Par 5 Stars and Stripes

By Randall MellFebruary 15, 2011, 7:52 pm
Setting the week’s agenda with five questions for professional golf at large ...

Will the PGA Tour’s stars start to shine in L.A.?

Six weeks into the season, the average world ranking of the year’s PGA Tour winners is No. 139.

Nobody inside the top 30 at the time of his victory has won yet this year.

Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson is looking for his first non-major win since 2009. (Getty Images)
Bubba Watson’s the highest ranked winner. He was No. 33 when he won the Farmers Insurance Open three weeks ago.

Jonathan Byrd was No. 121 when he won the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Mark Wilson No. 237 when he won the Sony Open, Jhonny Vegas No. 187 at the Bob Hope Classic, Wilson No. 91 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and D.A. Points No. 167 at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

With Tiger Woods in a funk, it isn’t that nobody’s dominant today. It’s that nobody’s even close.

Matt Kuchar won once last year and was a serious candidate for PGA Tour Player of the Year.

Since the start of the 2009 season, here’s a list of the PGA Tour pros with the most victories:

Tiger Woods, 6.

Steve Stricker, 5.

Phil Mickelson, 4.

Jim Furyk, Geoff Ogilvy, Zach Johnson, Dustin Johnson and Mark Wilson, 3.
Can the Northern Trust Open thrive without Tiger Woods?

Jerry West might not have landed Woods, but the NBA legend and tournament executive director has a very strong field with a lot of potentially compelling storylines.

We saw at Torrey Pines just three weeks ago how riveting the action can be without Woods in the mix.

Watson’s victory over Mickelson and Vegas was great theater and all three are in the field again this week. So is defending champion Stricker. Five of the top 10 in the world rankings are at Rivera. That’s one more than played in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic with Woods there last week. Thirty of the top 50 are at Riviera, that’s three times more than played at Dubai last week. West has an All-Star field and it will be interesting to see if Southern California turns out to watch.
Can Phil Mickelson win at Riviera for the third time?

Mickelson won at Riviera in 2009 and ’08 and finished second there in ’07.

In his last 16 rounds on that demanding course, his scoring average is 68.18.

Yes, Lefty's playing well enough to win this week, though you have to wonder if endurance will become a factor. In a very busy start to the season, he’s playing in his fifth consecutive tournament. Though Mickelson hasn’t gone low to spark a run to victory yet this year, he’s avoiding the poor rounds that slowed him after his Masters victory last year. In 20 rounds this season, Mickelson’s been under par 19 times. He was at even par in the only round he failed to break par and has a run going of 13 consecutive rounds under par.

Next week’s Accenture Match Play Championship will mark Mickelson’s sixth consecutive week.
Is Yani Tseng poised to be the next dominant player in the women’s game?

With back-to-back victories in Australia to open the season, 2010 LPGA Rolex Player of the Year Yani Tseng seized the No. 1 Rolex world ranking for the first time in her career.

Tseng, 22, is a power player serving notice that she might be ready to be the next dominant player in the women’s game. She’s already won three major championships, showing she can summon her best in the biggest events.

Tseng will be going for her third victory in as many weeks when she tees it up in the LPGA season-opener Thursday at the Honda LPGA Thailand event. All the big names in women’s golf will be in the 60-player field with Jiyai Shin, Ai Miyazato, Cristie Kerr, Suzann Pettersen, Paula Creamer, Na Yeon Choi, Brittany Linicome, Michelle Wie, Karrie Webb, Juli Inkster, Angela Stanford, Christina Kim, Morgan Pressel and Natalie Gulbis in the mix.
How will the Americans fare in the LPGA 2011?

Will Kerr dizzy the competition with more performances like her 12-shot romp at the McDonald’s LPGA Championship?

Will Creamer remain healthy and build on her U.S. Women’s Open triumph last summer?

Will Wie win for a third consecutive season, or even up the ante with a multiple win season?

Do Lincicome, Pressel and Stanford have large moves in mind this year?

With just 13 American LPGA events on the schedule, the tour needs its American stars to shine more than ever. Yes, the Asian rise has helped cultivate new markets, but American companies like investing in American winners. It’s a fact of life.

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