Thompson sticking it to ANA field with favorite putter

By Randall MellApril 2, 2017, 3:09 am

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Lexi Thompson twirled her Bettinardi Queen Bee putter as if it were a favorite baton as she left the 10th green Saturday at Mission Hills.

She had just rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt there.

It was where she started taking command at the ANA Inspiration, making a third consecutive birdie.

At 13 under overall, Thompson leads the year’s first major going into Sunday.

Her 5-under-par 67 pushed her two shots ahead of Suzann Pettersen (68) and three ahead of Inbee Park (68), So Yeon Ryu (69) and Minjee Lee (68).

Thompson is loving that Queen Bee putter and what all her work with it is doing in her run to win this championship again.

Nobody’s going to be hanging that putter in a tree anytime soon.

If you want to know how far Thompson’s putting has come, ask her about the tree outside John Fry’s home on his private course, The Institute, in California. That’s John Fry of Fry’s Electronics, who was host to Lexi and her family as she played the U.S. Women’s Open at CordeValle last summer.

Thompson was so frustrated with her putting at the national championship, she used a different putter in every round.

With the tension building that week, Lexi’s father, Scott, thought it was time to loosen things up going into Sunday’s final round. So he got some help hanging all four of the putters in a tree outside Fry’s home, for Lexi to see as she left the house on her way to the course.

“We got her to laugh,” Scott said.

Thompson experimented a lot with her putting last year, even putting with her eyes closed. She devoted her offseason to honing a dependable stroke, but she didn’t have to change putters.

ANA Inspiration: Articles, photos and videos

Thompson put that Bettinardi Queen Bee in her bag last July and she hasn’t parted with it since.

“That’s a long time for me, the way I was going with putters,” Thompson said. “Absolutely love this putter, just the way it sets up and just the way I stroke it.”

Thompson is looking awfully comfortable making her way around Mission Hills again.

It’s as if she’s playing in her backyard, as if she owns this place and wants to turn Poppie’s Pond into her own swimming pool again.

Thompson is rocking her driver with impunity, just like she did when she won here three years ago, when she played a game of bomb and gouge nobody could touch. She averaged 301 yards per drive Saturday. She leads the field in driving distance (289.5) for the week.

It’s more than that, though.

Thompson has a combination of power and touch working for her.

Through the offseason, she went to work on her putting like never before. She worked, worked, worked to try to tame the stroke, to make the putter a tool she would fight less and love more.

“I felt really good about it coming into the season,” Thompson said.

Aside from a missed 4-footer for par at the fourth, Thompson was solid on the greens.

“It’s all confidence,” said Scott, her father. “She’s built her confidence with all the work, and it’s only going to get better. It hasn’t gotten as good as it’s going to get.”

Thompson hit 9 of 14 fairways Saturday, but the misses didn’t seem to matter.

She attacked anyway, gouging herself out of any trouble she got into. She hit every green in regulation. Even when she looked stymied at the 13th, after missing wide right, she punched under and between the trees there, brilliantly running her approach onto the green.

When Thompson won in ’14, she took a share of the lead with Michelle Wie into the final round. They pulled away from everyone else, but Thompson pulled away from Wie, winning by three shots.

While Wie played for position that Sunday, hitting 3-woods into fairways, Thompson overpowered the course.

Thompson’s doing it again.

“I'm playing it the same way, drivers a lot out there,” Thompson said.

Thompson hit drivers on 12 of 14 holes when she won here three years ago. She isn’t hitting quite as many drivers, but she’s hitting a lot of them.

“That's what I love most about it,” Thompson said. “I usually just aim up the right side of the fairway and just hit a baby draw out there.”

At the 11th, Thompson hammered a drive Golf Channel estimated at 330 yards. She split the fairway with it. She followed that up carving a 7-iron from 200 yards to the middle of the green and two-putted for birdie.

Thompson wouldn’t let herself look too far ahead when asked if she’s thinking about another leap into Poppie’s Pond, but if she stays hot with the driver and putter . . .

“With golf, you never want to get ahead of yourself,” Thompson said. “You never know what can happen. It’s always something we imagine as golfers, jumping into Poppies Pond, but we'll see what tomorrow will bring.”

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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
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Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.