Thompson turns putting around in time for ANA

By Randall MellApril 1, 2016, 11:14 pm

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Lexi Thompson doesn’t technically have a swing coach, and that’s because she trusts her father’s eyes so much.

But Scott Thompson doesn’t feel like a coach when he’s on the range with his daughter these days. He feels like a cheerleader.

“This is the best Lexi’s ball striking has been for this long a period of time,” Scott said after watching Lexi post a 4-under-par 68 for a share of the lead with Ai Miyazato in the second round of the ANA Inspiration. “When I’m out on the range with her now, she’ll say, `OK, dad, how’s the swing look?’ I’m like, `I don’t see anything wrong.’ And it’s been like that for about eight months. I feel like a spectator. She’s just been striping it.”

Actually, that’s what made the 115-mile drive from Carlsbad to Rancho Mirage after the Kia Classic Sunday feel like such a long trip. Lexi finished 19 shots behind Lydia Ko there. It was all putting. Lexi hit 17 greens on Friday, 16 on Saturday and 17 again on Sunday, but she didn’t take fewer than 34 putts in any of those rounds.

Lexi was wasting all that good ball striking, and she knew it.

So on that long ride to the ANA Inspiration, Lexi turned to her father.

“I’m changing everything,” Lexi announced. “I can’t putt any worse than that. I’ve hit rock bottom.”

ANA Inspiration: Articles, photos and videos

Five days later, Thompson was soaring, all the way to the top of the leaderboard at Mission Hills, taking the lead at the year’s first major championship. She rolled in a 30-foot birdie at the last to go to 7 under overall. She broke loose with a big smile with a roar washing over her in that finish.

Scott has watched his daughter flash a lot of smiles this week.

“Feels like night and day,” he said.

Thompson is comfortable at Mission Hills and the Dinah Shore course. She can pound her driver around here, and she’s strong enough to muscle wedges out of the thick rough when she misses fairways. She can also get creative. She hooked a wedge around a tree at the 15th to hit that green in regulation and scramble to a par.

Two years ago, Thompson showed what she can do on this course when she combines her power game with a hot putter. She broke through to win her first major.

“I absolutely love this golf course and just this area,” Thompson said. “I'm always in such a good mood when I come here and drive around. There are just a lot of great memories that it brings back.”

Even Scott was surprised by the bold changes Lexi made practically on the eve of the year’s first major. She completely ditched the practice of closing her eyes while putting. She won the Honda Thailand doing that five weeks ago. She narrowed her stance this week, and she ditched her favorite mallet putter for an RX5, an exotically shaped design by Cure Putters.

“She’s never been that open minded about trying a lot of putters,” Scott said. “And she really likes a certain shape of putter.”

When Lexi said she was changing everything, she meant it. The Cure’s RX5 looks like something Industrial Lights & Magic would design. While the face is long and flat, the back of the putter is unusual. From behind, it looks like a pair of binoculars fashioned to the bottom of a club shaft.

“Putting is all about confidence, and the putter change, to the Cure, has helped me a lot,” Thompson said. “I feel a lot more comfortable over putts this week.”

Thompson says she is comfortable standing farther from the ball than players typically do, and that causes the putter toe to point up. The Cure is adjustable, allowing her to change the angle of the shaft to fit her stance while keeping the putter parallel to the ground.

Scott says it isn’t just the birdie chances dropping that Lexi likes seeing. It’s her improved lag putting with the RX5. That’s been important to this fast start.

“She hasn’t had any stressful par putts,” Scott said. “None. She’s been tapping in for par. She isn’t putting 4 footers for par anymore. The 4-footers might be for birdie, but they aren’t for par. That’s huge.”

With Thompson’s ball striking so dangerous, the putting gives her another huge chance at a major this weekend.

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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