when a game becomes a rout. It’s a peculiar phenomenon, but golf viewers prefer it when dominant players run up the score. How else do you explain the boffo TV ratings Tiger Woods brought in his 15-shot U.S. Open victory at Pebble Beach in 2000 and his 12-shot rout at the Masters in ’97? When he wins big, the ratings are big.

In an Arnold Palmer story on this site last week, retired CBS golf producer Frank Chirkinian said golf’s always been that way. He learned quickly directing golf broadcasts that viewers don’t like Cinderella stories. They want the stars to win, period.

If that’s really the case, this LPGA season is indifferent, at best.
Cristie Kerr Michelob Ultra Open
Cristie Kerr's only victory in 2009 came at the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Virgina. (Getty Images)

For just the second time this century, fall arrives without a player having already locked up the LPGA Player of the Year title. The last time September ended with any doubt about who would win the honor was three years ago, when Lorena Ochoa distanced herself from Annika Sorenstam with three titles in the last seven weeks of the season.

The Samsung World Championship began Thursday with the Rolex Player of the Year race wide open. Nobody’s dominating this season with Ochoa off her best form. With seven events left in the year, a hot player can come out of nowhere and steal the award.

In my book, that makes for a potentially compelling finish, to heck with the lack of dominance.

There are some potentially good storylines playing out. Cristie Kerr is trying to become the first American to win Player of the Year since Beth Daniel won it in 1994. Jiyai Shin is trying to become the first South Korean ever to win the honor. If Shin wins, it’s an exclamation point on South Korea’s rise to dominance.

The race is so wide open, American Paula Creamer is winless this season but could still be Rolex Player of the Year. She’s the defending champion at Samsung, which also happens to be her last LPGA victory. Given the stomach ailments and injuries she has endured this season, it would make for a terrific story if she went on a tear and won the award.

Shin leads the Player of the Year points race. She has three victories this season. Ochoa has won twice in ’09, so has Catriona Matthew, if you count the HSBC Brasil Cup, which featured just a 14-player field. Matthew also won the Ricoh Women’s British Open. Nobody else has won more than one event.

Kerr was atop the POY points list until getting bumped off when Shin won the P&G Beauty NW Arkansas Championship last week. Kerr would relish breaking the American POY drought.

“We have got to try and get it done,” Kerr said in the Samsung interview room this week. “It's for American golf.  It inspires all of the little girls out there to play golf. It's bigger than us. It's a very selfish personal goal that I want to accomplish for me, but at the same time, it's a bigger thing for women's golf and American golf to try to make it happen.”

There would be irony in an American winning POY. With 12 consecutive events having passed since an American last won, there’s a growing focus on this country’s struggles on the tour. Americans have won just four events this year.

Kerr was the last American to win this season. That was four months and seven days ago – at the Michelob Ultra Open in May.

“Player of the Year and all of that stuff this year is very important to me,” Kerr said. “I have contended the whole year for it. There are very few events left, and I know that I've got to play my very best golf that I played this year to be able to attain that. So that's kind of where I'm at. I want to do those things. I want them more than anything.”

The PGA Tour season could end with some drama next week at the Tour Championship. As for the LPGA, however, the drama may be just beginning.
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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