Par 5 Questions Surrounding Hilton Head

By Randall MellApril 19, 2011, 5:56 pm

Setting the agenda for the week ahead with five questions for tournament golf at large . . .

When is bad really good?

Ask Kevin Na.

He knows.

There’s genius in being so bad people love you. Na stumbled and slashed his way into a realm of athletic brilliance inhabited by English ski jumper Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, the Jamaican bobsled team and Charlie Brown.

When Na tees it up this week at the Heritage at Hilton Head Island, S.C., he will no longer be that slow guy with the temper on the PGA Tour. He’s now the patron saint of high-handicappers. As talented as Na really is – he made a run at winning the Northern Trust Open this year and is the 64th ranked player in the world – he has endeared himself to the golfing public because he was so charmingly bad for one hole in the first round of last week’s Valero Texas Open. His score of 16 at TPC San Antonio’s par-4 ninth hole goes down in infamy.

A lot of twentysomethings are making news in golf these days, but Na’s the only one who made the front page of the New York Times last week and created a YouTube sensation. There were probably more water cooler conversations in workplaces over Na’s performance than over 17-year-old Matteo Manassero winning the Maybank Malaysian Open.

Is the best young talent from overseas?

It seems that way with the Italian Manassero winning his second European Tour event before the age of 18.

It seems that way with Manassero dueling Northern Ireland’s 21-year-old Rory McIlroy for the title on the heels of 26-year-old South African Charl Schwartzel’s Masters’ victory. Schwartzel’s first major comes after Germany’s Martin Kaymer won the PGA Championship at 25 and South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen the British Open at 27.

But there are more players from the United States (8) among the top 50 in the world rankings than any other nation.

Here’s how the best players under 30 sit in this week’s world rankings with their ages in parenthesis:

No. 1 Martin Kaymer, Germany (26).

No. 7 Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland (21).

No. 11 Charl Schwartzel, South Africa (26).

No. 12 Dustin Johnson, United States (26).

No. 14 Nick Watney, United States (29).

No. 19 Francesco Molinari, Italy (28).

No. 20 Hunter Mahan, United States (28).

No. 23 Martin Laird, Scotland (28).

No. 24 Jason Day, Australia (23).

No. 26 Alvaro Quiros, Spain (28).

No. 31 Louis Oosthuizen, South Africa (28).

No. 33 Matteo Manassero, Italy (18).

No. 34 Rickie Fowler, United States (22).

No. 39 Kyung-Tae Kim, South Korea (25).

No. 40 Ryan Moore, United States (28).

No. 43 Anthony Kim, United States (25).

No. 45 Ryo Ishikawa, Japan (19).

No. 48 Gary Woodland, United States (26).

No. 49 Bill Haas, United States (28).

So who’s going to break through next on the PGA Tour?

It’s looking like the year of the breakthroughs on the PGA Tour

If you’re into statistics, you should like the chances of Hunter Haas breaking through at the Heritage to become the sixth first-time winner this season.

The average world ranking of the winner of a PGA Tour event this year is 152.9.

Haas is No. 153 in the world.

Brendan Steele was No. 231 when he won the Valero Texas Open last week. He’s the 10th player this season to win a PGA Tour event with a ranking of 100 or higher, and the fifth player with a ranking of 200 or higher.

Who’s going to break out at the Heritage?

The fact that so many players are breaking through on the PGA Tour this season tells you there are a number of established winners looking to break out with their first victories of 2011.

There are reasons to believe Jim Furyk, Stewart Cink, Davis Love III, Boo Weekley and Brian Gay will contend this week. They’ve all won at Harbour Town before.

And there is reason to like Ernie Els breaking out to win for the first time this year with his seven top-10 finishes at Harbour Town.

Is this the PGA Tour’s farewell performance at Harbour Town?

Whispers and rumors give hope that a new title sponsor will be found to keep the long-standing PGA Tour event on the schedule, but its troubling tournament week has arrived and there’s still no announcement.

Arnold Palmer won the inaugural Heritage Classic in 1969. So many of the game’s biggest names have won at Harbour Town. Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Johnny Miller, Hale Irwin, Nick Faldo, Greg Norman, Bernhard Langer and Payne Stewart are among the past champions.

This year’s event is being staged without a title sponsor. After Verizon’s contract expired, tournament organizers bought themselves another year funding the event with $4 million in tournament reserves and another $1 million from local governing bodies. With no title sponsor announcements appearing imminent, the pressure’s on the tournament to put on a good show in hopes of wooing somebody this week.

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