You Can't Miss It

By Randall MellAugust 8, 2011, 8:20 pm

That little patch of earth isn’t the same.

The golf gods have touched it, anointed it as one of the game’s major championship landmarks.

History runs hard through the 18th hole at Whistling Straits now, through the infamous bunker atop the hill above the fairway, through the sand where Dustin Johnson controversially lost the PGA Championship in the final round last year.

Though no plaque marks the exact spot where Johnson was penalized for grounding his club, it wouldn’t radiate a stronger aura today if a tombstone were planted there.

That bunker is now one of those historic places you look for when you visit a famous course, a monument of memory marking where something important in the game was won or lost, or where momentum in a compelling  run was won or lost.

Check out Randall Mell's top-10 list of golf's major landmarks

It’s there in history with Carnoustie’s Barry Burn, where we remember Jean Van de Velde wandering barefoot with his pant legs rolled up and his wits rattled when he blew a chance to win the British Open a dozen years ago. The Whistling Straits bunker is there with landmarks that remind us of pivotal turning points, of golf shots, both good and bad, that altered major championship history. It’s there with other landmarks where powerful emotions are attached, like the patch of fairway at Merion’s 18th where Ben Hogan was famously photographed hitting a 1-iron that helped him to go on and win the U.S. Open in 1950.

Or the patch of deep grass aside the 17th hole at Pebble Beach where Tom Watson chipped in to help him beat Jack Nicklaus in the U.S. Open in ’82.

Nearly a year has passed since Johnson wandered into that bunker at Whistling Straits, oblivious to the nature of the lie that would be his undoing with so many spectators crowded into the bunker with him. Still, all these months later, the debate continues at Whistling Straits, erupting anew nearly every day. The debate’s renewed with each new set of resort guests who pass through for the first time.

Should that patch of sand on the hill really have been played as a bunker?

Should Johnson have known better?

“Our play slows a little bit at the 18th because players coming past that area always want to go up and see it,” said Herb Kohler, the founder/owner of Whistling Straits. “It’s not directly in play, so you have to climb the dunes a little bit to find the bunker. It’s there in a field of bunkers. It’s not marked, but the caddies know it, and people want to traipse up there and look at it.”

When Whistling Straits opened for public play three days after the PGA Championship, there was an immediate buzz among guests wanting to see the bunker and assess for themselves whether the PGA made the right call.

“You had people coming into the clubhouse asking, ‘Hey, can I see the bunker from here?’” O’Reilly said.

Even resort guests who don’t play the course want to see the bunker.

“We give a lot of tours of the property, and, typically, we get the question: ‘Can we see the bunker?’” Whistling Straits head golf professional Mike O’Reilly said.

When caddies guide guests to the Dustin Johnson bunker, the debate over the ruling typically re-engages.

“You have people who saw it on TV, who didn’t think it looked like a bunker,” O’Reilly said. “They see it when they visit, and they think it’s clear it is a bunker. You have other people who say, ‘Yeah, but why do you have spectators walking through bunkers?'

“There are people who believe he should have known, the rules were posted, he should have checked the rules. You still hear pretty mixed opinions about it to this day.”

Kohler was adamant in the wake of last year’s PGA Championship finish that the right ruling was made. He still believes that.

“The notices about those bunkers were publicized, all over the place, all over the locker rooms and elsewhere,” Kohler said. “Dustin and his caddie had every opportunity in the world to read those notices, but it didn’t register, or at least it didn’t register in that crucial moment.”

In the end, Kohler understands that in just two major championship finishes, Whistling Straits has built some powerfully history.

“What happened is part of the lore of the championship now,” Kohler said.

And that bunker at the 18th is among the game’s historic landmarks.

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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