Par 5 Major Questions for Men and Women

By Randall MellMarch 29, 2011, 5:38 pm
Setting the agenda for the week ahead with five questions for the majors and one major precursor ...

Just how wide open are the first majors for the men and women in 2011?

Yani Tseng
Yani Tseng is seeking her second consecutive major and second consecutive Kraft victory. (Getty Images)
Yani Tseng arrives at the Kraft Nabisco Championship holding the No. 1 ranking for a seventh consecutive week, but she’s the fourth player to hold the top spot over the last year.

It feels as if anyone in the top 10 right now has a legitimate chance to become No. 1.

That’s a sea change for the women’s game when you consider that just two players (Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa) held the top spot the first four years of the Rolex World Rankings.

The men’s game is even more wide open.

Sandra Gal’s breakthrough victory at the Kia Classic last week was notable because you don’t get a lot of unexpected winners in the women’s game. But among the men? Unexpected is this year’s theme.

You could pick 20 players before an LPGA event and feel fairly certain the winner’s going to come within that group. You could pick 50 men before a PGA Tour event and not be certain you’ve got the winner.

Nine players outside the top 100 have won PGA Tour events in the first three months of this season alone, including four players ranked 200 or higher.

Just one woman outside the top 100 in the world rankings won an LPGA event all of last year. Beatriz Recari was No. 172 when she captured the CVS/pharmacy in 2010.
Will Yani Tseng win back-to-back Kraft Nabisco Championships?

Tseng’s not the overwhelming favorite you would think with the No. 1 ranking, four worldwide victories already this season and the confidence that comes as the defending champion.

That’s because No. 2 Jiyai Shin showed she’s rounding into form with her runner-up finish at the Kia Classic on Sunday, Karrie Webb’s got some confidence going with a pair of LPGA titles this season, and Suzann Pettersen and Cristie Kerr look like such good fits at Mission Hills’ Dinah Shore Course.

Here’s how Par 5 makes the odds this week for the top five favorites:

  • Tseng 3/1 – Though she’s just 22, Tseng’s already shown the ability to summon her best in the largest events. She’s won three of the last 11 major championships. Tseng looks ready to join her idol as the only players to win back-to-back titles since the Kraft Nabisco became a major 28 years ago. Annika Sorenstam won in 2001-02.
  • Pettersen 5/1 – In three of her last four starts at Kraft, Pettersen’s finished second or tied for second.
  • Webb 6/1 – A two-time winner at Kraft (2000, ’06), Webb’s finished fifth or better seven times in the event.
  • Kerr 6/1 – In her last nine starts on the Dinah Shore Course, Kerr’s finished fifth or better five times, including a tie for second when Brittany Lincicome won two years ago.
  • Shin 10/1 – In her fourth start at Kraft last year, Shin turned a corner. She tied for fifth while finishing the championship under par for the first time.

Anyone have a dart to pick this week’s winner at the Shell Houston Open?

Choosing a PGA Tour winner is maddening work these days, with the average ranking  this year being 167th.

So watch out for Jamie Lovemark and J.J. Henry, the closest to the average winner’s ranking in this week’s field at No. 170 and 173, respectively.

Here are the rankings of this year’s winners:

  • Jonathan Byrd (Hyundai Tournament of Champions), No. 121
  • Mark Wilson (Sony Open), No. 237
  • Jhonattan Vegas (Bob Hope Classic), No. 187
  • Bubba Watson (Farmer’s Insurance Open), No. 33
  • Mark Wilson (Waste Management Phoenix Open), No. 91.
  • D.A. Points (AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am), No. 167
  • Aaron Baddeley (Northern Trust Open), No. 224
  • Johnson Wagner (Mayakoba Golf Classic), No. 377
  • Luke Donald (WGC-Accenture Match Play), No. 9
  • Rory Sabbatini (Honda Classic), No. 102
  • Michael Bradley (Puerto Rico Open), No. 562
  • Nick Watney (WGC-Cadillac Championship), No. 31
  • Gary Woodland (Transitions Championship), No. 153
  • Martin Laird (Arnold Palmer Invitational), No. 40

Can you peak too early for the Masters?

In 74 Masters tournaments, only four players have won the PGA Tour event the week before and gone on to win at Augusta National.

Phil Mickelson’s the last to do so.

Mickelson won the BellSouth Classic in Atlanta in 2006 and a week later claimed the second of his three green jackets.

The only other players to do so were Sandy Lyle in 1988, Art Wall in ’59 and Ralph Guldahl in ’39.
Any room left for a late Masters’ invite?

The beauty of the Masters bringing back the practice of inviting PGA Tour winners looms as a potential bonus at the Shell Houston Open this week.

The field list grows by one if the winner in Houston hasn’t already earned a Masters’ invite.

Since Masters chairman Billy Payne announced four years ago that Augusta National was re-instituting invitations for PGA Tour winners, Johnson Wagner’s the only player to win the week before the Masters to gain a late invite. Wagner won the Shell Houston Open in 2008.

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