Par 5 Augusta National Questions

By Randall MellMarch 22, 2011, 5:02 pm

Setting the week’s agenda with five questions for the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Masters Tournament ...

Who’s going to make sure youth isn’t wasted on the young this week?

The PGA Tour may be on a twenty-something roll, but the Arnold Palmer Invitational isn’t a great tournament to win if you’re in your 20s and your name isn’t Tiger Woods.

Woods won at Bay Hill four times in his 20s. Chad Campbell’s the only other player in his 20s to win at Palmer’s venue since 1992.

Still, the PGA Tour’s feeling like it’s a younger man’s tour with Gary Woodland, 26, winning the Transitions Championship on Sunday in a duel with Webb Simpson, who’s just 25.

That makes back-to-back weeks that players in their 20s have won, with Nick Watney (29) dueling Dustin Johnson (26) to win the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Going into Sunday’s final round at Doral, the top eight players on the leaderboard averaged 28.5 years old.

With Jhonny Vegas, 26, and Aaron Baddelley, 29, also winning this year, youth doesn’t feel like it’s being wasted on the young.

The average age of the top 10 on this year’s money list is 31.1 years old.

The average age of the top-10 money winners at the end of 2009 was 36 years old.

Who’s the next player with a chance to make the game feel young this week? How about Rickie Fowler? At 22 and No. 30 in the world, he’s the highest-ranked American under 20 looking for his first PGA Tour victory. Fowler has top-10s in two of his last three starts.

Can Tiger Woods find his form before the Masters?

 The betting public thinks so.

Ladbrokes makes Woods a 9-to-1 favorite to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational for the seventh time. The odds-maker lists him as a 7-to-1 favorite to win the Masters in two weeks.

Woods has yet to contend on a Sunday back nine in his three stroke-play starts this year, but his finishes show signs of progress.

Woods has gone from a T44 at the Farmers Insurance Open to T20 at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and T10 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. He’s never won the Masters without winning before arriving at Augusta National.

Can Phil Mickelson find his form before the Masters?

With his 76 in the final round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship, Mickelson tied for 55th at Doral.

Mickelson has failed to break 70 in eight of his last nine rounds.

Though Mickelson says he’s not overly concerned with any one part of his game, he isn’t looking like a favorite to win the Masters. Then again, he didn’t look like a favorite last year, when he had just one top-10 finish in his seven starts before the Masters.

Who’s going to win their way to the Masters this week?

Seven players have earned invitations to Augusta National, in two weeks, by winning PGA Tour events this year.

Jonathan Byrd, Mark Wilson, Vegas, D.A. Points, Baddeley, Rory Sabbatini and Woodland have punched their tickets to the Masters with wins.

There are 72 players in this week’s 120-player Arnold Palmer Invitational field who aren’t in the Masters but can get there by winning this event.

Next week’s Shell Houston Open is the last call for winners trying to get into the Masters.

What other avenue’s left to get into the Masters?

There’s one other door to Augusta National, but it closes this week.

Anyone inside the top 50 in the world rankings that come out after the Arnold Palmer Invitational gets an invitation to the Masters if he didn’t already earn one.

Matteo Manassero, No. 55 in the world, and J.B. Holmes, No. 59, are the only players among the top 60 in the world who aren’t already qualified. Manassero is trying to make it into his second Masters before his 18th birthday. Holmes is trying to get into his second Masters. He tied for 25th in ’08. They’re both in the field at Bay Hill.


Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell

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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